Nassau Community College in Garden City.

Nassau Community College in Garden City. Credit: Howard Schnapp

This guest essay reflects the views of Faren Siminoff, president of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers.

Nassau Community College, once a beacon for affordable, quality education, is now mired in crisis and controversy. Plummeting enrollment, the elimination of 15 academic departments, draconian cuts to programming, and chronic deficits threaten the existence of what was once considered Nassau County’s reliable pathway to the middle class. Behind this chaos lies the college’s leadership — its administration and board of trustees — whose dereliction of duty over the past several years has driven this beloved institution toward a potential death spiral.

The disarray at NCC this past spring paints a dire picture of the college’s current situation. In April, administrators led by chief administrative officer Maria Conzatti generated tremendous confusion by presenting conflicting budgets to NCC stakeholders. In some they forecast massive deficits, while in others no deficits and even surpluses in reserve funds. Despite these inconsistencies, all budgets demonstrate that failing to request additional county funding for 16 years means that adjusted for inflation, funding has decreased by 30%.

A month after that debacle, students and faculty were stunned when NCC’s on-campus dining facilities were abruptly shuttered, limiting access to food and beverages to half-stocked vending machines scattered across campus. “Nobody is going to starve,” one administrator quipped in response to a reporter’s questions about the health and safety consequences.

A few weeks later, we learned that NCC had retained an Albany consulting firm to lobby for policies related to casinos and gaming. Taxpayer money meant to support the college’s mission was being redirected to lobbyists for the purpose of building a casino on Long Island, which is totally inappropriate.

But the biggest gut punch to those of us who have been fighting to save NCC from this gross ineptitude was the revelation that through all of this turmoil — the cuts to programs and downsizing of academic departments — NCC administrators have been giving themselves massive raises, some as high as 67%, over the past two years, while creating new administrative positions despite the precipitous drop in enrollment and faculty positions.

While faculty positions were slashed from 534 in 2010 to just 389 last fall, the number of administrators has ballooned from 61 to 78. This means that NCC’s full-time faculty has decreased by 27% as administrator positions have increased by 28%. Yet, the college continues to hire redundant and costly administrators who have failed to improve the college while draining its finances. Ironically, the two positions most needed, a permanent president and vice president of finance, have gone unfilled for more than two years.

Immediate action is needed to save NCC. SUNY must remove the current leadership and replace it with competent administrators, while the Board of Regents should overhaul NCC’s board of trustees, which has clearly failed in its mission to guide NCC toward a sustainable future. Furthermore, Albany must pass a bill that provides for a review and assessment process for failing community colleges, including appointing a supervising monitor when a community college’s accreditation is at risk.

NCC is crucial to Long Island’s economic vitality and the futures of its least advantaged degree-seekers. Our faculty has already adopted a vote of no confidence in Conzatti and her administration, calling for immediate changes to halt the college’s downward trajectory. It’s time our elected officials and SUNY leadership step in to put an end to this madness and install leadership that will correct the college’s course.

Let’s give NCC a fighting chance.


This guest essay reflects the views of Faren Siminoff, president of the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers.


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