On Aug. 4, State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher revealed that campus presidents would be working with SUNY System Administration to establish Campus Alliance Networks – collaborative regional relationships that involve sharing services in order to increase efficiency and free up money to be used for academic endeavors.
For some schools, this shared services initiative has involved a consolidation of campus presidencies. SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedy has been asked to resign after this academic year and SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller will take over responsibilities as president of both schools.
“The chancellor has combined some of the smaller campus presidencies where a president has either retired or in some cases has not been renewed; Canton and Potsdam are a prime example of that,” said James B. Milroy, Geneseo’s vice president for administration and finance. “I don’t know exactly what happens with the rest of the administrative structures on those campuses. I don’t even think it’s been determined yet.”
The decision to assign one president to both schools has already caused some controversy. Canton Council Chairman Ronald M. O’Neill was quoted in the Watertown Daily Times as saying, “We need a resident president on our campus.”
Milroy is confident these shared presidencies are unique situations.
“They don’t have more of those kinds of consolidations planned,” he said. “I think those happened primarily because of the proximity of the two campuses and the size of the campuses. They were relatively small and relatively close to one another.”
Geneseo is currently in an alliance with SUNY Brockport, SUNY Fredonia and Alfred State, and President Christopher Dahl has taken steps to possibly incorporate Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo in that alliance. Milroy also expressed interest in including some of the larger nearby community colleges, Monroe Community College in particular.
According to Milroy, these campuses may begin to share certain services on a regional level, like one bookstore for all the schools. Other services may be shared on a statewide level.
“Some things, like payroll, could be handled centrally out of Albany for all the campuses,” Milroy said. “You would still need a payroll clerk and you’d still need somebody to answer specific questions on the campus … but to me that’s something that could be centralized across all the campuses, not just regionally.”
He stressed that the implementation of this shared services initiative would not mean job losses.
“The policy says that if we are to combine these functions, that there are no layoffs planned of workers, that it’s all going to be through attrition,” he said.
On the contrary, Milroy said he feels the program will be a positive thing, especially for the students.
“The whole idea is to free up whatever resources we can and direct them toward the academic enterprise,” he said. “So my view of it is that every dollar that comes out of this is going to be going to doing something positive on the academic side … You want to make sure that you’re doing things as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible and that’s really what this is.”