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More Turbulence For College Of St. Rose President As Trustees Resign

Six members of the College of St. Rose’s Board of Trustees have tendered their resignations. It’s the latest challenge at the private Albany college.

Labor problems with adjunct professors, staff cutbacks, cuts to benefit packages and a drop-off in admissions. A $9 million funding shortfall. And the latest round of resignations, all dogging St. Rose in the three and a half years since  Dr. Carolyn Stefanco of Decatur, Georgia was chosen to serve as the 11th president of the college.  Initially college officials were confident "things would improve" at St. Rose, but that apparently hasn't happened. In May 2015, Saint Rose eliminated 40 positions, about half of which were vacant.

Some faculty, like political science professor and frequent administration critic Angela Ledford, have little faith in Stefanco's leadership.  "It has been a difficult time on campus. And the difficulty has certainly been the result of the financial issues the college is enduring, which are not unlike other small private institutions across the nation. Our situation was really exacerbated by President Stefanco's leadership in that from day one, there has been almost no transparency about how we were going to deal with this financial deficit."

In her resignation letter, board chair Judith Calogero says the panel was "deeply divided" and that the faculty have "no confidence in the administrative team."

In response to a request for comment, the college emailed a "Response to Media Reports Regarding Trustee Resignations." In part, it says "Five Trustees have submitted resignations since November 1, including Board Chair Judith Calogero. The 28 Trustees of the College are committed to moving the College forward with President Stefanco."  St. Rose also defended its financial status: "We are currently five months into the fiscal year and are working daily to increase revenue and reduce expenses with the goal of reducing the actual deficit."

Meanwhile, Sister Mary Anne Heenan, a former school superintendent of the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Syracuse, was elected chair of the Board of Trustees. Heenan twice served on the panel, from 1988 to 2004 and again since 2010. 

Ledford is hoping the campus can get back to normal.  "I would like to see a return to the shared governance system that we have, and what that means is that there are clear spheres of decision-making and influence that govern an institution such as St. Rose and particularly institutions of higher education where the board has the primary responsibility of the fiduciary health of the institution and ensuring that the overall mission, the sort of broader mission of the institution is being met, and the faculty's role is on the academic side of things. We are to be in charge of, this is where our expertise is, in charge of the curriculum, the delivery of the curriculum, I would like to see a return to that."

Student Association President Vito Van Dunk says students are just trying to process the facts.   "They're trying to see what exactly is going on, and I think that right now they're just wanting to see a level of transparency for this issue, and to see like what the reasoning behind the trustees leaving is."

Van Dunk says by and large, students have more immediate concerns:  "Because it is coming up on finals week. A lot of students are very focused on their studies, so we haven't seen much talk about on campus, kinda figuring things out from a lot of the news stations and articles that were posted."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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