The State University of New York announced today that it will launch "campus alliance networks," an effort to take unneeded administrative costs and plow it into academics.
The school's No. 2 told me yesterday that the goal is to hire more teachers and improve academics at the state's public university system.
"What we really need to do is two things with the smaller campuses: to slim down the administrative overhead, and to build up the number of students so they have more on the revenue side," provost David K. Lavallee said in a conference call with Johnson News Service reporter Sue Mende and me.
For lack of a better term, schools are going to use the age-old buddy system. SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam will sit down together and say, "What do you do that I could share?"
Three specifics that Mr. Lavallee and Morgan Hook, SUNY's spokesman, laid out in the conference call were information technology departments, human resources departments and, interestingly, presidents.
This whole thing started because of community backlash at the ouster of SUNY Canton president Joseph Kennedy. And here's, a week later, the answer we've been looking for: He's going to go down to Albany to help with the "campus alliance networks."
The SUNY officials downplayed the possibility of layoffs, saying that many of the schools have openings that they just wouldn't fill.
And what about enforcement? The way that Mr. Lavallee and Mr. Hook described it seemed rather laissez-faire. But here's one big incentive: SUNY isn't going to give out subsidies anymore to smaller schools, like SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton, to help support their administrative overhead. That's $1.8 million right there that they won't get anymore. Find savings elsewhere, s'il vous plait.
I'm trying to find the controversy in this — taking money from a bureaucracy and putting it into the hands of teachers — and the only one that's apparent is possible job losses (we'll get to that in a second).
SUNY officials are eager to caution me that each college is going to keep its own identity. No SUNY Cantondam or SUNY Potston here. (My suggestion on a joint mascot was to put a bear and a kangaroo [the current mascots] in a cage and whichever comes out alive is the new school symbol. Darwin would approve. A SUNY official [very] jokingly suggested a koala bear. Seems like a good halfway point. Alas, SUNY Canton will remain the 'roos, and SUNY Potsdam will remain da bears.)
I've spoken with a few SUNY Canton alumni since Mr. Kennedy's departure was announced, and they all had something similar to say: Why would I give money to a school that I don't recognize anymore?
But SUNY officials are strident in saying: This is all back-end stuff. You won't even notice the difference.
Asked about union backlash over possible job losses, Mr. Lavallee was circumspect: "We don't want that to happen at this point," he said.
Mr. Hook said that the SUNY system would still have the same number of jobs — just fewer HR managers and more librarians.
And who could be against that?