CANTON SUNY Canton President Joseph L. Kennedys resignation and plans to leave the school Sept. 1 have been changed by a deal announced by SUNY Central on Tuesday.
The new plan will have Mr. Kennedy remain as president of SUNY Canton until the end of the 2011-12 academic year, at which point he will retire and become a special adviser to SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.
Sometimes things get where they are by a tortuous path, Mr. Kennedy said Tuesday, explaining that the decision was the result of discussions between he and SUNY administrators. Clearly we are in a better place today than we were before.
Following an emergency meeting called by SUNY Cantons College Council Thursday, there was public outcry about the rumor that Mr. Kennedys job was being absorbed by SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller beginning in September. State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said Tuesday she believed decisions were being made too hastily by SUNY and answers were not forthcoming, so she brought up the possibility of a state Senate committee conducting hearings on the matter.
I had asked that the plan be pushed back for a year and that President Kennedy stay for a year, Mrs. Ritchie said. Some of this was kind of done without being visible to the community members and to the public, and if needed, it was important to make sure that the college did not go backwards. The fact that it was going to be put in place within a few short weeks was a concern. If needed to be, we would have held a Senate hearing on it.
Morgan W. Hook, a spokesman for SUNY Central, denied knowledge of any legislative inquiries on Tuesday. He also denied that SUNY was backtracking on a plan that would have had Mr. Kennedy resign as SUNY Canton head by Sept. 1, insisting that the university system had made no final decisions until Tuesday.
According to Ronald M. ONeill, SUNY Canton council chairman, Mr. Kennedys reinstatement came after a lengthy closed-door meeting held Monday by SUNYs Board of Trustees.
I dont think its a coincidence that the SUNY Board of Trustees met in executive session for nearly three hours yesterday afternoon and then today the news comes out regarding Dr. Kennedy serving for another year at SUNY Canton, Mr. ONeill said in an emailed statement.
Next summer, Mr. Kennedy is slated to begin an appointment as a special adviser to the chancellor, a position that will see him focusing on shared services throughout the 64-campus SUNY system. SUNY has not yet announced any details regarding Mr. Kennedys replacement or whether he will be replaced at all.
We have 64 campuses in this system, and we have anything from seven to 10 vacancies a year at these campuses, Mr. Hook said. I think its also important to remember that we dont have a vacancy at SUNY Canton right now; we have President Kennedy. When next summer gets here, that is the time at which will consider what the next steps will be. Until then, SUNY Canton has a president and its President Kennedy.
According to SUNY Central, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Schwaller will work at the direction of Ms. Zimpher to plan the implementation of shared services between the two campuses in St. Lawrence County during the upcoming academic year.
Mr. Kennedy, who is 65 years old and has been president of SUNY Canton since 1993, is the longest-tenured president in the SUNY system and also one of the lowest-paid, receiving a $185,000 annual salary. He has been praised for ushering in growth and progress at SUNY Canton since the beginning of his leadership, moving the school from a two-year institution towards a baccalaureate-granting college and seeing enrollment almost double.
The top administrative offices at SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam are structured similarly, with Mr. Schwaller and Mr. Kennedy overseeing several vice presidents.
At SUNY Canton, Mr. Kennedy is in charge of his chief of staff and executive assistant as well as the provost/vice president for academic affairs, the vice president for institutional advancement, the vice president for student affairs and the vice president for administration.
At SUNY Potsdam, Mr. Schwaller is in charge of his assistant and affirmative action officer as well as the provost/vice president for academic affairs, the vice president for student affairs, the vice president for business affairs, the vice president for institutional effectiveness and enrollment planning, and the vice president for college advancement.
For the past six years, Joe and I have worked closely together to better align our two unique and diverse campuses, and I look forward to our continued collaboration on shared services, as both campuses continue to welcome growing first-year enrollments, wrote Mr. Schwaller, who is on vacation this week and was unavailable to speak by phone. Joe and I share an unwavering commitment to our students. I remain dedicated to upholding SUNY Potsdams nearly 200-year-old academic tradition, as Dr. Kennedy and I work to find ways to enhance opportunities for students now and for years to come.
Several north country legislators and politicians spoke out Tuesday in favor of SUNYs decision to keep Mr. Kennedy at SUNY Canton for another year. According to Village Mayor Charlotte C. Ramsay, the town and village of Canton are pleased to hear that Mr. Kennedy will be at the helm for one more year but will not dissolve the task force established to oppose a merger of SUNY Canton with SUNY Potsdam.
We are full steam ahead. We feel like this is just beginning. Weve won the first battle, she said. This will give us a little more time to marshal our forces.
Village Supervisor David T. Button agreed Tuesday the news that Mr. Kennedy will remain as SUNY Canton president for one more year is good for Canton. He said that the town understands the states desire to combine services where it can, but it must be done appropriately and with due research.
Its bad any time big government comes in and tells locals what to do. This was heavy-handed bureaucrats in Albany telling us country folk whats going to happen, Mr. Button said. If were not involved in the discussions, well be at this point in another year.
The town of Canton is tied to SUNY Cantons success, having created a capital resource corporation to issue $29 million in bonds for the colleges new dormitory.
We did it because we believe in Joe Kennedy, Mr. Button said. We expect to be treated as a partner.
Times Staff Writers Martha Ellen and Brian Amaral and Johnson Newspapers Susan Mende contributed to this story.