SUNY student representatives upset after being left off chancellor search committee
Student government leaders from throughout the SUNY system are demanding student representation on the search committee for a new chancellor.
SUNY is on a global search for a new chancellor after Jim Malatras resigned under pressure in January. The close ally of Andrew Cuomo had been installed without a search during the pandemic in 2020.
The student leaders testified virtually Tuesday morning before the Board of Trustees about the lack of Student Assembly representation on the search committee.
They contend that in the absence of any existing guidelines or policies, the chancellor search committee apparatus was established without any students. The committee is tasked with selecting candidates, engaging in interviews, and recommending finalists.
UAlbany EOP student Dylan Klein told trustees on Zoom he believes SUNY is "dismissing" the student voice.
“The people who pay into this system tuition fees every single semester, every single time that we attend class," Klein said. "And our voice is ignored in who's going to be the next leader of our SUNY system. That is not right. Now, also, I noticed that only some of the Board of Trustees are on here. I think that's a real shame as well. This is a public hearing. And it would be real nice if every single board of trustee was here to listen to the concerns of not only the faculty members and the members of the public that came before us, but the students who are on this call as well. It really is unfortunate, and we need to do better as a SUNY system.”
Binghamton University student Samil Levin tells WAMC students just want one of their own to have a seat at the table.
“That's typically the student representation that's asked of and usually given," Levin said. "And that's usually done through what SUNY calls the shared governance model, where you have SUNY, and you have the Student Assembly, and you have the Faculty Senate of the community colleges in the state operated campuses. And they all work together on initiatives, on policy within SUNY, and that should be respected when we're asking to choose the new chancellor. To do a proper nationwide search. Thereafter, we are wanting an asking for what is typically asked for every single time, what's typically given every single time there is a major policy change in SUNY.”
The leaders characterize students as tuition paying consumers, arguing it is a violation of shared governance and an injustice to exclude them from the process.
Levin said "What we're trying to prevent here is the same mistake that the SUNY Board of Trustees has made in the past. The same mistakes that they made years prior, decades ago, when they excluded students from being represented and being heard when choosing a new chancellor. And we saw, you know, the turn of events. What happens when the SUNY Board of Trustees picks a chancellor without a nationwide search. And when the SUNY Board of Trustees picks the chancellor without student representation, we get a chancellor that didn't represent the students, that didn't represent our interests, and did not represent what SUNY is and what SUNY can be. “
Levin is among student leaders from SUNY Binghamton and the SUNY Student Assembly who have written Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who is on the committee, to support their demands. The April 13th letter states in part "a search committee formed to select a Chancellor without student representation is in direct opposition to values such as diversity and inclusion which SUNY claims to uphold."
Jeffries' office did not respond to a request for comment. SUNY did not comment.
The 19-member search committee also includes SUNY Board Chair Merryl Tisch, co-chair Cesar Perales, and several public and private college presidents, among others.