Who Will It Be?

Illustration by Derek Zimmermann

Things are rough and there are sure to be more trials ahead; our future leaders should not back down from a challenge.

We at The New Paltz Oracle find it disheartening that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature are letting New Paltz down by effectively pushing potential presidential candidates away through their mishandling of our school’s fiscal future.

Some of the former presidential finalists have said on record that the school’s budgetary woes impacted their decision to withdraw from the search. Yes, some denied it; but the fact that Cuomo’s slashing of SUNY budgets like ours is making anyone second guess a future in this institution.

Our current administration has scrambled for solutions in light of cut after cut in state taxpayer support. State leaders have picked our pockets, leaving SUNY school officials with few options. Thankfully, we didn’t lose a program to the whopping $6.3 million deficit. But for months, we’ve lived in fear. This fear has caused some questions to arise.

Honestly, who can blame them? Why would they want to enter a situation in which they are more strapped for cash than they are at their current job? Why would they want to have to constantly push government leaders and convince them that their students are great and what their faculty are doing matters?

We called for a rational tuition policy to ease the ache, but those demands fell on deaf ears. But state leaders have recently taken other measures, such as SUNY 2020, to facilitate funds for the four research institutions of the SUNY system in Albany, Buffalo and the like.

This is encouraging news, but we are still unconvinced. Just because Gov. Cuomo plans to invest in research institutions does not mean he will dump any money into a comprehensive school like ours. Nothing has been promised, and we shouldn’t hold our breath.

So today, we at SUNY New Paltz still remain unsure of our financial future, and who may be weathering the way through the next storm.

Former finalists, we can’t help but be disappointed in you. You spoke so highly of our school. You spoke so highly of us. What happened? Did the challenges here seem too great?

You each had previously addressed budget concerns at your past or current places of employment. You could have tried to handle this. Our past leaders have. You could have led by example, and even come up with your own ideas. We wish we could have seen the plans you detailed for us in forums several months ago.

Some of you said you opted out of our presidency for personal reasons. That’s fine. We can’t pry. But we can only hope that you were being honest in your public statements.

Presidential dropouts are common, some say. But our situation seems a little eye brow raising. The whole first pool of candidates is no longer existent. Several months and $100,000 later, we at SUNY  New Paltz are left with one candidate.

We hope the members of the Presidential Search Committee will remain vigilant and fiscally responsible in spite of the setbacks. Interim President Donald Christian has done a good job of leading this school, but committee members should not fear looking outside of the box to find more candidates to give them a diverse array of options. More options are good. They shouldn’t forget that.

At the same time, we can’t help but be slightly concerned about the money spent on the search. Of course, our president is worth shelling out a few thousand dollars for; we want a quality leader. But  since $100,000 only brought us back to square one, we hope the committee will work to cut down costs associated with bringing in candidates and the like.

Most of all, we want to tell the campus community to remain as optimistic as possible and aware of what’s going on. The first go around was disappointing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to the second. The future leadership of this college is still important. At open forums, students and faculty can talk to finalists directly, ask them about possible programs and question their values. Go to them. Find out more.

As a campus community, we will not be directly choosing our next leader. But we should keep up-to-date with the ongoing search so we can voice our opinions to the SUNY Board of Trustees if we feel they have made the wrong choice.