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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

A group of Levittown parents are voicing their concerns with letting their children walk to school, since it would mean they would continue to cross Hempstead Turnpike.

 

“My kid has to cross [Hempstead Tpke.] daily without a crossing guard,” said Division Avenue parent Wendy Lantigua. 

 

For Lantigua and others, the dangers of Hempstead Turnpike became all to real after 13-year-old Brianna Soplin was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver, last June. Not to mention the fact that another 14-year-old Levittown student suffered multiple injuries after being struck in hit-and-run, last February. 

Thirteen years since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of residents flocked to Town Park Point Lookout, to witness a compelling new memorial tribute honoring all those who lost their lives that day.

 

At the center of the ceremony were two 18-foot-tall, sand-crafted tribute towers set against a 35-foot-long “Wall of Heroes” mural, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, and a reflecting pool at the base of the memorial display. 


Sports

The annual One Love Long Island (OLLI) Yoga Festival takes place at the Sands Point Preserve on Sunday, Sept. 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. All profits will be donated to organizations that support survivors of human trafficking, locally and globally. 

 

The festival will unite 16 Long Island yoga studio communities in a round robin of the traditional yogic practice of 108 Sun Salutations from 9:30 a.m. to noon, whose offerings will look to create long-term and sustainable solutions to eradicate the human trafficking epidemic by raising funds and awareness for the cause.  

As a fitness coach and a mother, Melissa Monteforte of Locust Valley knows how important it is to stay healthy, and how difficult it can be for women to make themselves, and their health, a priority. Wanting to help women take charge and feel more in control, she organized the Fit & Healthy Mamas Annual 5K run, now in its third year, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

 

“I felt like running was the best outlet when I became a mother; it’s such a great way to get fit and feel healthy and I wanted to share that with other moms,” says Monteforte, 31. “I wanted women to feel celebrated, no matter their fitness level, and to put their health first.”


Calendar

IT Board of Ed - September 17

All Star Comedy - September 18

Irreversible Paul Lynde - September 19


Columns

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

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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