The trustee heading the Nassau Community College committee that will pick the school's next president referred to an African-American member of a campus minority group as "a thug" and its female leader as "the youngest looking and very pretty," according to an internal email made public at the board of trustees meeting Thursday night.
Copies of the email written by Anthony Cornachio, who is charged with appointing members to the presidential selection committee, were circulated at the board meeting by members of ALANA, a campus organization.
The college trustees hope to select a new president by June. Acting President Kenneth Saunders has led the school since August, when former president Donald Astrab was removed after only 30 months of the job.
Saunders, who is a candidate for the permanent president's job, would be the first African-American president in the college's history.
The message, dated March 22, was sent from Cornachio's personal email account to eight recipients, including other trustees.
"I find the email disturbing, sexist, hurtful, demeaning and it speaks to the real issue I am trying to address as an African-American and also as a woman," said Anissa Moore, president of ALANA, whom Cornachio was referring to in the email.
A printed copy of the email was anonymously placed before the meeting Thursday in her faculty mailbox, said Marilyn Monroe, an executive board member of ALANA, which stands for African, Latino, Asian and Native American Alliance.
Monroe said she had attended Thursday night's trustee meeting to continue lobbying efforts with the board to get a member of ALANA on the 15-member presidential search committee. But when she discovered the email she said could not ignore it.
After the meeting, Cornachio, who is white, said he did not intend for the email to be public or for the correspondence to go beyond the intended recipients.
"Of course it wasn't meant that way," Cornachio said, referring to charges that the email contained offensive racial and sexist language.
In the message, Cornachio writes about a male African-American ALANA member: "that tall black guy is a thug and he has an agenda. Not known to be a nice person."
The email has been referred to the college's affirmative action officer, who will determine the appropriate response, said NCC board of trustees chairman Geoffrey Prime. He said the language in the email is not commonly used among trustees.
"Some of the language obviously concerns me," said Prime, who was an email recipient and is African-American.
The selection committee includes seven white women, five white men, two black men and one Asian man.
The college's fall semester enrollment of 23,074 was roughly 44 percent non-Hispanic white, 22 percent non-Hispanic black, 20 percent Hispanic, 6 percent Asian, 0.4 percent Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 0.3 percent American Indian/Alaskan native, 4.6 percent unknown, 2 percent of two or more races and 0.7 nonresident, according to statistics provided by the college.
As of Thursday, there were 40 applicants for the president's post. Because of confidentiality rules, trustees would not disclose the ethnicity or gender of the candidates.
SUNY officials have said that the presidential searches are to be conducted at the campus level. College trustees are responsible for appointing members of the selection committee, according to SUNY guidelines.