Despite talk of eliminating the job, CSUS trustees begin search for new chancellor

Despite continued moves toward possible elimination of the Connecticut State University System’s central office, the CSUS Board of Trustees has decided to proceed with a search for someone to replace retiring Chancellor David G. Carter.

The board also decided to put off starting a search for a new president of Southern Connecticut State University, one of the system’s four campuses, until the spring. The prospect of not having a permanent leader until the end of the 2011-2012 school year did not sit well with some Southern faculty.

“I am perplexed. Why would we do a search for a chancellor if there’s a discussion of whether we should completely close the systems office?” said Susan Cusato, an environmental sciences professor and faulty Senate president at SCSU. “Do you really think potential candidates are going to want to apply?”

CSUS has been under fire since disclosure earlier this year that Carter had forced SCSU president Cheryl Norton to resign, and had given her a one-yer sabbatical at full pay. Plans to give double-digit raises to top administration office employees also were criticized by lawmakers and Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and were later scaled back. The process for removing presidents has also been changed to require the full board vote on the decision.

Rell recommended in her transition budget for Governor-elect Dan Malloy that he eliminate the systems office. A spokesman for the governor’s budget office said it has not been determined how much the recommendation would save the state.

Bernard Kavaler, spokesman for CSU, said the systems office comprises 2.5 percent of their whole budget, or $14.5 million for the current fiscal year.

However, critics of Rell’s proposal say eliminating the central office would not necessarily save $14.5 million a year since some of those costs would be transferred to the individual campuses, for services like collective bargaining and information systems.

A budget proposal in 2002 by former-Gov. John G. Rowland recommended merging the central offices at CSU and the Community Technical Colleges for an estimated savings of $5.1 million for the 2003-04 school year.

State legislators are also considering consolidating or eliminating the central office. The Program Review and Investigations Committee will present state lawmakers with a report by the end of the year evaluating whether a systems office is necessary.

Rep. Roberta B. Willis, D-Salisbury and co-chairwoman of the Higher Education committee, has said the governing structure at CSU must be looked at and a decision made whether it is needed.

Rep. Pam Z. Sawyer, R-Bolton and the minority ranking member of the Higher Education committee, said she has no problem with the trustees deciding to move forward with filling the chancellor’s position.

“It’s practical at this time, at least until they know what is going to happen,” she said. Sawyer did express concern that the best candidates may be hesitant in applying for the chancellor’s position though. “People realize this is in flux. Yes, there will be a question out there for what the future is. That will be on the minds of many.”

Mike Shea, an English professor at Southern, said he is not worried about who will be running the systems office, but he’s tired of wondering who will be running his university.

“They have known for a year they needed to fill this position. They could have started the search in December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September. This could have been almost done by now,” he said.

Stanley Battle, has been appointed the interim president at Southern, but Shea said “he lacks the authority” to do a lot of things. “He can’t determine future plans for Southern. That’s a problem.”