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SUNY Canton, Potsdam have not met benchmarks, says SUNY Vice Chancellor


Though a SUNY official lauds campuses at Canton and Potsdam for cutting costs by combining and sharing services, some work remains before the St. Lawrence County universities are permitted to start the search for new presidents.

Brian G. Hutzley, SUNY vice chancellor for financial services, said though SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton have made progress diverting money from administration to educational expenses, they fell short of the system’s expectations.

“Canton and Potsdam, for the record, have done an incredible job putting plans together to make this happen, they just aren’t done yet,” he said.

Last year, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher directed three pairs of SUNY Campuses, Delhi and Morrisville, SUNYIT and Cobleskill, and Canton and Potsdam, to share more administrative services, including their presidencies.

SUNY Central stepped back from the Canton-Potsdam shared presidency after protests from the Canton college community, compromising that if measurable progress was made in sharing services, the schools could have their own presidents.

Mr. Hutzley referred to a November 2011 Board of Trustees resolution stating the office of Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher would help each campus search for its own unique president, if the schools showed a 10 percentage point increase in the amount of their budget devoted directly to instructional spending and fully aligned their administrative staffs. The resolution set benchmarks for shared administration in areas “including but not limited to Institutional Research, Human Resources, Finance, Accounting, Purchasing, Billing, Budget and Facilities.”

SUNY’s role, said Mr. Hutzley, was suggesting ways to look at shared services and asking for administrative costs to be reduced, not dictating how the colleges would share the services.

“This whole process is campus driven, SUNY has been a partner and an advisor,” he said. “The way that I look at it, you could have a lot of the administrative functions as a shared service, and that will work itself out. There are a lot of models out there about how you oversee them and how you charge for them.”

In July, the campuses submitted a report to the chancellor’s office, showing some progress on the benchmarks.

At the Board of Trustees meeting this week, SUNY Provost David K. Lavallee said the Delhi, Morrisville, Cobleskill and SUNYIT campuses would receive permission to start their presidential searches next year — but that SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam would have to wait.

“The campus’ recommendation is to work for further alignment of administrations between the two campuses over the next three years and SUNY system administration supports that goal,” he said.

Earlier this week, Canton town officials lobbied the SUNY Board of Trustees, stating the school had met the shared services benchmarks, but Mr. Hutzley dissented.

“They have not hit their benchmarks, people keep ignoring the specific things that were in the resolution. A few of those have gotten done,” he said. “For some reason, the folks at Canton keep stating it was five percent but it was ten percent and specific things need to be integrated.”

Mr. Hutzley said the Board of Trustees has not yet decided how to deal with the campuses presidencies going forward. He said he wasn’t sure whether the schools would share a president or not.

“I can’t answer that, that is a Board of Trustees decision,” he said. “The board hasn’t yet made any determination on the other searches, that was a recommendation to the board based on the reports.”

At SUNY Canton, Carli S. Schiffner is serving as interim president after Joseph L. Kennedy stepped down in August. At SUNY Potsdam, President John F. Schwaller recently announced his retirement effective July 31.

At some point in the future, SUNY will ask for a progress update on SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam shared services, at which point a decision might be made.

“There will definitely need to be another update and additional progress,” Mr. Hutzley said.

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