SUNY Spent $500,000 on Report
by Buck Quigley - posted 4:50 pm, June 17, 2011
On June 1, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher triumphantly rolled out a 132 page report entitled “How SUNY Matters.” The report was a joint product of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at SUNY Albany and the State University at Buffalo Regional Institute.
Among other things, the report estimated SUNY’s economic impact to be “at least” $20 billion to New York. It was widely covered in the media, as lawmakers in Albany debated things like raising tuition at state schools, and relinquishing state control of SUNY campuses, and so on.
You can download a copy of the report here. Full color photos, bar graphs, success stories, pull quotes—everything you’d expect from slick marketing materials. You really should download a copy, when you stop to consider that half a million dollars of public money paid for it.
A December, 2010 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) shows that $262,375 was the budget to produce a report showing the “economic impact of SUNY in NYS. It is signed by SUNY System Administration Executive Director of Business Operations and Procurement Kellie J. Dupuis, and Kathryn A. Foster, Director of the University at Buffalo Research Institute (UBRI). The contracted report was due by May 1, 2011—before the end of the legislative session.
For its part, the Rockefeller Institute received $228,571, according to Director Thomas Gais.
According to the SUNY/UBRI MOU, “Payment will be accomplished through the revenue/expense journal process at the rate and schedule specified in Exhibit A.”
Foster said that refers to “the accounting method SUNY uses to transfer funds internally. SUNY takes the money, and transfers it to UBRI, because it’s an internal thing. So the word ‘expense’ is like a debit to one account, and the word ‘revenue’ is a credit to another account. And that’s all it is. So the word “journal” is just a journal entry in an accounting book.”
Dupuis explained it this way: “Well, the State University of New York is one entity. So, we can’t cut a check to ourself [sic]. So that’s just an accounting mechanism where we transfer money to and from campuses. We’re all one entity.”
Dupuis wondered how I got her name. She then took my contact information and said she would refer me to the legal department. The legal department called back and told me that any questions must be submitted in the form of a FOIL request.
Elsewhere in the MOU, it’s clear that SUNY System Administration distinguishes itself from UBRI:
Materials developed by the UBRI regarding the results of any activity supported by this MOU, and intended for written publication or general distribution, may not be published by the UBRI without prior written approval of the University. Any and all reports and findings rendered to the University by the UBRI shall be the exclusive property of the University and subject to its exclusive use and control. The UBRI herewith waives any and all rights to such reports and findings and the control thereof.
Exclusive property? Exclusive use and control? Clearly, SUNY Administrators were expecting a positive report from the SUNY Institutes, but they weren’t taking any chances that a negative report would ever see the light of day.
Click here to read the five-page MOU signed by Dupuis and Foster.
And if you take the time to read all the grandiose claims and estimates contained in the windy 132-page “How SUNY Matters” report, take a moment to reflect on the fact that $500,000 could have paid the current SUNY tuition for 100 New York State residents for one year.