SUNY fund allocation undercuts smaller schools, puts Geneseo quality at risk

On the weekend of Nov. 2, I attended my first SUNY Student Assembly Conference. During the opening ceremonies, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher made a presentation that lasted about 30 minutes and promptly left.

SUNY SA meets for one weekend, once a semester. The job of the chancellor is to make suggestions to the SUNY board of trustees that will impact the system and thus, the students with it. The chancellor didn’t make time in her schedule to spend more than two hours in the presence of students whose lives are impacted by her choices. When I inquired about this, I was told that most years Zimpher doesn’t even make an appearance. This inability to care, or take the time to pretend to care, about something as basic as SUNY SA shows how out of touch the chancellor and the board of trustees are with students.

Currently, the biggest change that SUNY Central is dishing out is its new resource allocation model. You hadn’t heard that further cuts will be happening in the next year or so? Or that, although students fought for rational increases in tuition thinking it would ease financial stress on their campuses, there are still to be further cuts in state support? Apparently SUNY Central doesn’t believe transparency is an important trait to uphold.

Admittedly, the current budget model is outdated and doesn’t equitably fund the system’s institutions. Zimpher and the board of trustees have been working on a new funding model, one that has been sent to vice presidents of the four-year schools for their opinions. Transparency, right? The problem is they’re ignoring the opinions and objections.

SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller, who has since resigned, spoke out against the new model in an article in The Watertown Daily Times, suggesting that this is a move to force technical and comprehensive colleges to “close, change or merge.” Zimpher and the board of trustees are not only out of touch, and actively ignoring any contradictory input, but keeping those who will be negatively impacted from learning about what is coming.

Right now, no one is sure how Geneseo will be impacted. We will lose state support, but how much is still unknown. The new model does not take the quality of academic programs into consideration, and ties funding heavily to enrollment. By looking solely at the average cost of a program, the system is rewarding mediocrity, not excellence. Imposing further cuts on campuses is not the answer to the current model’s issues.

I have serious doubts as to Zimpher and the board of trustees’ ability to make decisions in the best interest of the students. There is no transparency. There is no collaboration. They are only interested in increasing funding to the university centers where there is an increased focus on graduate programs and sponsored research.

Every time I leave a meeting on campus, I am overwhelmed by how much the administration, faculty and staff at Geneseo truly care about the students. It is heartbreaking to think that the board of trustees is making decisions that directly threaten Geneseo’s ability to offer the high quality education that it has built the reputation for.

In response to this failure to keep students in the loop throughout the creation of the new resource allocation model, Geneseo’s Student Association has created a letter writing campaign for students to express our dissatisfaction. I encourage all students to take action during the campaign, and to encourage your parents and any others you know who have benefited, or seen the benefit of, a Geneseo education to do the same.