The State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees announced on April 8 a 19-member committee that will lead the search for the next chancellor of the SUNY system, which includes multiple representatives with ties to Stony Brook University.
The committee includes eight SUNY Board of Trustees members, four university presidents and a mixture of company and foundation CEOs.
SUNY is working with the search firm Isaacson, Miller to gather a list of candidates for the chancellor position. The search committee will screen the candidates and choose a group of finalists for the 18-member Board of Trustees, who will vote for one of them as the next chancellor.
“Search committee members represent a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds to the SUNY Board’s global search,” SUNY said in a press release. “They are complemented by multiple workgroups made up of SUNY students, alumni, faculty representatives, and labor and community leaders bringing together diverse viewpoints from SUNY campuses and the communities in which they serve.”
Marilyn Simons, co-chair of the Simons Foundation that lends its name to Stony Brook’s Simons Center for Geometry and Physics building, and Cary F. Staller, who has helped run the Staller Center since 1988, are on the search committee. They are joined by Kelly Leong, a urologist resident at Stony Brook’s medical school who graduated from the university in 2020.
Following the announcement, the SUNY Student Assembly (SUNYSA) expressed displeasure with a perceived lack of student representation in the search committee. It gave the committee a “midterm exam grade” of ‘F’ and called the process “nothing less than taxation without representation” with a “fog-like structure” in a press release.
“Our voices are consistently ignored as elected student leaders because we have advocated changes to SUNY policy such as the addition of mental health days for students and a $1 fee to fund our organization,” SUNYSA Senator Dylan Klein told The Statesman. “The last time a chancellor was installed, the Board of Trustees did not conduct a national search and did not allow women, people of color, other folks to apply for the position.”
Klein also pointed to the fact that former chancellor Kristina Johnson was found by a search committee that included the SUNYSA president.
On April 13, student leaders at Binghamton University released an open letter calling upon Congressman Hakeem Jeffries to aid the SUNYSA.
The SUNY press department defended its process in an email to The Statesman, citing Leong’s student status and the fact that the Board of Trustees includes a voting representative from the SUNYSA.
“The search committee includes key stakeholders from across the SUNY community and – for the first time in the history of past searches – are advised by inclusive and robust workgroups, one of which is exclusively made up of students and alumni representing the holistic SUNY system,” SUNY said. “This approach has added more student voices and access to this undertaking than ever before.”
The chancellor search began after Jim Malatras resigned in December following claims about an allegedly harsh management style and leaked text messages in which Malatras mocked an employee of former governor Andrew Cuomo for complaining about a toxic environment. Deborah Stanley has served as interim chancellor since then.
Malatras’s hiring came with the controversy surrounding what critics called his lack of experience as well as the absence of a national search before his appointment.
Isaacson, Miller has led searches for assistant chancellors for 11 universities, including that of the City University of New York system, and is currently running a search for the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s chancellor.
No timetable was provided for when finalists will be chosen.