SUNY Central kicked off its cost-cutting efforts recently by paying SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy not to work.
Call it trickle-dumb economics.
They paid him to resign. I am not sure how the brain trust in Albany came up with the kooky idea that spending more than a half-million dollars on Mr. Kennedy's severance package was the thing to do at a time when its goal was to find ways to save money.
Maybe they didn't care. Maybe they just wanted him out. That's puzzling.
Mr. Kennedy has been a workhorse since becoming president in 1993. He's worked to improve the campus. He's worked to improve the curriculum. And he wanted to keep working.
So why did SUNY Central want to give him the boot?
It could be the 'Roos.
For all the good Mr. Kennedy has done at the school, it was on his watch that SUNY Canton adopted a kangaroo as its mascot. A fierce-looking kangaroo as far as kangaroos go, but a kangaroo nonetheless.
I can just imagine the SUNY Central board room when trustees got the news about the mascot switch.
Trustee #1: “A kanga-dang-roo? What was Kennedy thinking up there at SUNY Canton?”
Trustee #2: “Who's Kennedy?”
Trustee #3: “We gotta college in Canton?”
Trustee #4: “Where's Canton?”
Could be that the unusual mascot choice brought attention to the campus. And somehow the attention led to suggestions of cuts that don't appear to benefit the campus – one that since 1993 has quietly been turning itself into a four-year college under Mr. Kennedy's leadership.
That's just speculation.
I am sure most of the SUNY Central trustees know about the successes of the longest-serving president in their system. When the decision was made to have one president run SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton, Mr. Kennedy's track record should have made him as good a choice as any.
There has to be a reason they didn't consider him in any discussion about who will lead the merged campuses into the future.
Maybe it was all about image.
There's nothing glamorous about being the head of a working class school that a lot of old-timers up here still call Canton Tech or ATC. SUNY Canton churns out nurses and cops. SUNY Potsdam graduates opera stars.
So Mr. Kennedy was kicked to the curb and SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller appears the frontrunner to lead the schools when whatever shared services operation shakes out of Albany.
SUNY Central officials were probably shocked when they found out that ousting the locally popular Mr. Kennedy wasn't going to be as easy as they thought. They backtracked on their original “resign or be fired” plan that would have had Mr. Kennedy living off his severance package in September.
They massaged the deal and now the plan is to let him retire as president in the spring but remain in the SUNY system after that as a consultant.
So everyone is happy now. Well, not so much.
The revised plan only shines when compared to the first one. Neither are very good.
SUNY Central is looking at consolidating colleges to save money. Here is the problem: When Mr. Kennedy offered up several ideas for consolidating services between the colleges in the last year, Mr. Schwaller shot them all down.
So if you are to believe the man who might be king, the only real money that will be saved in this whole effort is Mr. Kennedy's salary.
Here's another problem: Since it was announced that Mr. Kennedy and his position wasn't needed anymore, the SUNY Canton College Foundation has seen some $330,000 in scheduled donations delayed. Logic tells you those delays will turn into cancellations if the SUNY Central train keeps rolling on its announced track.
Let's do the math. Save $185,000 by losing the SUNY Canton presidential salary. Lose $330,000 by eliminating the presidential post. That would be a net gain of $145,000 in the wrong direction.
Call it trickle-dumb economics.