Town, village officials travel to Albany Tuesday to address SUNY board of trustees on future of SUNY Canton presidency
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 5:38 pm

CANTON -- Town and village officials will head to Albany tomorrow to speak in favor of hiring separate presidents for SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam.

Town Supervisor David T. Button, Town Councilman James Smith and Economic Development Director Linda McQuinn will be representing the Save Our SUNY Canton Task Force, the Town of Canton and the Village of Canton.

All three met with the Trustees in December 2011 in New York City after current President Joseph Kennedy’s retirement was accepted with immediate effect and a proposal to place a single, joint president for both SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam was announced.

State Senator Patty Ritchie responded with a resolution to provide every state university with its own president. SUNY Central decided not to force changes in the administrative structure of the schools, provided that both schools worked to develop a shared services plan (submitted July 15) and met a benchmark of increasing funding for academic purposes by 5 pecent per year.

President Kennedy was also asked by Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to finish off the 2011-2012 academic year. It was believed by local officials that SUNY Canton would then be able to start its search for a new president.

“We believe that SUNY Canton has met every expectation that was placed on it by SUNY Central to maintain its autonomous status,” said Button. “Under (interim) President Carli Schiffner’s tenure, the school has moved to implement everything in the shared service plan, including the appointment of a shared Chief Financial Officer for both schools. It is time for the Trustees to honor our agreement.”

Smith expressed concerns about an alliance with SUNY Potsdam at a time when the Potsdam school is facing some significant financial challenges and its President has announced his plans to leave at the end of the school year.

“Both Potsdam and Canton are fortunate to have their own State educational institutions, but they are so fundamentally different that it doesn’t make sense to try to force a union between them. Both schools – in their own unique ways – provide their students with an exceptional education. But that’s where the similarities end.”

The school is an engine of economic development for Northern New York, officials fear a shared presidency would dilute the influence of the schools in their respective communities, something McQuinn is hoping to prevent.

“Carli Schiffner, her administration, faculty and staff run a pretty lean organization,” McQuinn said. “Few other schools in the SUNY system can rival the output per dollar invested that our local school does. Imagine what would happen if SUNY Central decided to reward its institutions for their efficiency. Probably this one would be at the top of the list.”

The representatives will also repeat their offer to host a SUNY Trustee meeting in Canton.