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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

After graduating from MacArthur High School in the fall of 1994, United States Marine Corps Veteran Sgt. Peter D’Angelo attended one semester at C.W. Post before he decided to drop out and join the military. 

 

“I couldn’t afford it,” D’Angelo said, “so I enlisted.”

 

Once finished with his basic training at Paris Island, S.C., D’Angelo was assigned to an administrative position in Arlington, Va. There, Deangelo would be put in charge of payroll... until one day when opportunity knocked. 

Residents are in a fervor over Nassau County’s recent decision to remove 176 oak trees along a mile-and-a-half stretch of Seaman’s Neck Road.

 

“It’s outrageous,” said local resident Lee Gardner. “It changed the entire landscape.”

 

Like most of her neighbors, Gardner said she was shocked, since the county did not notify residents. 


Sports

Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its fourth tournament on Thursday Aug. 7. We had 33 golfers and a record 8  who scored under 40.  Low overall score was won by newcomer Ed Hyne with an impressive 33, his second low net in a row. Charlie Acerra scored a solid 35, and won low overall net with a 26; his best score in 4 years.

 

Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more.  The league is a 100 % handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season. The league meets every Thursday at 7:30 a.m., but the formal tournament dates are only the first and third Thursday of the month through late October. We will have a final luncheon with prizes on our last meeting.

Golfer Annie Park, 19, of Levittown came close at the U.S. Women’s Amateur tourney, but missed the cut, finishing at 149, 9 strokes over par and just one stroke away from the match-play cut-off. 

 

“I couldn’t make any putts, so then I had more pressure into my shots to get it closer,” Park said, “but obviously that’s not going to work.”


Calendar

Island Trees Board of Education - August 20

Theatre: The Normal Heart - August 22

KC and the Sunshine Band - August 23


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