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Letter: Let The Sun Shine In On SUNY Foundations

You would expect an organization created for public benefit that is largely led by government officials would be obligated to report to the public about its activities. Yet the Research Foundation of the State University of New York (SUNY) and its many campus foundations are not required to do so and apparently feel no such compulsion to share information with the public. Instead, these organizations often cloak their activities in secrecy.

As president of United University Professions – the union representing academic and professional faculty at SUNY’s state-operated campuses – I think it’s time to let the sun shine in. It’s time to require the SUNY Research Foundation and campus foundations to be held accountable and to be more transparent.

For years, these foundations have behaved much like shadow government agencies. They typically refuse to provide detailed answers about what they are doing regarding hiring and pay practices. For example, the Research Foundation handles nearly $1 billion in research grants annually from both government and private sources. The campus foundations have become vehicles for the distribution of millions of dollars in funds that should be directly targeted to improving the university’s academic mission.  

The SUNY Research Foundation says its mission is to “…support research and discovery at SUNY…and sharing of intellectual property for public benefit and economic growth.” But how do we know the foundation is properly fulfilling that noble-sounding mission? That’s a legitimate question, in the wake of critical news reports, investigations and remarks by some public officials questioning the spending practices and clandestine activities of the foundations.

Then there was last year’s 90-page study commissioned by SUNY and conducted by a consultant for a Washington D.C. law firm about the relationship between SUNY and the Research Foundation last year. The study determined the foundation did not act solely as a service organization devoted to SUNY’s priorities. “Rather, it aspires to and increasingly does chart its own independent course, regardless of SUNY’s views,” the study found.

I believe the time has come for the legislature to intervene. A bill that would require greater accountability and transparency for the SUNY Research Foundation has been introduced in both houses of the legislature (S.5797/A.7789-E). The legislation would expand the definition of a state agency to include entities such as the Research Foundation and SUNY’s campus foundations that are affiliated with SUNY or its institutions. That designation would make them subject to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Passage of this legislation would ensure that the Research Foundation – which administers more than $1 billion in research each year – is more open and transparent, thereby serving the best interests of the public as its mission defines.

SUNY has indicated that it, too, supports such a bill in principle.

I encourage state lawmakers to approve this vital piece of legislation.

Phillip H. Smith

(The writer is president of United University Professions, the union that represents 35,000 faculty and professional staff at SUNY’s state-operated campuses.)

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com