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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

U.S. Air Force Veteran Mario Dell’aera, 80, of Levittown said he first volunteered for service in 1952, during the Korean War.

 

“They called volunteers ‘regulars,’” he said, reflecting back to when he first enlisted.

 

From 1952-1956, Dell’era called the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. home. The base, he said, operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, training pilots to fly overseas into Korea.

Something about the warmth and sunshine of summer makes it the perfect season for lounging around. 

 

On July 26, the Levittown Community Council hosted its 17th annual Lazy Days of Summer Picnic at the East Village Green Park for families to take advantage of this season of relaxation and laidback fun free of charge.  

 

The DJ played Latin songs as children shook neon colored macarenas and followed the dance moves of a Zumba instructor. Other children enjoyed pony rides, shooting hoops, playing Can Jam and

Tug-of-War, petting farm animals, jumping in a bouncy castle, and fishing for plastic fish in a kiddie pool. 


Sports

Those looking to take swimming lessons and exercise classes at a nearby aquatic center can register for the fall 2014 session at Eisenhower Park, 1899 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow.  

 

On Friday, Aug. 1 is the last chance for open registration. It begins at 8 a.m. for any remaining spots.  The availability of remaining classes will be made public the day before at 5 p.m.

 

On Monday, September 8 the first day of classes for the fall session begin.

 

Swim lessons will be offered for all levels: 

Eric Haslbauer of Levittown scored fourth overall in the 11th annual Heart & Sole 5 Kilometer Run held on the streets of Plainview on July 20. 

Haslbauer, 21, who has done  most of his running lately for Molloy College, crossed the finish line in 17 minutes, 53 seconds, earning him the second place award in the highly competitive 20-24 age group.

 

A near record field of 531 runners and walkers completed the run, only ten less than the record set last year. The Heart & Sole has clearly become an important summer road race in Nassau County.  The

Run benefits programs at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals.  Race management was handled by the Greater Long Island Running Club. 


Calendar

Erik's Reptile Edventures - July 30

Rich Vos At Governor's - August 1

Worship Without Walls - August 2 


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