Friday, 27 April 2012 00:00
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.)
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
Island Trees Union Free School District faces a few hurdles in its upcoming 2013-14 budget. The loss of the BOCES Geneva N. Gallow building lease and the increasing mandated retirement system (TRS/ERS) adds up to $2 million in lost revenue. The TRS/ERS contributions increased by almost $1.4 million, and the Gallow lease loss totals approximately $500,000, including the utility costs.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00
What motivates a collector to dedicate a portion of his or her life to searching for the most rare and beautiful forms of a certain item? Is it their love of stamps from all over the world or is it their desire to find the most complex and unique model of a car? From jewelry and dolls to sports memorabilia and computers, a collector’s interests can range from the most bizarre items to the most common. Michael Katz, longtime collector of vintage radios from the 1920s to ’50s, said that the two kinds of things collectors go for are “stuff that’s really unusual and really decorative or the rare and expensive sets.”
Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00
Don’t miss out on the chance to partake in an 8-week spring flying trapeze workshop! There is one space left in the Tuesday class for adults from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and four spaces left in the Thursday class from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., which is open to all ages.
The workshops will take place at the Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, New York.
Sign up online at iflytrapeze.com or call 516.640.6995 for more information.
Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00
The Lady Generals lacrosse team at MacArthur High School earned the #1 spot and the title of 2013 conference champions, an accomplishment that last occurred in 2006. The team finished with a conference record of 9-1, succumbing in their only game to Oyster Bay by a one-goal deficit.