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UB Council Ignores Education Law

Less than 24 hours after SUNYAB president John Simpson announced his retirement effective January 15, 2011, questions were flying within the UB community: How is it that Jeremy Jacobs, in his capacity as UB Council Chairman, could name Scott Nostaja interim president of the university?

It’s a good question, when you consider that the Education Law of New York grants the UB Council no such power.

Yet there it was, straight from Simpson himself: “In the meantime, Chairman Jacobs has appointed Scott Nostaja, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, to serve as Interim President following my official retirement on January 15.”

Since my email box has been filling up all day with people asking me about this, I picked up the blower and made a few calls around, trying to get to the bottom of things.

I called John DellaContrada, VP for Media Relations at UB, and left a message.

Then I placed a call to the phone number I found for the UB Council on a UB Website. I dialed the number, and waited. After a few rings, a secretary picked up the horn and said, “Office of the President.”

What the…?

I explained that I was trying to reach the UB Council. She paused, and said it was the same number. I said I was trying to find out how it was that the UB Council had named Scott Nostaja interim university president, when it appears that the law grants them no such power. I was put on hold. Another person came on the line and told me someone would call me back with an answer to that.

In the meantime, I placed a call to the SUNY Office of Public Relations in Albany, and left my question with them.

Then, I received an email from DellaContrada that read:

I got your phone message…you’re right the SUNY Trustees have the ultimate authority to appoint interim presidents and other SUNY leaders.   Scott Nostaja’s appointment will become official after it goes before the trustees.   I  don’t yet have a date when this will go before the SUNY  trustees, but we anticipate it will occur sometime soon.

Next I got a call back from David K. Belsky, Special Assistant for Strategic Communications for SUNY, who sent me this response:

With the departure of a campus president, the SUNY Board of Trustees, acting on a nomination from the Chancellor upon advice and consultation of the campus council, appoints the interim president.  The campus council is then charged by the Chancellor with undertaking a search for a new president following SUNY Presidential Search Guidelines. This process was most recently completed with interim appointments at Binghamton and New Paltz and in Western New York at Buffalo State before the permanent appointment of their new president.

“Ok, but that’s not the process that played out at UB yesterday, correct?” I replied.

“Correct.” Belsky replied.

So, at the moment of Simpson’s announcement, the process of finding his replacement had already been botched.

Click here to read the “SUNY Guidelines for Conducting a Presidential Search.” They’ve been in place since September, 1997, because “The Board of Trustees considers the selection of campus presidents to be one of the most important of its duties.”

No word on how SUNY Chancellor Zimpher and the SUNY Board of Trustees feel about having one of their most important duties handled for them by the UB Council.

  • Peter A Reese

    What’s the big deal here? Doesn’t Jeremy Jacobs own SUNY Buffalo? If that is so why doesn’t he pay for it? I wonder who died and made him God?

  • UB Professor named Jim Holstun

    Thanks, Buck, for another piece of real, sure’nuff journalism based on remembering things, calling people, looking stuff up, and finding things out.

    It’s staggering to think that Jeremy Jacobs could be so ignorant or arrogant as to “name” somebody Interim President without having the right to do so. The final process will be cooked, of course, but why is he so lazy as to refrain from going through the motions? Perhaps the SUNY Trustees, who just reappointed Mr. Jacobs, might like to reconsider doing so again, since he seems happy to usurp their powers.

  • Chris

    This could be the biggest non story that I have ever read. While I can appreciate the watchdog sentiment of the article, I think that your efforts would be better focused on the finding out why some of our local representatives voted against UB 2020.

  • ted

    I would hope that there is a place for the community to have an actual say in the selection of the next President. Greiner and Simpson have been a disaster for the Buffalo neighborhoods surrounding the South Campus. Simpson’s desire to pave over McCarley Gardens and move those inconvenient black people out of the way hasn’t exactly made his wanna be medical campus a good neighbor either.

  • K-dog

    Mark Boyd is leaking information to the press. He was the person who made sure that Antoine’s political opponents would get a picture of him in Jamaica (which, coincidentally gets dispensed throughout the local news media).

    Mark Boyd thinks that he’s next in line to inherit the 60th district senate seat. He wants Antoine to loose so that he can run next time.

    He’s been giving information to a number of media outlets. He has another picture of Antoine smoking weed (not in Jamaica, but back here in Buffalo). I’m not sure how old the picture is, but he claims that it’s while he was serving as Senator. I’m pretty sure that this is going to come out right before the general election.

  • Topher

    I think it’s hilarious how Antoine Thompson travels around with 5 women staffers because he’s afraid he’s going to get run down. He figures that no one would run him down if he’s surrounded by 5 women. Great way to man up, Antoine. What leadership…

  • UBProfessor

    Jeremy Jacobs, Mr. bad, overpriced, airport and stadium food himself. Thanks for continuing the tradition of mediocrity. You did it to food, now you have done it to UB.

    Please resign and cut ties from UB. You are already rich beyond your wildest dreams. Enjoy your twilight years and let someone who actually cares about quality education make important decisions.

    Better yet, go find someone off the street to run Deleware North. Conduct your social experiment on your own dime for a change.

  • UBGrad

    John Simpson hired Mr. Nostaja (both of California). John Simpson told the Council to appoint his chosen interim successor in a completely closed, unnecessarily fast, illegal process. The Council is composed of politically-connected appointees, who are appointed by the Governor, and they’ll usually do as their told by the President. Here, they did. Now, everybody’s up in arms about it, and rightly so.

    The faculty is mad. Nostaja has a BA from a mediocre-at-best California college; they all have doctoral degrees. They couldn’t find someone better? Maybe the Dean of the Law, Medical, or Dental schools?

    The SUNY Board should mitigate this by (1) asking the Council to open its process for selecting an interim president, (2) asking it to reconsider its nomination (sure to result in a different nominee), and (3) helping Nostaja save face by keeping him in a senior capacity as “Transition Team Leader” or something similar.

    Transparency would go a long way here. Simpson isn’t retiring until January. There’s really no need to appoint an interim successor so fast.

  • SusanMary&Joseph

    Do not underestimate this man’s Hollywood work experience! I heard he has great plans for the UB stem cell researchers – he just has to get BNIH funding to develop UBoobs! He has a manufacuting & marketing plan all set. A new implantation test lab is planned for either Best Street or High, pending results from his focus group. Finally, UB will be known for more than just its proximity to Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Niagara Falls, and, they make an excellent floatation device.

    Plan B also includes a reality-TV show that will put the UB South Campus on the map! The Buffalo Bulls-Hit Show is Scott’s baby, born out of past headline news of student rowdiness, crime, and just enough edgy neighborhood tension that may get us some top ratings nationally. Expect a stampede of like-minded reveling students after just one season! Cha-ching!
    Screw U UB2010 – Go Scott!

  • stoptheinsanity

    Problem with Buffalo is we have too many Jordan Levy’s and Jeremy Jacobs running around doing whatever they want with public money, although Mr Levey will now do what he wants with our money and just not tell us…..

  • Tom

    So SUNY allowed UB to violate state education law. Seems to be their M.O. Last April, they allowed the new Stony Brook president to also violate the state education by letting him unilaterally shut down the entire 4 yr Sustainability college at Southampton even as it had an amazing 54% increase in new admissions. Students sued in Supreme Court & the judge declared the closure to be illegal, reaffirming that state education was clearly violated. So what happened? Zimpher said she “stands firmly behind the president” in his action -his illegal action – & they are fighting the whole community to keep the college closed. Zimpher needs to go.