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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau Community College struggles with never-ending search

Nassau Community College in East Garden City is

Nassau Community College in East Garden City is shown in August 2012. Photo Credit: Google

The last thing Nassau Community College needed was another dead-end search for a new president. But that's what students, faculty and the community got with last week's decision by the college board to start -- for the third time since 2012 -- a new search.

OK, so it won't be a new new search.

The college will keep its current search firm, along with the current configuration of the search committee, which includes students and faculty, although, because of graduations, some faces will change.

Sounds like that's actually some progress.

But anyone remembering the nasty skirmish over which college groups would -- or would not -- be represented on the first search committee knows better.

That first search, in fact, was so marred by allegations of impropriety that SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher stepped in to urge trustees to start anew.

The second search appeared to be trundling right along until the board's announcement last week that none of the five finalists had garnered the necessary six trustee votes to take the presidency.

The board said that the firm hired to manage the search process would now reach out to find more applicants.

And what happens to the five finalists? If they choose, they can move back down the line of the candidate pool, and apply again.

During the first search, NCC garnered some 50 applications; for the second, the number dropped to about 30. It's likely NCC's catch will be even smaller the third time around, given the college's inability to get to a decision.

Which would be a shame because the college community needs, and deserves, candidates strong and savvy enough to lead the largest single-campus community college in New York State.

As it is, NCC's been without a permanent president for three years. And without a steady, permanent presence at the helm since 2010, when former president Sean Fanelli stepped down after 29 years in the job.

His successor, Donald Astrab, garnered two no-confidence votes from NCC's faculty before ending a rocky tenure in 2012. And Kenneth Saunders, who took the post after Astrab, came in as an interim president -- and later was named to be acting president until a permanent leader could be found.

As of now, Saunders' temporary presidency has lasted almost as long as Astrab's permanent one. And that third search, which could take more than a year, probably will end up with Sanders being at the top longer than Astrab was.

Which is crazy.

Saunders has, twice, applied to become NCC president.

During the first search, he told Newsday that bias in the process kept him from becoming a finalist, which he was in the second search.

But still he did not get the post. "I think the message from the board members who did not support him is that he was not the appropriate candidate," Arnold W. Drucker, a board trustee, said Friday.

OK, but how will that affect Saunders' ability to keep leading -- on a campus that too often seems to find interests battling against each other?

And what of NCC's students? At this point, some have graduated from a college that, during their tenure, never had a permanent president in place.

The college is too essential to have so long a permanent leadership drought. The board would do well to end it after a clean, professional search.

"We are hoping that even if it is a small pool, that within that pool we will find a good one," Drucker said. "We are confident that . . . [the search firm handling the process] will find us good candidates, as they have in the past."

All of which means, stand by.


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