Recent raises given to three top SUNY officials have created an upset within the SUNY system.
Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, along with two other administrators, each, received $30,000 pay raises, over a 10 percent increase, along with other benefits.
Philip Smith, United University Professions president, gave testimony in Albany on Sept. 24 before the Senate Higher Education Committee on the increased compensation, declaring the raises "unconscionable."
David Belsky, spokesperson for SUNY, said that the pay increases are part of a larger cost-saving measure for SUNY. The positions that received raises also received additional responsibilities.
"In the end we saved money by eliminating other positions and consolidating responsibilities," Belsky said. "[The] new responsibilities that [were] accepted have allowed the chancellor [to] realign her executive committee in a more efficient manner and to better support our new strategic plan."
Smith pointed out Stony Brook University closed its South Hampton branch this year "without public discussion or advanced warning." Meanwhile, Stony Brook’s campus foundation subsidizes the state salary paid to its campus president.
Secondly, Smith pointed out, layoffs are being threatened and programs are fading out of the system at University of Buffalo, but the campus foundation found "sufficient funding to pursue the president’s state salary by over $480,000 annually." The top five Buffalo staff members also benefit from this funding.
Smith also said that in Albany, the University library’s "indispensable" support system program, NYLINK, was closed, "yet SUNY system has access to significant system reserves."
At last year‘s fiscal committee hearing, Chancellor Zimpher agreed to release $147 million from the SUNY reserves, said Smith.
"Unfortunately, we have no indication that this has been accomplished," he added.
"This sends out a bad signal," said Steven Abraham, president of the United University Professions for the Oswego chapter. "The SUNY administration’s attitude does not seem to indicate that students are the most important part of the SUNY system."
Abraham noted that over the past two years, $562 million has been cut from the SUNY budget, which, according to Smith, "has led to an institutional crisis."
"The UUP has not been directly affected by any recent event," Abraham said. "But we were indirectly affected because the students are being affected and we are here to support [them]. A university does not exist if it’s not for the students."
The Oswego State Student Association is upset with these salary increases.
"Providing upwards of $120,000 to three people is unacceptable. We feel that [with] the financial situation SUNY is in right now, it is not appropriate to increase salaries at such a drastic rate," said S.A. President Steven DiMarzo.
He believes the money is being given to the wrong people.
"There are 465,000 students in the SUNY system who have be subjected to consecutive budget cuts and we deserve to benefit from any surplus before administrators," DiMarzo said.