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President Helen Giles-Gee's Open Forum Address to the Campus Community, February 10, 2012

Good Afternoon. During this past year, we lost a number of employees who were dear to us. Though we have travelled to their memorial services, and remembered them with friends, it seems fitting that we remember them while we are gathered here at our College with a moment of silence. Thank you.

When I consider the times we are facing, I think of the quote from Horace:

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.

And another from Samuel Johnson:

Prosperity is too apt to prevent us from examining our conduct; but adversity leads us to think properly of our state, and so is beneficial to us.

This is a time when we need to re-evaluate what we are doing even more than before. Yes, we have saved, curtailed our costs, become more efficient. Yet this is not enough. We must change.

Both federal and state officials believe that higher education is too costly
for most citizens. In his recent speech, President Obama suggests to shift
federal aid away from colleges that fail to control rising tuition while
recognizing the decreased state appropriations that triggered those increases
by public colleges. The President stated that, many colleges have failed to
find more cost-effective ways to deliver education and get the average student
to graduation in four years. The Lumina Foundation has established a goal of
60 percent more postsecondary education graduates with high quality degrees
and credentials by 2025 and has contributed millions into the development of
the Degree Qualifications Profile to encourage two and four year higher
education institutions to graduate more students with core competencies ([http
//]( al_2025.html) ) Why are President Obama, the Lumina Foundation, and others concerned about college completion? Christensen and Horn in the article “Colleges in Crisis” in Harvard Magazine stated that “A higher proportion of America’s 55 to 64 year-old- citizens hold postsecondary degrees than in any other country-39%- but America ranks only tenth in the same category for its other citizens-many from low-income, African American and Hispanic families.

Last year’s reduction of state appropriation by 48 percent and elimination of state financial aid resulted in an increased tuition for in-state students over what we had projected. We were able to limit this increase through reductions to supply side budgets, the use of reserves, elimination of positions, delaying strategic initiatives and by our employees accepting decreased benefits and retirement contributions. The College increased institutional financial aid. This year 89 percent of students receive some type of financial aid.

The full cost or sticker price is being borne by only 11 percent of our students (Blodgett, Patricia, and November 18, 2011). So for our College, despite containing costs and developing efficiencies that pulled 2.2 million dollars out of our budget for three years and directing these funds to strategic initiatives, and being the most efficient among our peers, we have been supporting the enrollment of more students - from both middle-class and low-income families. Through it all, Keene State has remained true to its mission and vision. The quality of the student experience at Keene State is paramount, so that our students leave our gates as well- rounded citizens and professionals.

The New York Times reported that federal student loan debt more than doubled in the past decade from $41 billion to $103 billion (NY Times, 2/4/2012). New Hampshire students face among the highest debt burden of any students across the country graduating with an average debt of at Keene State of over 20,000 dollars for students graduating in 2011 (Blodgett, Patricia, November 18, 2011). So, though we have increased efficiencies, we must still look for improvements.

The current state of the state’s revenues shows some improvements and predictable losses. “Unrestricted revenue from the General and Education Funds for January totaled $126.6 million, surpassing both the plan and prior year by $14.3 million (13%) and 13.5 million (12%), respectively, due primarily to favorable business tax performance. Year to date (YTD) revenue totaled $936.8 million, which was below plan by $27.5 million (3%) and below prior year by $37.2 million (4%), due largely to shortfalls in Tobacco Tax, Interest & Dividends Tax and Medicaid Enhancement Tax collections.” http://www.admin.sta


In addition to financial changes colleges are facing, legislators and governors in many states have made changes to public higher education structure and financing. For example, boards and systems of 12 community colleges in Connecticut have been merged with the State Universities and one online institution due to actions taken by state legislators. The New Jersey Governor has accepted a recommendation to merge Rowan University with Rutgers Camden. In Georgia, eight colleges will be merged into four, affecting about 36,000 students, in an effort to save money.

New Hampshire legislators have submitted hundreds of potential bills for consideration. Let me provide the topics of a few: House Bill 1692 which would eliminate the position of the Chancellor, reduce the size of USNH employees to a business manager and up to 11 employees, limit the student membership to one from a rotation through the institutions, and limit alumni representatives to one for each institution. I have written testimony in opposition to this bill. House Bill 1467 would allow any graduate with a bachelor’s degree to apply for a teaching certificate. Dean Melinda Treadwell will speak in opposition to this bill. House Bill 334 would allow guns on campus in opposition to local campus and Board policies. Amanda Warman has testified against this and other related bills. HB1377 requires postsecondary institutions to report on remedial courses. Provost Mel Netzhammer responded in opposition to this bill.

State legislators have introduced many additional bills that directly impact the College. There are too many to mention here. Of importance to share is the process I created with the Cabinet to review, coordinate and respond to these bills in collaboration with the Chancellor, his staff and the Board of Trustees. During a retreat in January, the Provost, Vice presidents and I reviewed a matrix that I had designed which listed each bill of interest along with its House or Senate sponsor, its key language, the Board of Trustees position and its status in the legislature. I charged Ms. Amy Proctor with keeping this matrix current. It became clear to me that I needed someone to coordinate the many bills and have charged a close outside communications partner with this responsibility after consulting Vice President for Advancement Maryann Lindberg. Each week we have a morning conference call with the USNH to address current bills which is followed by email and other communications throughout the week.

Engaging with our constituencies around legislation is vital. Associates in the Marketing and Communications department are reestablishing the website to provide you with information about bills of interest. The website will also encourage concerned citizens to take action. Regional legislators, including the House Speaker, came to campus to meet with us and to hear from the Speaker. Members of the President’s Council also met with the Speaker and legislators and spoke on our behalf. I have also met with the Governor and have stood with him during his press conference where he promised to veto the gun bill. This legislative activity has taken additional work on our parts which I deem necessary for not only this year but also next year when our biennial budget appropriations are up for review.

We need to continue to meet with key legislators and the new Governor to discuss our positions and inform them of our efficiency, quality and contributions to the state. This is broader work for us at a scale that is bigger and more challenging and adds to the workload.


This is a strong College that has joined together to enrich the lives of our students and our community. The liberal arts mission is critical to the survival of the country we are transforming the way we work. We are changing. The combination of the budget shortfall and operational changes has added to the stress that we are feeling.

Within this context of ongoing change at every level, “Today is not yesterday” I quote Thomas Carlyle.

We ourselves change. How then, can our works and thoughts, if they are to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful; and if memory has its force and worth, so also has hope.

Response to Staff Councils for Review of Workload: In a letter dated November 30, 2011, the Chairs of the Operating and Professional Staff Councils, Tim Garland and Kim Schmidl-Gagne , requested consideration of a workload review to address the consequences of layoffs, open vacancies and retirements on behalf of staff. After I met with them, I invited the Chairs of the Councils to meet with the Cabinet during January 2012 to discuss questions about workload, planning and efficiency. Among their questions were:

  1. On a departmental level, what are the workload issues

  2. How can we reduce and/or reorganize workload

  3. How do we balance our future plans with economic constraints. How does growth fit into these issues

  4. What do we currently do that we can or should stop doing? Are there redundancies that can be eliminated?

  5. Is it possible to use interns, student workers and increase opportunities for cross training?

The Provost, Vice Presidents, Councils and I take these issues very seriously. And a review of past activities demonstrated that the College has begun to change in ways that the Councils described and that these changes while in transition have affected workload: Let me provide examples:

  1. The move from a paper catalog to an online catalog required during its transition an allowance for some paper copies and copying. The transition took more than two years and sought to address issues and concerns including the lack efficient search ability. Now all may access the catalog online and we have reduced printing costs. 2. The Printing project was piloted first before being disseminated throughout the campus.

  2. It will require some employees to leave their desk areas to a common area to secure copies while it results in greater savings for the College. Again, we are reducing printing costs and streamlining our bodies as we walk further distances to printers.

  3. The rewriting of the general education program necessitated offering both the old and the new integrative studies and the determination of appropriate substitutions until all grandfathered students had graduated. With this new curriculum, faculty has imbedded critical skills and abilities and is assessing gains in students’ learning.

  4. Admissions’ transition to online applications resulted in a 32 percent increased application pool which had to be input by hand until another technology was incorporated this year which would feed this information. The result is improved efficiency in application review as well as consideration of the College by many more students.

As the Council Chairs and the Cabinet discussed issues of workload, we recognized that we had already begun to address some of the workload issues.

We are always looking for new ways to drive our mission forward. For instance, the Planning Council, which was charged with reviewing the strategic plan and the planning process, has improved the efficiency of the planning process by inserting a preproposals phase. Preproposals that are not meritorious will not be invited to move forward to the proposal phase thus saving the writer time. The Planning Council has allowed two types of preproposals to move forward: One type is similar to those submitted last year that are directly related to strategic goals and have positive outcomes associated with them and are housed within a single department or unit. The other type of preproposal specifically brings together a number of actions meant to improve student retention and engages offices across the campus to consider changes in practices. At the end of the actions of the two types of preproposals, the Planning Council will determine the best way to martial our resources to move the College ahead.

The Cabinet and I recognized that some preproposals are actually mandated requirements and operational needs. For this reason, the Cabinet has adopted a quarterly review of operational and personnel issues to assure that workload and critical needs remain in the forefront.

Another way the College is looking to reduce workload is by reviewing its committees. The Committee on Committees is charged to: review current committee structure and recommend action (consolidation, dissolution, membership, charge, review) to the President’s Cabinet to achieve greater organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

The Committee on Committees was formed by the cabinet in response to a NEASC comment regarding our shared-governance tradition, which was considered to be “substantial” and its consultative process to be “many layered” and “cumbersome”. Members of the Committee include: Russ Cobb, Kathryn Dodge (Chair), Susie Ericson-West, Kim Schmidl-Gagne, Laura Seraichick, Karen Stanish, Paul Striffolino. Their overall approach is to align KSC committee practices with outside best practices - attributes of successful committees. The CoC is committed to a transparent process with opportunities for campus input. They are currently completing an inventory campus committee structure and documenting best practices for successful committees. They intend to determine alignment of current practice on campus with best practices and make recommendation(s) to Cabinet in June.

In addition, in response to the Staff Councils, the Cabinet and I have agreed to consider the impact of efficiencies in one department on another, a reduction of redundancies and the possibility of providing incentives for collaboration. We will keep you informed as we move forward.


During the past year, we have addressed compensation changes for nonunionized staff, the KSCEA, and workload issues with the KSCAA. Total Rewards brought about greater complexity and needs for much discussion. We were and continue to be represented well by our HR director, representatives to the SPPC, Staff Councils and KSCEA and KSCAA negotiating teams and senior administrators and labor relations specialists. That we are still talking to each other after such a trying time is a testament to all of us.

The Keene State College Education Association (KSCEA) contract was ratified by the faculty on and approved by the Board on January 2, 2012. The three year contract extends from July 1, 2011 through June 31, 2014. Within this contract the faculty is given raises of 1%, 3% and 3%. The retirement program is suspended for the first two years and limited to 5 during the last year. The KSCEA agreed to Board requested health and retirement targets for all faculty. The KSCEA were given the flexibility to distribute this target across health and retirement as they determined appropriate.

I am grateful to benefitted nonunion employees and the KSCEA for helping to contain costs by accepting reductions in compensation. At the same time, HR is working on the “rewards” portion that will allow more options for retirement savings. The KSCAA contract was extended for one year to allow the College and adjunct faculty to discuss changes in course assignments made necessary by a $500,000 reduction in the adjunct faculty budget as part of the College’s effort to meet reduction in the state appropriation. The current contract will expire on June 30, 2012.

Nonunionized Staff Salary Increases: The USNH Board of Trustees Financial Affairs Committee provided a final approval that allowed Keene State to provide salary increases for continuing non-unionized status employees, chiefly the Operating and PAT Staff. The Board required that the 2% salary increase pool must include a distribution of merit (1/4th of the total pool). (K. Harness,) The College had to demonstrate that it met four standards in order to be able to distribute any raises. We are pleased that Keene State’s careful use of its limited resources and focus on fiscal conservation led by Vice President Jay Kahn, Karen House, Melissa Lochner and the Budget managers has placed us in a position to support these increases without creating financial risk to the institution and damaging the quality of its academic offerings.

The Board of Trustees has allowed for the increase in pay to begin in January 2012 for nonunion benefitted employees. At this time, staff has been provided a 1.5 percent general increase effective retroactive to January 1st for those staff employed at the institution prior to Jan 1, 2012; and otherwise eligible. Thanks to Human Resources Director and her staff these increases were reflected for Operating Staff were issued on Friday, January 27th and reflected in the February 3rd paychecks for PATs and eligible full-time faculty (Kim Harkness).

Earned time Cash outs: One “reward” that the Trustees allowed on a one time basis was for earned time cash outs. Human Resources provided operating staff the flexibility to choose from four paycheck options and had 60 Operating Staff (or almost 39 percent) who chose to participate. The average cash out was for 36.6 hours and a payment of $656.

Merit Process: The Cabinet and Director Harkness have been working on a pilot merit process which has been reviewed for feedback by the Staff Councils and representative faculty to whom this would apply. The pilot for FY 12 includes a philosophy, procedures, criteria for the distribution of merit pay and maximum and minimum awarding amounts. Workshops will be held for managers/supervisors to familiarize them with this process and so that they may ask questions. The Provost and Vice Presidents will review the recommendations of supervisors and will make recommendations to me. I will review all distributions and I will have final approval of all merit pay recommendations. Per the Board of Trustees, this process must be completed by June 30, 2012 so the current timeline is short.

While I recognize that a number of you have registered your disagreement with any merit pay system, many of you within the total rewards survey stated that you wanted to be rewarded for work that was above and beyond what the standard is for your position. The Board believes that by requiring pay according to performance that they are acceding to your request. I also believe that those who have made exemplary contributions to the College should be rewarded accordingly. This is our opportunity to develop a fair process that acknowledges excellence among our workforce.

Recognizing that some of this work has required teams, we must continue to consider how to distinguish the great from the good and the very good and encourage joint initiative and reward it. While eligible employees may opt out of participating in the proposed merit process, let us work together towards developing a positive merit process.

In closing, this is not the typical year at Keene State College. We suffered a tremendous budget cut, a loss of some of our colleagues, and mandates from the Board for total rewards, the state legislature for doing more with less and the federal government for the net price calculator. In spite of it all, we have maintained excellence here by absorbing the extra work. And we feel it. It will take some time for us to reach a better equilibrium. It will take the strength of our convictions not lose sight of the quality of student learning and access as our priorities. Through this time, we must steel ourselves and have the courage of our convictions that we are working for the greater good.

I ask Kim Harkness to come up to discuss the FY’ 12 and FY’ 13 merit pay process. She will respond to questions at the end of this forum. Thank you all for what you do for the benefit of this College.

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