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Five finalists will vie for Nassau Community College president

Students walk through the campus of Nassau Community

Students walk through the campus of Nassau Community College on Thursday, April 28, 2011 in Garden City. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau Community College committee has selected five finalists in its search for the Garden City institution's next president.

The candidates -- the school's current acting president and four who are in leadership positions at other community colleges -- are scheduled to meet with campus groups over the next month.

Selection of a leader would put an end to efforts begun more than two years ago. NCC, with about 23,000 students, is the largest single-campus community college in the state.

The finalists are Eric Friedman, 54, vice president of academic affairs at Hudson County Community College in New Jersey; Paul Mazur, 66, president of Sussex County Community College in New Jersey; Peter Perhac, 64, chief executive of Colorado Mountain College, Vail and Steamboat campuses; Roger Ramsammy, 55, provost and chief academic officer of Northern Virginia Community College, Manassas Campus and Innovation Center; and Kenneth Saunders, 58, NCC's acting president.

Mazur is the first candidate slated to come to the campus for a town-hall style interview, which is scheduled for Friday.

"I believe that the end result of this process will be a president who is more than up to the task of ensuring that NCC continues to be a pathway for educational excellence and career development for our students and a vital component for propelling Long Island's economic growth," said Dr. Jorge Gardyn, chairman of the board of trustees.

The candidates would not comment, citing a directive to send all media inquiries to the presidential search committee, a group of 18 faculty, staff, community members and students at the college. All committee members signed confidentiality agreements barring them from speaking to the media.

Trustee Arnold Drucker, who co-chairs the committee, said he was unsure how many people applied for the job. The college contracted with Academic Search Inc., a higher-education executive search firm based in Washington, D.C., which vetted applicants from across the country. All of those considered held advanced degrees, Drucker said.

The board will select only one of the five to forward to State University of New York trustees for approval, he said.

The Adjunct Faculty Association, which represents more than 3,000 part-time staff, was represented on the committee.

Scott Stark, a mathematics professor and vice president of the faculty association, said, "We just want to make sure that every stakeholder's voice is heard."

Stark, who was not on the search committee, said the president should be "somebody who will bring the college forward in a collegial way. There's been a lot of acrimony in the past."

This is the second search launched to hire a replacement for Donald Astrab, who left in July 2012 after two no-confidence votes by faculty.

Saunders, a longtime NCC administrator, was named interim president and was later elevated to acting president. His current annual salary is $225,000.

The first search, which began in December 2012, was fraught with allegations of bias and procedural irregularities, prompting SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to deem the process "beyond the point of repair" and urge the college trustees to restart. The chancellor's approval is required to install a president at any of the SUNY campuses.

The 2013 search produced three finalists, including state Supreme Court Justice Anthony Marano of Valley Stream. Several campus leaders had opposed Marano because he did not hold a degree in education or have any relevant experience. Others on campus alleged the search was tipped in his favor.

In addition, ALANA, a campus group representing faculty, staff and students who are members of racial minorities, charged that trustee Anthony Cornachio, who then chaired the search committee, had excluded them from the panel.

Saunders, who was not among three finalists selected by the first search committee, told Newsday in 2013 he was treated unfairly during his interview and alleged that the committee was biased.

The allegations from ALANA and Saunders, who is black, and the response from Cornachio, who is white, created a racial divide at meetings -- at least one of which included heated rhetoric, signs and chanting.

Ultimately, Marano withdrew his name, neither of the other two candidates were selected and another search began last year under new direction.

Thursday, Gardyn said he has "complete faith in the integrity and thoroughness of the search process."

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