The legislation comes after the state university system announced last month it's planning to merge the leadership of several pairs of SUNY colleges including Canton and Potsdam, Morrisville and Utica, Delhi and Cobleskill.
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A press release from Ritchie’s office said the consolidation would leave New York’s three agriculture colleges without their own leaders. Ritchie says, for reasons that include fundraising, that’s not the right place to cut.
"I’m a strong believer in shared services, but this shouldn’t be eliminated. In order to have the colleges flourish as Canton has done, there has to be someone at the helm of the college."
SUNY spokesman Morgan Hook says the legislation would do students a disservice:
"What this proposed legislation would do is put in law we’d be required to spend money on administration, and that would be money that wouldn’t be spent on students."
Hook also said SUNY is spending tens of millions annually to subsidize colleges’ administrative costs, and that this money would be better spent elsewhere:
"What we’re dealing with is a $1.4 billion support reduction, and we have to mange a 64-campus system. It’s our first goal to maintain, second to manage funding reduction. And we think we’re doing that well, and with students in mind."
Ritchie said that while she agrees that SUNY needs to take a hard look at how it's spending money, this plan would, “combine colleges with little in common in terms of their mission, history and character.”
The senator’s bill also gives the authority to colleges’ advisory councils, to approve or reject the SUNY chancellor’s choice of a school’s president.