By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON -- Town and village officials in Albany this week speaking in favor of hiring separate presidents for SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam got no promises from SUNY trustees, and said that recruiting state legislators to the cause would be the way to go.
Town Supervisor David T. Button, Town Councilman James Smith and Economic Development Director Linda McQuinn, representing the Save Our SUNY Canton Task Force, the Town of Canton and the Village of Canton, spoke before seven trustees of the State University of New York.
Button reminded the trustees, including Chairman Carl McCall and hearing chair Henrik Dullea, that “we brought a large contingent of people from Canton last year to this same meeting to express our concerns about a shared presidency with SUNY Potsdam and to speak in support of SUNY Canton’s autonomy. You responded very positively to our concerns by allowing President Joseph Kennedy to continue in his position until the end of the 2011-2012 school year.”
He said that the benchmarks for progress the trustees laid down last year -- increasing money available to academic programs by five percent and working with SUNY Potsdam to find as many ways as possible to share services – had been met.
“Over the past six weeks (and in anticipation of this meeting), I have tried to get a read from SUNY Central about the benchmark process,” Button said. “I have been told twice that the information is not available, but might be available soon. So the people of Canton are not privy to the information that you are looking at. Anecdotally, it appears to those of us who have been watching the school that it has blown well past the benchmark.”
Since “SUNY Canton and its host community have done everything expected of them in improving the academic experience,” SUNY Central should allow the process of selecting a new president at SUNY Canton should be allowed to proceed.”
“I hope that you will give the school and the Canton community a date positive when that process can begin.”
McQuinn told the trustees of the economic importance of the school to the community, and that selecting a new president for SUNY Canton would help keep the community healthy and strong.
On his return to Canton, Button said they did not get any firm response.
“We did not walk in expecting an immediate response, so I guess we were not disappointed.”
He said that until the trustees okay a presidential search, “they will be closing down the progress the school has made over the last several years.
“We are going to have to get to our legislators and express our concerns to them. They have the ultimate say.”
He also told the trustees that they had brought some stability back to the campus by appointing Carli Schiffner as interim president at SUNY Canton after Kennedy retired.