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NCC to meet with state official over search

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has introduced Open SUNY,

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has introduced Open SUNY, the state university systems online degree program, during a speech Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Photo Credit: AP, 2013

A top state university official is expected to visit Nassau Community College this week to discuss the contentious search for the college's next president with members of the board, faculty and students.

Johanna Duncan-Poitier, SUNY's senior vice chancellor for community colleges, is scheduled to attend a special meeting of the college's board of trustees Thursday. Her visit follows Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher's recommendation two weeks ago that the college begin a new search for its next president.

Zimpher, whose approval is needed to install any president at the Garden City school, intervened after various groups and individuals on campus alleged bias and favoritism had clouded the search process.

The college's board of trustees is at an impasse over whether to begin a new search.

David Doyle, spokesman for the chancellor, said SUNY officials intend to "discuss in person how to resolve the current situation. We hope to have a candid conversation on how best to move forward."

Dr. Jorge Gardyn, acting chair of NCC's board of trustees, called the meeting at the request of SUNY officials.

"I hope there is clarity and vision for the other members of the board," said Gardyn, who is one of three NCC trustees in favor of redoing the search. "At the end of the day, we need to find the best and most qualified president for the 24,000 students of NCC."

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and will take place on the 11th floor of the Tower building. Trustees are expected to conduct the discussion in open session and will take public comment.

In previous board meetings, trustees discussed the presidential search among themselves in executive session as dozens of faculty, staff and students waited for two, and sometimes three, hours for the public portion of the meeting to begin.

Earlier this month, the committee tasked with finding a new president announced it had agreed on three finalists: Joyce Ester, 47, of Chicago, 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.

Kimberley Reiser, a member of the presidential search committee, said she hopes SUNY officials will allow the current search to move forward. She said the autonomy and governance structure of the school are at risk.

"For the chancellor to come in at this point in the search is perplexing," said Reiser, former chairwoman of the college's Academic Senate, which represents faculty, staff and students.

NCC, the largest single-campus community college in the state, has been operating without a permanent president since the July departure of Donald Astrab, whose tumultuous 30 months on the job included two no-confidence votes from faculty.

The college's acting president is Kenneth Saunders, an NCC administrator for 14 years.

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