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SUNY Potsdam students ask administration to preserve campus identity, open shared services discussion

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POTSDAM — Students at one north country SUNY campus are asking the school’s governing bodies to preserve their campus’s distinctiveness and to keep the ongoing discussions about shared services open.

SUNY Potsdam Student Government Association President Ryan P. Williams presented a resolution, passed by the students last semester, to the school’s College Council on Friday.

“We did pass this along after finals week,” he said. “This is, of course, in response to talks of shared services.”

The resolution says the pending resignation of SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller creates “a rational fear that SUNY Potsdam will lose its integrity and independence” and calls on the council and the school’s Faculty Senate to “preserve, protect and defend the unique characteristics that define SUNY Potsdam and its offerings to the student body.”

Mr. Williams said the campus’s unique character, formed by a mixture of liberal arts and fine arts students and Potsdam’s laid-back atmosphere, enhanced students’ experiences.

“Look, whatever happens from the chancellor’s office and the board of trustees obviously happens, but this campus’s culture is important, too,” he said.

The resolution also asks the senate and council to “engage in transparent campus-wide discourse regarding the future of SUNY Potsdam.”

“This is so we can all get our fair share and our fair say,” Mr. Williams said.

He said the resolution was not in response to any concerns of secrecy in SUNY’s administration.

“This is to make sure the whole campus is involved in the discussion,” he said. “They are very good at communicating through various leadership roles. Obviously my office and the student government share whatever we hear, but there is kind of a funnel going on. There’s always room to expand transparency.”

SUNY Canton’s student government has no plans to pass a similar resolution, but Nafeesa A. Johnson, president, said she would be open to considering one.

“We haven’t had this conversation due to the fact that many of the campus updates we’ve had from interim President Schiffner and Dr. Schwaller have reassured us that the uniqueness of the campuses will remain,” she said. “I think it is a good idea. It might be something we would consider, but it hasn’t come up in conversation.

SUNY Potsdam’s Faculty Senate is considering the resolution, Chairman Jan Trybula said.

Mr. Trybula said the faculty was pleased with updates it has received from Mr. Schwaller and Provost Margaret E. Madden.

The two St. Lawrence County campuses were directed to merge administrations by the SUNY Board of Trustees in November 2011. Since then, both schools have worked to combine offices and positions, but have been allowed to retain individual presidencies on each campus.

The resignations of Mr. Schwaller and his SUNY Canton counterpart, interim President Carli C. Schiffner, effective July 31, have stoked concerns that the schools could again be asked to share a president.

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