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NCC faculty leaders call on trustees to bar acting president from applying for permanent post

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. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Faculty leaders at Nassau Community College are calling on trustees to bar the school's acting president from applying for the permanent post and they want state officials to appoint a new interim president from outside the Garden City institution.

Officers of the college's Academic Senate, NCC's advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors and NCC's Federation of Teachers, the union representing full-time faculty, say they believe acting president Kenneth Saunders' candidacy in the presidential search has been a divisive force that has inhibited the board's ability to find a leader for the 24,000-student college.

"We have been a college without a leader for three years. Such a situation is unparalleled at similar academic institutions," said Kimberley Reiser, a biology professor who is president of the AAUP chapter. "We hope that SUNY will provide an outside transitional president and one that is ineligible for the search."

The faculty movement came after the NCC board of trustees announced during a special meeting last week that none of the finalists, including Saunders, secured enough votes to be selected as the 12th president of the college. The board is extending the search that began in October and is soliciting more applicants.

Saunders, in an email statement, said: "I believe that bringing on an interim president would be dysfunctional and a setback to implementing the vision that I have already laid out for the continued excellence and financial sustainability of the college."

There were five finalists during this most current search, the second attempt to replace former president Donald Astrab. The first search was voided after allegations of bias.

Astrab left the college in July 2012 after 30 months on the job and two votes of no-confidence. The college has been operated by Saunders, who was appointed officer-in-charge and then acting president after Astrab's departure. He has a salary of $225,000.

The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday night. It was unclear Monday whether trustees would consider either of the two faculty proposals.

Not all faculty members agree with the leadership's position, however.

"These are the same malcontent people who spoke against him [Saunders] before. The only reason they are speaking against him again now is because the chancellor said they could extend the search," said Robert Hodge, a criminal justice professor who has been at the college for 26 years.

Trustee Arnold Drucker, co-chairman of NCC's 16-person presidential search committee, said "appointing an interim may be determined by SUNY. It might not be up to us." He declined to say how many votes Saunders received in the recent search. Citing the state open meetings law on personnel issues, NCC trustees have mostly discussed and voted on candidates for the president's job in executive session.

NCC has contracted with Academic Search Inc., based in Washington, D.C., to find applicants for the president's post.

To select a president, a finalist must receive six or more trustee votes -- a majority of the 10 trustee seats. State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher must approve any president selected.

NCC, with a budget of about $213 million, is the largest single-campus community college in the state university system. The school receives funding from the state and county budgets in addition to student tuition. It was unclear Monday whether the chancellor, who was in Denver at the Clinton Global Initiative, would support the appointment of a new interim president at NCC.

SUNY spokesman Sherman Jewett said the search would continue with additional candidates and that "additional information will be provided as the process continues to unfold."

Jewett declined to answer further questions about NCC's presidential search Monday.

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