Sen. Patricia A. Ritchies proposed legislation mandating a president for every campus in the State University of New York system is a perfect example of lawmakers attempting to micromanage a state institution.
Sen. Ritchies bill is designed to block a controversial plan by SUNYs central administration to consolidate administrative operations by having a single president for SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton. Potsdam President John Schwaller is expected to assume the dual responsibility after Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy leaves at the end of this academic year to become an adviser to SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.
SUNY Canton staff and students and local political leaders oppose the plan. However, shared presidencies are also planned between SUNY Cobleskill and SUNY Delhi and between Morrisville State College and SUNY Institute of Technology in Marcy.
Her bill, though, goes even further by giving local college councils the final say in hiring a college president. Now, the councils make a recommendation to the SUNY Board of Trustees but the final decision remains with the board. Sen. Ritchies bill would give local councils veto power by giving them the right to approve or reject the trustees choice.
This is an issue for SUNY to decide, not the state Legislature. Sen. Ritchies proposed legislation interferes in day-to-day operations and decisions that are better left to the SUNY leadership and administrators seeking ways to contain costs, which is necessary in this era of declining state aid to hold down tuition expenses for students.
Her bill is a political reaction rather than a thoughtful response on how to streamline and make the state university system a more efficient operation.