Our greatest age is before us and it can be greater still if we continue to work together.

By Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University


Good afternoon.

Welcome to my ninth State of the University Address. First, I want to welcome and thank Dr. Gayle Insler for becoming Acting Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and compliment her for making the transition from dean to acting provost appear so seamless and effortless. Gayle, thank you!

This fall, we will celebrate many milestones: The Departments of Music and Dance turn 70; and we open new facilities for performing arts, recreation and sports, and early childhood education. To help celebrate, we have formulated a new campaign: “Be part of IT”—Be part of the excitement, vitality, community, possibility, creativity, tradition—all words which contain “i” and “t” in sequence. So, I invite you to be part of “it:” to be part of the excitement in a vital community of numerous possibilities creatively marking and making traditions.

The new facilities for academic programs and campus life are symbolic representations of our strategic goals to date. “I.T.” I think of Imagination and Transformation—imagining new possibilities for enhancing interactions, new ways of coming together; transforming the breadth and depth of our community through new opportunities, and new social spaces.

“I.T.” I also think of Integrity and Transparency—the architectural design of the new buildings makes manifest our desire to be open, available, and transparent.

Be part of IT! And what is “it?” Adelphi University, of course. So in this season of using two letters to foster celebration, I will use two others to present the State of the University: “A and U.”

Think AU—think gold (and brown), yes, but also think Achievements Unveiled and Aspirations Unfulfilled.

Achievements Unveiled

Adelphi has grown in strength, service, and stature as reflected by the accomplishments noted in the handout. (See page 8.)

During the past seven years, enrollment has increased by over 50%; admissions selectivity, as measured by SAT scores and high school class rank, has increased significantly; the number of faculty has increased to over 300 from 195; the faculty teaching load has been reduced to 18 from 21; when the current faculty contract expires in 11 months, salaries will have increased 50% in eight years; fundraising for annual giving has increased more than 400%, and capital and endowment gifts have increased from negligible to over $36 million in four years; new construction has added nearly 200,000 square feet of instructional, recreational, and residential space; and the endowment for student and faculty support has more than doubled to $105 million.

And there is more. During the past academic year, we earned accreditation from AACSB International for the School of Business, making it one of 10% of all business schools worldwide so accredited, and NCATE accreditation for the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. We also received full accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation for our master’s program in speech-language pathology and our consortial doctoral program in audiology.

Both the Princeton Review and the Fiske Guide to Colleges, two popular college guides, cite Adelphi for excellence in teaching and student achievement, and for the third consecutive year the Fiske Guide named Adelphi as one of 26 “Best Buys” in private higher education in the country.

In a year when higher education was stained by scandals in student financial aid and study abroad, and struck by the credit crisis because of aggressive financing, Adelphi stood out for integrity.

We believe in transparency and good governance, and value the trust placed in us by those we enroll, employ, and enlist. We took no shortcuts; we serve as stewards of an historic institution with a remarkable history. The trustees and I are ever mindful of our responsibility for the future even as we build on the past.

Still other achievements include the International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship, Systems Thinking and Complexity; the Women Peace and Justice interdisciplinary events, continued this year as ICAN (Imagine Change, Act Now); the influential social health indicator reports of “Vital Signs,” which is based on the premise that society is concerned with more than share prices and bond markets; the path-breaking work on immigration related to our Center for Social Innovation, with a dozen faculty members doing important and interesting research on this controversial issue; another Telly, cable television’s Oscar, for the Exploring Critical Issues television series; the recognition gained by the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership; and the continuing recognition for the Adelphi University—New York State Breast Cancer Hotline and Counseling Center.

The University also gained recognition for our efforts at “greening” the campus, through geothermal heating and cooling of the new facilities, and environmentally sensitive construction guidelines (resulting in a LEED Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council), grounds maintenance, housekeeping materials, and food services, all with the cooperation of University units and student clubs and organizations.

The arboretum status of the trees and bushes is enhanced by the extraordinary caliber of international artists whose works of sculpture are exhibited throughout. I tell visitors it is nearly impossible to walk across campus without learning something new about the natural world and the created world, without being informed or provoked, comforted or challenged, as should happen at a university.

Finally, the new G.I. Bill is of special interest to Adelphi, not only because the University was changed by the veterans who entered in 1948 and 1949, and the possibilities that it offers to today’s service men and women, but also because several of us had a hand in writing the new legislation. Adelphi will participate by providing special scholarships to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout the year, the “Achievements Unveiled” I value most are the answers given by students, both undergraduate and graduate, and faculty, to these questions: “What are we doing well? What do you wish we had changed last week?” More often than not, students talk about teaching and advising that has transformed their lives, and faculty talk about their commitment to a form of student contact that is transformational and not just transactional. All this gives proof, it seems to me, that Adelphi is the “engaged” University in the classroom as well as in the community.

So this fall, as we dedicate the Alice Brown Early Learning Center, the Center for Recreation and Sports and related facilities, and the new Performing Arts Center, with its state-of-the-art dance, drama, and music facilities, as well as the related faculty and staff offices and program improvements, please remember that all this is part of our mission: to learn, to teach, and to transform, in a never-ending quest to improve.

Yet even as we seek to improve, let us not take for granted the progress we have made. As we consider these “Achievements Unveiled,” please recall those many moments, such as the launch of the public phase of the “Campaign for Adelphi” and the video associated with it, that made last year so exceptional.

Aspirations Unfulfilled

For all that we can cite as good, or even excellent, there is more for us to do. We have unfulfilled aspirations based on our role as a university; based on our mission and heritage; based on the investments we have made in people, facilities, and technology; based on the goals we have set for ourselves. We have improved in strength, service, and stature, but have much more to accomplish.

To help identify broad goals for the future, we are engaging in a strategic planning process with the assistance of an outside firm, Eduventures, that has helped us before. The Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Professor Jennifer Fleischner, will hold a series of meetings this fall with faculty, staff, students, and trustees, as well as alumni and friends, to hear from you regarding priorities for improvement, enhancement, expansion, contraction, or elimination; to clarify assumptions; to consider strategies, timing, and responsibilities for fulfilling priorities; and to identify resources needed. I hope this process will help us think in new ways: inside out and outside in; from the unit to the University; from the University to the universe.

We can use this process to consider the meaning of an Adelphi degree; to suggest what common understanding about the world will be held by a student who enters as a freshman and another who transfers in with junior standing, when each will receive an Adelphi baccalaureate degree; to consider what a 21st century approach to nursing and healthcare should encompass; to consider social policy in bolder and global terms as a companion to preparing social workers; to consider how best to frame our courses and programs to prepare leaders for management positions in a broad array of enterprises, not just in business; to consider how to foster more cross-disciplinary activities between and among distinctive academic units.

This process also gives us a renewed opportunity to build on the extraordinary work of the Middle States Self-Study teams and to consider how best to strengthen student life and student satisfaction—for undergraduates and graduate candidates, for commuters and those who live on campus, for students who bring prior education and life experience to their education at Adelphi.

Strategic planning also provides an opportunity to think about the identity we want for Adelphi; the role and shape of an Adelphi education that gives as much attention to individual character and community citizenship as it does to careers and commerce.

I think of our liberal arts and sciences foundation for undergraduates in terms of three clusters of courses, some existing, some new, some combined; three clusters that emphasize the world we meet, i.e., the natural world; the world we make, i.e., culture, history; and the world we want, i.e., ethics, morality, and law.

We must give emphasis to the natural world if we are to understand the fundamentals of science and the choices arising from its discoveries. We must give emphasis to culture if we are to convey to students the importance of history and context, imagination and exploration, as well as the universal themes of the true, the good, and the beautiful.

It is through culture that we learn the value of “deliberate and imaginative wandering,”1 as Stephen Graubard put it, and avoid the twin faults of “staleness of imagery” and “lack of precision” in thinking and writing, as George Orwell phrased it.2

We must give emphasis to the world we want if we are to understand the various systems of thought through which people mediate between the world they meet and the world they make.

I think of this form of education as liberating—liberating students from their provincial origins no matter what their status or demographics. An essential goal of a liberating arts and sciences education is to teach students how to test the truth and distinguish between and among the ways of knowing that tend to confuse even the well-educated. I believe there are three primary ways of knowing truth: through empirical evidence, or facts; through emotion, including fear, bias, and ideology; and through epiphany, or revelation, belief. In each case, we can define a “moment of truth.”

I believe that each way of knowing truth is valid; that no one way is the only way; that each way has the potential for integrity; that each way can be valid without denying the validity and integrity of the other. I also believe that each way of knowing is valid only in its sphere: we cannot argue successfully against a truth held by belief, such as a belief in God, by relying on empirical evidence alone, no matter how passionately pursued. Nor can we argue against a fear of flying by using facts only. The belief is valid to the believer; the fear is valid to the fearful.

Yet we must take a stand against ideological fear-mongering by exposing the nature and character of fallacies asserted in the name of “truth.” It is much too easy for students and others to access the internet and read whatever is purported to be true, and to repeat it. Even well-trained journalists need a refresher course in distinguishing fact from opinion, superstition, and belief.

As part of our planning effort, we will review the faculty-approved “learning goals”—Communication, Critical and Integrative Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning, Information Literacy, Global Citizenship, and Artistic Understanding and Expression—and consider how best to achieve and assess them.

A grant from the Ford Foundation will assist us in assessing the effectiveness of our various international initiatives, seeing how we can coordinate them more fully to ensure that they are strategic, and identifying the steps necessary for becoming more global in our teaching and learning.

In thinking about our role in the world, we also will need to consider more fully how we reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Diversity in all its dimensions—ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, background, and philosophy—is essential not for appearances sake, but for how it enhances a community’s vitality in thinking about its future.

Progress requires assessment of learning outcomes, of the effects of a university education, a topic we have heard about with increasing frequency, especially in relation to our Middle States Self-Study. But assessment is important not only because of external requirements, such as minimal amounts of instructional time required and licensure results reviewed, but also because it is the nature of our profession. As teachers and scholars, we “assess, diagnose, prescribe, adjust practice to reflect new research, (and benefit from training and experience).”3 We need to be able to say, as Clifford Adelman does, “This is what this degree represents, this is what the student did to earn the degree, and (this is a moral) warrantee (that) has been issued on behalf of both institution and student.”4

Another important task for our strategic planning exercise is to consider the role of scholarship and creative activity in our mission and reward systems. The award-winning scientist and author Lewis Thomas wrote,

Only two centuries ago we could explain everything about everything, out of pure reason, and now most of that elaborate and harmonious structure has come apart before our eyes…We need science, more and better science [I would say scholarship], not for its technology, not for leisure, not even for health or longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival.5

In this same vein, the historian Stephen Graubard called for a new form of scholarship, asking:

Is it possible that the most imperative need today is to acknowledge that the world is not becoming uniform, that national, religious, social, political, cultural and intellectual identities call for a kind of scholarship more respectful of difference, prepared to acknowledge complexity—aware of how scholars in other countries see their world.6

We want our students to be “open to new knowledge and able to advance it,”7 “for the hope of wisdom which our …culture must acquire for its survival,”8 as Thomas and Graubard have said.

In 1876, in his inaugural address as the first president of the newly opened John Hopkins University, Daniel Coit Gilman said that the opening of the university means a wish for less misery among the poor, less ignorance in the schools, less bigotry in the Temple, less suffering in the hospital, less fraud in business, less folly in politics… (resulting in) more security in property, more health in cities, more virtue in the country, more wisdom in the legislature…9

These are both noble and basic goals for any university’s mission of teaching and service as grounded in forms of scholarship dedicated to improving all three dimensions of its mission through useful knowledge and creative wandering.

Through our strategic planning process, or exercise, I ask that we come to a common understanding of multiple forms of scholarship, including creative activity, as they relate to Adelphi’s mission, values, and goals. While I agree with the four modes of scholarship articulated by Ernie Boyer, and expressed often by our faculty—the scholarship of Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching—I think we too often become stuck on how to distinguish between basic responsibilities for teaching on the one hand and the scholarship of pedagogy on the other. 10 We need to find better ways to reach a common understanding of these paradigms.

It is essential that we find greater clarity in our mission for all these responsibilities in order properly to recruit, mentor, and retain new faculty; fulfill our policies and ensure the integrity of our procedures; and express to all faculty our expectations for excellence and the standards by which we will judge each other’s accomplishments.

For scholarship (and creative activity in the performing, visual, and written arts), teaching, and service are the University’s missions in fulfillment of its roles as creator of new knowledge and understanding; as curator of what is known, whether for good or ill, whether in libraries or databases; and as critic of the status quo and fundamental premises of society, by asking questions about “what if?” and about fairness, equity, justice, and new possibilities.

Earlier, I used the term strategic planning “exercise” because organizing to do it gives a community or an organization a structured opportunity to decide on what is important and to address such items in new ways. I also emphasize exercise because the process is as important as any plan. The greatest value is to be found not in a tome, but in the identification, clarification, and examination of principles and assumptions; through frank discussions across campus; followed by the formulation of a few high priority goals that are organized according to strategies, including collaboration, and into forecasts, timelines, and tables of accountability as a new road map for the future.

And there is more. This exercise gives us another opportunity to show our support for a campus governance system in which the Faculty Senate, the AAUP, and the Administration are strong, distinctive, and cooperative. Each has a role to play, and each must maintain its integrity in all that it does.

During the coming year these relations will be tested: I urge communication, communication, communication. We are searching for new deans for the School of Business and the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. Later in the fall, when priorities are clearer, and the experience, qualifications, and characteristics for a new provost are better understood, we will start a search for that position and decide on the next steps relative to the deanship of College of Arts and Sciences.

In a month or so, we will begin negotiations with the AAUP on an updated Collective Bargaining Agreement. We have had seven years of working together to shape the current agreement, which dates back even farther, so I am confident we can go forward in the same manner, with common goals and mutual respect.

Before long, I expect the EEOC case will be resolved, and will write a full report on the matter to the faculty when it is time.

Finally, we anxiously but not passively await the successful completion of the Kresge Challenge Grant, the smooth renovation of Woodruff Hall, and the return of all Hy Weinberg Center residents to their renovated Cambridge Avenue home.


In conclusion, we have achieved a great deal together, and yet have much more to do. Institutions, like individuals, which fail to wonder about possibilities and wander inquisitively can become hidebound to tradition as others pass by.

This is not to oppose tradition, which is important to celebrate, as much to commemorate one’s origins and progress as it is useful to introduce those new to the community to the heritage of the new home in which they are now stewards. For we are each stewards of this institution called Adelphi, and need to know “Achievements Unveiled” as well as “Aspirations Unfulfilled” but within our grasp.

My mentor, James Perkins, former president of Cornell, used to advise me to “secure your footing, Bob, then extend your reach.” Working together, we have secured our footing, and have gained experience in extending our reach while remaining calm and clear. It is time to recalibrate and do this again, even as we understand from history that progress is not always smooth.

Our greatest age is before us and it can be greater still if we continue to work together. I assure you that I am committed to Adelphi’s continued progress, and echo founding President Charles Levermore, who in 1912 said,

I love this institution to which the best part of my life has been given, and I shall always work and pray for its welfare.11

Please join me in this mission, and be part of “It.”

Thank you.

The State of the University 2008

1 Graubard, Stephen R. Public Scholarship: A New Perspective for the 21st Century. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2004, p. 45.
2 Orwell, George. Why I Write. New York: Penguin Books, 1984, p. 105.
3 De Courcy Hinds, Michael. Teaching as a Clinical Profession: A New Challenge for Education. 2002 Carnegie Challenge, New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York.
4 “On Accountability, Consider Bologna.” Inside Higher Education, July 28, 2008.
5 Lewis, Thomas, “Biomedical Science and Human Health: The Long Range Prospect,” Daedlus, Summer 1977, p. 164.
6 Graubard, pp. 43, 41.
7 Ibid., p. 43.
8 Thomas.
9 Graubard, p. 22.
10 Boyer, Ernest L. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1990.
11 Charles Levermore, 1912.

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Todd Wilson
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