The SUNY Board of Trustees should have approved the appointment of a new president for New Paltz last Tuesday, according to the college’s presidential search timeline. But after two of the three finalists withdrew from consideration for the position within four days of one another, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has agreed to let the search continue.
Presidential Search Committee Chair Kenneth Abt announced that Joe Gow, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, withdrew from the search on March 17. On March 21, he notified the campus that John Schreiber, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, had also decided to remain in his current position.
According to Interim Director of the Office of Communication and Marketing Suzanne Grady, both finalists contacted Zimpher themselves in order to withdraw. Grady said it is not unusual in such searches for candidates to drop out of the search.
“There are many factors to their candidacies,” she said. “[There] are pressures from current employers to stay, for example, as well as personal and family reasons.”
Both finalists who withdrew from the New Paltz search said they had good experiences visiting the campus, but decided to remain in their current positions due to various obligations.
Gow, who has served as a college administrator since 1990, said personal reasons were his top considerations for staying at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
“A person has to decide what is best for them and when it’s a good time to make a career change,” he said. “People on my campus were asking me to stay, and that was a pull. I’m lucky people are interested in me.”
Schreiber said the main reason he withdrew was related to the timing of the search and his current duties.
The pediatrics chairman and chief administrative officer at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center said because the search was not on the agenda of the March 22 meeting of the SUNY Board of Trustees as expected, the search would have gone past his ability to honor portions of his current contract.
“I just ran out of time,” Schreiber said. “I really ran into a contractual time frame problem because I had obligations to my institution. Searches take time, and I regret that I had to pull my name out of this search.”
When they visited the college earlier in the semester, both former candidates named management of the school’s deficit to be one of the main challenges that would face the next president of SUNY New Paltz. While the search continues, Interim President Donald Christian will continue to work with other administrators to meet what he estimates to be a $6.3 million shortfall, caused in part by cuts in state support.
Gow said that the budget situation at New Paltz and the governor’s resistance to raise tuition to fill in revenue gaps was also a consideration for him when he withdrew from the search.
“Deficits everywhere pose very big challenges, and the interest in not raising tuition is going to make it difficult to solve the budget problem at New Paltz,” he said. “I led the way for that at LaCrosse and if it appeared as though I had that opportunity at New Paltz, it would make the position much more attractive. But that does not seem like a possibility.”
Mary Papazian, the provost of Lehman College, is the only person who did not withdraw from the group of finalists. Zimpher has already permitted the search to continue without a specific timeline, Grady said.
According to the SUNY Guidelines for Conducting Presidential Searches, if the chancellor or board of trustees decide to continue or reopen a search, it is within their discretion to require the college’s council chair to also appoint a new search committee.
Student Association President Jennifer Sanchez said she hopes she and others who worked on the search committee this past year will be able to continue to look for the next president of the college.
“We’ve already worked on this for months,” she said. “We want to work to see this through.”
Grady said the details of the continued search are still being sorted out, and college officials will issue updates to the campus as more information becomes available.