Tripathi Expected to be Confirmed Monday as 15th President
Officer in Charge has a national scope
Officer in Charge Satish K. Tripathi is expected to be confirmed as UB's next president by the SUNY Board of Trustees Monday afternoon. If all goes as anticipated, Tripathi will earn $737,315 between his $350,000 state salary and other compensation, according to SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher's memorandum to the Board, dated April 18 (Monday).
The expected state salary will be $85,000 more than former President John B. Simpson received from the state government in 2010.
Although Tripathi is expected to be president at one university in Western New York, his mind is on national standards. If confirmed, Tripathi hopes to make UB relevant on a national level, improve as a university by expanding UB's research capabilities, and avoid falling short inside of the classroom.
"We are a research university; our emphasis should be [on research], but we are a university where we teach. I don't think [research] trumps anything else out," Tripathi said. "There are expectations for the faculty to do research. They don't teach six or eight courses a year or 10 courses; their teaching is based on the fact that certain aspects [of what's expected] is really producing knowledge, scholarship. I don't think anything is changing in terms of what a public research university is…. I think we can do a lot more in research so the expectations are higher."
The former vice provost stated that that new discoveries can give the university notoriety on a national level and help attract better professors, who he hopes to hire in clusters if confirmed as president.
Tripathi has been considered for other university presidential positions, making him no stranger to the search process. He stressed the importance of considering the selection process on a national level.
In order to attract top talent, a university has to offer a competitive salary and must also keep the process private enough so candidates can retain their current positions, Tripathi said. He also explained some of the processes that UB followed in finding its next president.
"There were forums for the faculty and students to get involved, and in the [search] committee there were student leaders, faculty, staff, alumni, and others," Tripathi said. "It's not anything different, actually; [UB's search] may be even more involved than the other research university searches that go on…. If you look in the national context, it's absolutely no different."
Tripathi was reluctant to further discuss the presidential search, mentioning that he was a candidate and not a member of the search committee. He acknowledged that UB bypassed some SUNY guidelines in searching for its 15th president and vaguely claimed that he plans to adhere to those guidelines while also doing what is best for UB.
Pending confirmation, Tripathi has three main goals that he hopes to accomplish: excellence, engagement and efficiency.
Tripathi hopes to achieve excellence in regard to students, faculty and the services that UB provides. He hopes to engage students, alumni, the Western New York community, the economy, and elected officials. Efficiency refers to getting the job done in a financially cost-effective manner.
As a key proponent who worked closely in developing the UB 2020 bill, Tripathi also stressed the importance of having proper infrastructure to provide students with necessary services and to attract top-level faculty. Although he was unaware that many of the buildings on North Campus do not comply with the American Disabilities Act, he plans to follow all regulations as UB moves forward, and he said he will look into where UB is not compliant.
As provost, Tripathi was responsible for setting the budget for each department within the university. He mentioned it was a difficult job with the budget cuts, but his main priority was to maintain academic excellence.
"I've been dealing with [budget cuts] as provost – as chief budget officer for the campus…Usually, the budget officer gives money to spend, and I've been ‘taking money away,'" Tripathi said. "But, I have made sure [that] I had a committee of undergrads, graduate students, staff, [and] faculty to advise me to see what are our core values [and] how will we sustain and retain the excellence."
In deciding on the budget, Tripathi wanted to make sure that students weren't shortchanged on their education and that they were able to enroll in the courses they wanted.
He also mentioned that the recent cuts haven't allowed the university to spend more money on sports, but maintained that school spirit and athletics are an integral part of university life. Still, education remains at the forefront of his mind.
"If we have a winning team we all are really excited about – I think we want to create that," Tripathi said. "But remember, these students, they are scholar athletes – student-athletes; they're not really athlete-students. We want to make sure their education is also being taken care of. We have a great team of our athletic director and coaches, and I think they have done tremendously with the limited amount of resources."
Much like the rest of the university, Tripathi wasn't prepared for John B. Simpson's retirement announcement on the first day of classes in late August.
He also wasn't ready to declare his candidacy right away.
"[I decided I waned to be president] after the search began.…I sort of worked with different aspects of the university – education; undergraduate; graduate; faculty; budget, and everything," Tripathi said. "It's a great university; it is part of AAU – Association of American Universities – it's in the top 60 in the country, so, I really fell in love with the university. We have a lot of potential here, we have done a lot of work here in the last few years, [and] I decided that I would like to try [to be president]."
Tripathi himself is a product of public education and recognizes the importance of affordable higher education. He explained that the current UB 2020 bill, which he supports entirely, has provisions to protect students whose household income is less than $60,000 per year. Tripathi also mentioned that he is glad that students called for a rational tuition increase.
"This is really amazing that students care about the quality of education that they get," Tripathi said.
Additional reporting by Senior News Editor Lauren Nostro.