By Amanda Weber and Felicia Smolen
On Wednesday, September 6 at the Montante Cultural Center, President and former Griffin Editor John J. Hurley delivered a speech in which he addressed several successes and improvements that have been and will be made here at Canisius College. Some of the topics that were emphasized included admission rates, class size, financial aid, the school’s budget, sustainability, and, perhaps most emphasized, diversity within the institution.
President Hurley specifically addressed the issue of race and the overwhelming want and need for diversity in the college. The President confronted these monumental issues by referencing a personal meeting he had with a group of black students on campus. Despite his initial thoughts and preconceived notions that racial issues do not occur at Canisius College, the President learned through this conversation with those students that this was not the case.
“They described feelings of isolation, alienation, and stereotyping,” Hurley stated. “They regretted that the white majority at Canisius seemed unwilling to truly confront racial issues and to have constructive discussions inside and outside the classroom.”
In addition to these personal feelings and experiences, these students also addressed the lack of diversity among the faculty and staff at Canisius College. Not only are the majority of faculty members white, but Hurley said black students do not feel like they have the skills to deal effectively with these racial tensions and issues. In addition, students articulated that the curriculum taught at the College does not show a true representation of the black community and does not place enough emphasis on the importance of black history. Despite a lacking in the past of celebrating this diversity, Hurley hopes to accomplish this task in the future through a number of campus-wide initiatives to encourage open discussion of racial issues.
“I want to develop a campus where all of our students of every color feel equal, valued and respected,” said President Hurley, “and where we truly embrace and celebrate diversity as a strength.”
In addition, President Hurley spent a significant amount of time discussing the financial state and well-being of the College, as well as enrollment. The President reported that the budget for financial aid is staying on par with what they expect and what they desire. Despite this being a difficult task, President Hurley emphasized the importance of Canisius “to simultaneously maintain academic standards while we closely manage the financial aid budget.”
President Hurley addressed this specific dilemma by stating, “The inescapable fact is that we continue to operate in a very competitive and price-sensitive market in which [there] are too many schools chasing too few students.”
Despite sharing this concern, President Hurley additionally emphasized that the budget and enrollment are correlating extremely well to each other. Enrollment was discussed in positive terms due to the increase in selectivity of the College while still receiving a freshman class of 610 students and a transfer class of 122 students. While the undergraduate enrollment is 2,500 students, which is on par with the budget, more transfer and regular students chose on campus housing for this school year and recruitment efforts have improved during the past summer.
“The new result of all of this,” said Hurley, “is that the budget that the Board of Trustees approved last spring appears manageable and achievable at this time.”
In addition to the desire to increase revenue and decrease costs, President Hurley also demonstrated a desire to promote sustainability efforts across campus and revealed a new strategic planning effort. This plan, “Canisius 150: Excellence, Leadership, Jesuit,” began with an analysis of the entire school and all of the departments encompassed within it. While this strategic plan does include financial goals, an increased emphasis is placed on promoting Jesuit values and increasing opportunities for students to learn and to be successful in their future endeavours.
“We wanted our plan to reflect our promise to all of our students – graduate and undergraduate,” said Hurley, “to provide them with a challenging, engaging education that will enable them to succeed in a rapidly changing global society.”
Furthermore, this new strategic plan also hopes to accomplish the task of retaining more students throughout the years and increasing the overall connection that the students have to the College. Despite the retention rate for the class of 2015 being at 83%, the President hopes to increase this rate in the future by utilizing the College’s Retention Committee. This Committee will be utilized in order to develop new, innovative ideas to increase the retention rate for future classes.
“We will also pursue the development of deep relationships with and through our alumni, friends, and businesses,” said Hurley. “That will both help our students get the best job opportunities and also increase philanthropic support for the College.”
The Canisius 150 plan also includes a commitment to focus on efforts to increase long-term sustainability at Canisius. Some examples of these future goals President Hurley discussed included the completion of Science Hall, the development of a new human resources strategy to retain the most qualified individuals, and becoming a greener campus. In order to further accomplish these goals, the 2016-2017 school year will be a time for developing realistic expectations for the Canisius 150 plan.
With all these developments and goals set for the future, President Hurley expressed his optimism towards what is to come for Canisius and wished everyone a happy and healthy academic year.
President Hurley’s convocation is important because Canisius students should remain informed and educated about what is happening at the school, as well as encourage the administration to fulfill stated goals. It is important for students to truly understand that their connection to Canisius College will continue even past graduation. The new developments that the College has to offer are both exciting and relevant information.