SUNY eyes splitting college from University at Albany

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ALBANY -- The State University of New York yesterday moved toward creating the first new SUNY college in 50 years, but only after several trustees warned the decision is based on too much corporate influence, a ginned-up report and an internal power struggle.

The pointed debate was rare in public in Albany, but ultimately SUNY trustees approved a major step in separating the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering from the University at Albany for the 2014-15 academic year.

"I heard a great deal of enthusiasm for this, but I don't share that enthusiasm," said trustee Marshall Lichtman. He noted he raised "a whole host of reasons" in previous, apparently closed-door sessions. Several trustees indicated closed-door debate showed a rift over the secretive proposal first reported by The Associated Press in March.

Trustees noted the move has had no outside review by experts and could end up duplicating administration costs for SUNY, just as it's trying to reduce costs. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who is pushing to use SUNY to attract and retain employers would gain significant control of the nanoscience college through his appointments.

Trustee Cary Staller noted the internal SUNY report used to support the separation contained errors, including overstating the college board scores of students at the nanoscience center and understating the scores of students at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other top schools.

Stanford and MIT "have spun off a lot more economic activity," contrary to the comparison in the report, Staller said.

He also said the compensation sought by the University at Albany president in a private letter provided to trustees Monday night "is really quite damning" and could require using resources intended for other campuses.

Trustees also referred to a power struggle between the University at Albany and nanoscience founder and chief executive Alain E. Kaloyeros, who is closely allied with Cuomo, who pushed his plan to attract employers by linking them to campuses and Kaloyeros' success.

Staller said the proposal would give Kaloyeros more power than college presidents and diminish the power of faculty and staff despite SUNY's goal of shared decision making.

Kaloyeros currently is one of the state's highest paid employees, earning more than $1.3 million.

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