Fred Kowal: Starting The Conversation

Jul 6, 2017

You can sometimes tell a lot about a person just by talking to them on the phone. 

And based on my first telephone conversation with Dr. Kristina Johnson, the incoming chancellor of our great State University system, I can say that we at United University Professions look forward to working with her.

For starters, Dr. Johnson called me – a small gesture, perhaps, but one that speaks to her recognition of UUP as an ally in our shared goal of keeping SUNY the vital system that it is. There is work to be done, and we can do it better if we work together. Her phone call was a very welcome outstretched hand that indicates she knows that UUP and the SUNY administration both want the best for the University.

This is a time of change at SUNY, as we prepare to bid farewell to outgoing chancellor Dr. Nancy Zimpher, and sincerely wish her well in her future endeavors. UUP also notes the departure of SUNY’s provost and executive vice chancellor, Dr. Alexander Cartwright, who was recently named as chancellor of the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus. New York’s loss is definitely Missouri’s gain, and we also wish Dr. Cartwright good luck in his new role, and thank him for his service to SUNY.

There is much to be excited about here in New York as we begin working with Dr. Johnson. She brings a rich, varied background to the chancellorship. She’s been a professor, an academic administrator, an undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Energy and an inventor. She is familiar with the private and public sectors, and she knows the special responsibility a public university has to the residents of its state.

UUP is also encouraged to hear that Dr. Zimpher will continue as chancellor until Dr. Johnson takes up her new responsibilities in September. This will ensure a smooth transition, and UUP stands ready do all it can to help make that transition work for the benefit of the students at SUNY, and the faculty and staff who serve them.

We know there will be times when we disagree with Dr. Johnson – that’s to be expected in any human situation.

But I believe, as we enter into what I hope is a new, cooperative partnership with SUNY’s new chancellor, that even our disagreements can be resolved through constructive discourse.

I also believe that our goals will be the same: To see SUNY and its state-operated hospitals and health sciences centers fully and adequately funded, and to see the long, slow attrition of full-time faculty end, and then reverse course.

To remain a public university of national standing, SUNY needs to be fully staffed and fully funded. Based on all early indications, that’s a good starting point in our relationship with Dr. Johnson, and one upon which Dr. Johnson and the members of UUP can agree.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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