SUNY Chancellor slated to receive questions from State Senate

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will appear at a state senate hearing on Friday to receive questions concerning recent SUNY executive pay raises, said Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.

The hearing comes after a report by Albany's The Times Union that said Zimpher was financing a multimillion dollar renovation plan for the executive offices at the SUNY headquarters in Albany and will be granting pay raises of $30,000 to each of her three highest-ranking deputies. These employees already receive salaries that range from $250,000 to $315,000 per year and receive housing allowances and transportation reimbursements.

Backlash from these decisions has been harsh. "In the face of SUNY employee layoffs and reduction in student aid, the recent double-digit raises and lavish executive suite makeovers are outrageous," said New York State Assemblywoman Addie Russell.

"It is unconscionable to dole out raises as high as 13.6 percent when SUNY has notified a dozen of [UUP] members at SUNY headquarters that they'll be retrenched [cut] next year," said Phillip Smith, president of United University Professions in an opinion article in The Times Union published Wednesday.

Reaction from UUP has been motivated by the fact that these renovations and raises coincide with 221 SUNY headquarters employees being furloughed and the threat of retrenchment facing multitudes of SUNY faculty and staff.

In defense of the raises, Zimpher has said that the three deputies, John O'Connor, senior vice chancellor for research and innovation; David Lavallee, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Johanna Duncan-Poitier, Zimpher's deputy for education pipeline, have taken on extra responsibilities as a result of cost savings.

Additionally problematic, the Times Union article states that the decisions come after SUNY has endured two years of budget cuts totaling $562 million and therefore do not strengthen Zimpher's case that legislators should enact SUNY-Flex, a measure that would allow SUNY colleges and universities to set tuition rates independently of the state legislature.

"Chancellor Zimpher has demonstrated exactly why it is so important for legislators to maintain their role in setting SUNY tuition rates," Russell said. "If the decisions she has made already, while students are struggling to pay for their SUNY education and campuses are losing faculty and staff, are any indication of her plans for SUNY, I will fight them tooth and nail."