SUNY Provost David Lavallee stood before the informal gathering of council members from SUNY Canton and Potsdam on Thursday. He announced that SUNY wants the two schools to share one president.
"Our goal is to do one president, because that’s the way we think the management team can be most efficient."
Lavalee says SUNY’s budget has been cut by a third, and it needs to save money. He says consolidating the presidency was just one of many ways SUNY wants the to two schools to start sharing services.
Lavallee says the two colleges will work over the next year to find ways to consolidate.
But council members from both colleges were furious. Tom Sauter says they don’t believe SUNY is acting in good faith.
"How do you convince us that this is a legitimate process you’re going into when you’re very first action is to relieve a president. I have to suspend belief to make that leap."
The announcement of SUNY’s goal to have a single chief for both colleges comes on the heels of the announcement last week that SUNY Canton’s long time president Joe Kennedy would be leaving next year. Council members were incensed that they weren’t informed about Kennedy’s departure – that they heard about it through rumors and news reports.
SUNY officials say they are not allowed to discuss personnel matters.
But Canton council member Tim Currier told SUNY officials they’ve created a lot of bad will.
"I haven’t heard those three words: We are sorry. For not informing you. Now you’re saying it’s a personnel matter with Dr. Kennedy. Maybe it is. But it’s not a personnel matter that, when you’re going to take our college president and put the administration of our college into someone else’s hands. We should have been consulted about that aspect of it, because that isn’t a personnel matter. You owe us an apology for not being upfront with us and letting us know what was going on."
Provost Lavallee did apologize. He says news reports and rumors got out before SUNY was able to discuss the matter.
Council members at both schools say their fundraising efforts have taken a huge hit since the talk started about consolidation of the schools. They say donors are uncertain about the future of the colleges.
Lavallee says that wasn’t SUNY’s intention. He says the central office wants the schools to save money on administration, so they have more resources for instruction.