Sept. 13, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Robert Smith, Slippery Rock University president, said the University is on a “strong foundation that will serve us well as we address the challenges ahead” in his final Faculty Assembly Tuesday. He will retire in January.
Smith spoke before a full Swope Music Hall assembly of faculty and staff, and then received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his 50-mintue address. Smith, who joined SRU in 1999, announced last spring he would retire after 10 years as SRU’s president. A search committee, headed by Eric Holmes, an SRU trustee, is currently seeking candidates to fill the post.
Smith used the annual event to document SRU’s recent accomplishments, including its 10-year reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
“We were reaccredited for the full 10 years: no stipulations; no requirements, no recommendations. We received full credit for each of the commission’s 14 ‘Standards of Excellence,’ and we received nine commendations,” he said
Smith quoted from the report saying, “Since its last full Middle States accreditation review a decade ago, Slippery Rock University has made enormous progress toward its goal of becoming a premier residential university…Morale on campus is based on civility, mutual respect and pride in the accomplishments of the last few years…Shared governance on campus works well….The Student Life staff shows a true commitment to students and assists in facilitating a small-college feel for all students…SRU shows a commitment to diversity and multiculturalism through its sustained efforts.”
The president also pointed out that SRU was identified as a “Great College to Work For” for the third consecutive year by the Chronicle of Higher Education; One of “Best Colleges in the Northeast” for the ninth consecutive year by the Princeton Review, and one of the “Top 100” first-tier regional universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report. “Among those top 100, we were number 30 among the public universities,” he said. Slippery Rock University was also named a College of Distinction for the second consecutive year.
“Long ago we decided to pursue quality over quantity in student enrollment, and we will continue that choice as we recruit for the 2012 year. Academically and socially there is no downside to having better qualified students,” Smith said.
In looking to the future, Smith asked faculty to examine the new expectations of successful outcomes and performance. He said those new expectations include promoting access to success as a means of cutting the achievement gap, doubling graduation rates in U.S. colleges and universities, and infusion of a liberal education in all degrees.
Smith said budget issues would continue to be a challenge, but that his executive team was working to reduce the impact of state funding cuts. “We are stable for the 2011-12 fiscal year. We are planning our 2012-13 budget needs. I wanted to be sure our budget was in good order as a new president comes aboard so that the new president will have a full year or more in office before budget changes are necessary,” he said.
One of the challenges Smith said troubles him the most is the vicious commentary surrounding higher education and the lack of respect for the value of a traditional university diploma. He noted that one potential presidential candidate has called for a $10,000 undergraduate degree. “We can do that,” he said. He then called upon Jordan Bailley, president of the Student Government Association, and asked Bailley to give him a $10,000 check. The president then pushed a button on a copier and produced a printed diploma. Smith gave the newly printed diploma to Eliott Baker, executive director of academic records and summer school, who placed it in one of SRU’s traditional green diploma covers and ceremoniously presented it to Bailley.
The presentation brought laughter from the house.
Smith said he used the exercise to show students will get what they pay for.
“At Slippery Rock University there is more than that to the quality of our education. The value of a college degree should not be judged by the production of paper, but by the preparation of the individual for their future. What we do here is T.E.A.C.H. - Take Each And Create Hope,” he said. He said SRU faculty inspire lives, shape destinies, mold character and bring people into adulthood, while simultaneously nurturing critical thinking, decision-making, analysis, investigation and open-mindedness skills in their students.
He cited faculty for their support of enrollment efforts, investing time outside class in student work and organizations, support of scholarships and working as advocates for SRU.
“This is a special place because of what you have created. You are the collective stewards of our work. You made this place special, and it will remain special as long as you continue to believe it is special and worthy of your continued nurturing and protection,” he said.
William Williams, provost and vice president for academic affairs, served as master of ceremonies and called for a moment of silence at the opening to honor two students – Jack Hill Jr. from Roselle, N.J., and John Tyler Stufflebeam from Warren, Pa. – who died in separate incidents over the weekend.
Williams also spoke of his close friendship with Smith and praised Smith’s leadership as both provost and vice president of academic affairs and as president of SRU.
He also introduced SRU’s new tenure-track faculty.
Jace Condravy, professor of English and president of the Association of Pennsylvania State, College and University Faculty, praised Smith for his decade of leadership as president and offered a personal story of his understanding related to 2003 contract negotiations. She then opened the floor to “Shout Outs” from other faculty who rose to thank Smith and his wife, Ramona, for their friendship, support, creating a positive work and learning environment, compassionate spirit, global perspective, work in obtaining accreditation, vision, insight and friendship to students and faculty.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.