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, 23 May 2013 00:00
The Roslyn High School girls’ lacrosse squad ended the regular season playing the same consistent ball they had all year. In early May, the Lady Bulldogs topped both Wheatley and Great Neck North, while losing a close match to conference rival MacArthur.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the year with a sterling 10-5 mark overall and a 5-4 winning record in Conference IV play.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
Old Westbury Gardens recently held its 11th Annual Taste of Spring on the grounds of the Phipps Estate, a gold coast mansion built in 1906. More than 300 people attended, drinking a variety of wines and dining on gourmet hot foods served up by local chefs. One of the favorites was a chicken with peas topped with a fragrant winter lavender sauce cooked by Jeff Lawton. Other delicacies included duck, gnocchi, tacos, meatballs, prime rib, baked brie, and quiche followed by an assortment of chocolate desserts and crème Brule.
Long Island notables were also in attendance including author Nelson DeMille and Peter Tilles, a prominent developer. As guests mingled they also were treated to a special show of vintage bridal gowns staged throughout the house, many of the dresses dating back to the 1900’s and some worn by member of the Phipps family.
Proceeds from the event and the silent auction went toward the estate. Beverage and tasting sponsors included Banfi Vintners, Bryant and
Cooper Steak House, Chi, Dessert Diva, Elegant Affairs Catering, Jeff Lawton Catering, La Bottega, Robbins Wolfe Eventuers and Sterling Affair Caterers.
Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00
Fifteen members of the Green Vale Pacers, a girls’ running club, ran the 5K Race of the Long Island Marathon held at Eisenhower Park on May 4. All fifteen finished the race and a few finished at the top of their age divisions and within the top ten for all 354 female racers.
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
Fifteen Wheatley High School students have been recognized by the Nassau County Interscholastic Athletic Association for their exceptional performance in athletics, scholarship and leadership qualities for the winter 2012-2013 season. All winter teams were recognized as NYS Scholar/Athlete Team Award winners. The Boys Indoor Track team was crowned NYS State Scholar Athlete Team Champions. The Boys Varsity Basketball team won the Nassau County Class B Championship.