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SUNY Canton college council airs concerns over recent realignment

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On Nov. 2, staff members were boxing up their offices in response to a reorganization plan that, among other things, moved the school’s Athletic Department under Student Affairs; Online Learning and Admissions to Academics and Information Services, and University Police under College Administration.

Tuesday morning, members of the SUNY Canton College Council complained the changes were planned without consulting the council or notifying interim President Carli C. Schiffner.

“It is my understanding that those changes were implemented without Dr. Schiffner knowing about it,” Ronald M. O’Neill said.

Mr. O’Neill was addressing Brian G. Hutzley, SUNY vice chancellor for financial services, who along with Jennifer M. LoTurco, assistant vice chancellor for external affairs, attended the College Council meeting.

“I can assure you that these changes were entirely campus-driven,” Mr. Hutzley said. “All of these changes were generated on campus.”

That answer didn’t sit well with the council.

“This is as clear as mud,” council member Timmy J. Currier said. “To say this decision was campus-driven is not accurate; it was not made by the president.”

Though college council members claimed the changes were not made by the president, Ms. Schiffner did inform campus of the changes.

“On Nov. 1 and 2, I was the one who called everybody,” she said, but did not comment about the source of the realignment plan.

A Nov. 2 press release credited Ms. Schiffner with the realignment plan, but the college council cast doubt on the release’s veracity.

“If Dr. Schiffner was making these changes, she would have come to me,” Mr. O’Neill said. “We should have been made aware. Something is not right here.”

Council members also complained they weren’t informed of the changes until the day they took place.

“We’ve heard that faculty, administrators and the president were surprised by the announcement,” Richard C. Callan said. “It is apparent something happened here and it didn’t happen the right way.”

That left the council wondering whose plan was implemented earlier this month, and by whose authority. The issue is a sign of a larger communication breakdown between the SUNY chancellor’s office and board of trustees, on one hand, and the campus leadership represented by the council and Ms. Schiffner, on the other.

“We don’t get informed,” Mr. O’Neill said. “I haven’t heard from SUNY Central in months.”

The rift occurs amid lingering concerns over the SUNY Central mandated move to share services between SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam. Both schools have worried about losing independent leadership and administrative control over their respective campuses.

Ms. LoTurco, the assistant vice chancellor, assured the council that SUNY Central was not trying to micro-manage the campus.

“We have 64 campuses. We couldn’t possibly reach in and decide who is going to be whose boss,” she said. “I hear you think the wool is being pulled over your eyes. I can assure you that isn’t happening.”

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