People hold up signs calling for the removal of Anthony...

People hold up signs calling for the removal of Anthony Cornachio from the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees for controversial emails during a board of trustees meeting. (May 7, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

Nearly 300 students, faculty and community activists crowded into the Nassau Community College board of trustees meeting Tuesday night, the majority demanding that members scrap their search for a new president and start over.

The board listened to more than two dozen speakers describe the search process as flawed and unfair before ending the meeting at about 11:30 p.m. without voting to move the three finalists recommended by a search committee to the next round of interviews.

At several points during the public comments portion of the meeting, many in the crowd chanted "Justice! Justice!" as they stood in a show of support for acting president Kenneth Saunders, who is not among the three finalists.

Audience members, which included officials from the NAACP, the Garden City college's student government and ALANA, which represents minority faculty and staff, called for the resignation of trustee Anthony Cornachio, the head of the selection committee.

"Dr. Saunders was a victim of a blatant denial of due process," said Professor Sylvester Wise, a teacher at the college for 48 years.

ALANA sought Cornachio's resignation as head of the search committee after it was revealed he sent an email to other board members referring to an African-American member of ALANA as "a thug" and to a female member as "very pretty."

Saunders, 56, who is African-American, has claimed he wasn't given a fair interview.

Cornachio rebutted that charge, saying "no candidate was treated differently."

The finalists recommended to the board Tuesday night were Joyce Ester, 47, of Chicago, who is black and president of Kennedy-King College, one of seven entities within the City Colleges of Chicago; State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Marano, 70, of Valley Stream; and Elana Zolfo, 63, of Smithtown, interim president of Dowling College in Oakdale.

The votes of at least six trustees -- a majority of the 10 seats on the board -- are needed to approve the three finalists and advance them to a second round of interviews, university officials said.

The 12-person selection committee, which along with Cornachio includes two other trustees, announced the finalists Monday amid criticism from ALANA and others, including Saunders, who sat with the trustees at Tuesday night's meeting.

Student government president Logan Kenney, 19, of Long Beach, also criticized the search. Despite being a member of the selection committee, she claims she was shut out of the decision-making process.

In another matter, the board Tuesday night held off on voting on a proposed $214 million operating budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Student tuition would rise by $98, or 2.5 percent, bringing it to $4,088 annually under the proposed budget. The plan does not call for any increases to student fees.

An increase in aid from the state by nearly $3 million helped limit tuition increases, university officials said.

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