Created by statute in 1948, the State University of New York is a vast public higher education enterprise, which includes twenty-nine State-operated institutions (university centers and doctoral degree granting institutions, comprehensive colleges, and technology colleges) and five statutory colleges (four administered by Cornell University on behalf of the State University and one by Alfred University) located throughout the State. The State University Board of Trustees is responsible for the over-all central administration, supervision and coordination of the State-operated institutions and for general supervision of the statutory colleges. The Board of Trustees also exercises rights of approval with respect to thirty community colleges, each of which is a legal entity separate from the State University and from each other community college. Each community college is administered by a board of trustees comprised of members appointed by the Governor and the governing bodies of local sponsors and of an elected student member. Informally, the State-operated institutions, statutory colleges and community colleges under the program of the State University are referred to as the 64-campus State University system.
State University Board of Trustees
The State University of New York was created by statute, Ch. 695 L. 1948, the provisions of which, as amended from time to time, are codified and set forth in the Education Law, Art. 8. The State University is a corporation within the State Education Department, and all of the powers of the State University, derived from the statute, are vested in and exercised by the Board of Trustees, acting as a whole. All powers and duties of the Board are set forth in statute. The Board is comprised of 18 members, 15 of whom are appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate for 7-year terms, the President of the Student Assembly who serves as student Trustee ex officio, the President of the University Faculty Senate who serves as faculty Trustee ex officio but without the right to vote, and the President of the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, who serves as community college faculty Trustee ex officio but without the right to vote. The Governor designates the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees. The Board is authorized by statute to elect an executive committee of not fewer than five SUNY Trustees, one of whom shall be the student Trustee, to transact business between meetings of the Board of Trustees (Ed. L. §353).
The Board sets its own meeting schedule, and in recent years, the Board has convened eight or more times annually. As required by statute, the Board holds two public hearings annually to receive testimony and statements from concerned individuals about State University issues (Ed.L. §353(2)).
The Board of Trustees has adopted, and from time to time amends, By-Laws. Pursuant to the By-Laws, the Board has authority to establish standing and special committees of the Board comprised of Trustees (By-Laws, Art. III). As of 2011, the standing committees of the Board are the Executive Committee; Academic Affairs Committee; Academic Medical Centers and Hospitals Committee; Audit Committee; Communications and External Affairs Committee; Education, College Readiness and Success Committee; Finance and Administration Committee; and Research and Economic Development Committee. While the primary role of each committee other than the Executive Committee, and to a limited extent, the Audit Committee, is advisory, much of the preliminary substantive work of the Board occurs in committee as members review, with assistance of staff, matters, including proposed resolutions, which will come before the Board. Generally, all committees convene prior to each Board meeting.
Through the adoption of By-Laws, Policies of the Board and other resolutions, the Board of Trustees has delegated, and allowed for sub-delegation of, various of its statutory powers related to the administration of the State University to officers of the Board, System Administration staff and campus Presidents and staff. In addition, as the result of other statutes, other entities, including Cornell University and Alfred University with respect to the State University’s five statutory colleges and the boards of trustees of each community college, have authority with respect to the administration of their respective institutions.
As set forth by the Policies of the Board, the chief executive officer of the State University is the Chancellor, who is appointed by the Board and performs such duties as the Board assigns. Among the powers of the Chancellor delegated by the Board through the Policies are the powers to recommend Vice Chancellors for appointment by the Board and to appoint all executive and administrative officers below the level of Vice Chancellor, who constitute the senior staff of the University’s System Administration. The Chancellor is authorized to sub-delegate to such officers and staff powers, duties and responsibilities (Policies, Art. IV). Both the By-Laws and the Policies provide for the office of the Secretary, a Board appointee (By-Laws, Art. II, §2; Policies, Art. IV, Title B).
In addition to administrative staffs at each campus, System Administration, located in Albany, provides services and support system-wide under the direction of the Chancellor and the Board. System Administration provides centralized financial, legal, academic, external relations, audit, student life and human resources services and support.
Through the Policies, the Board has delegated responsibility for the administration of each State-operated campus to its President, a Board appointee. The President determines what college administrative officers are needed, assigns the powers, duties and responsibilities of each, and supervises the professional and non-academic staff. The President prepares and recommends the annual budget request of the campus and makes recommendations concerning the operation, plans and development of the college (Policies, Art. IX).
The Board of Trustees has established the University Faculty Senate as the official body through which the faculty participates in governance, particularly with respect to educational policies and other professional matters. Each State-operated campus and statutory college is represented in the Faculty Senate (Policies, Art. VII). As a non-voting ex officio member of the State University Board of Trustees, the President of the Faculty Senate participates in the deliberations of the Board and its committees.
By rule-making resolution, the Board of Trustees has established the Faculty Council of Community Colleges to advise the Chancellor; to provide a forum and structure for community college faculty to formulate policy positions on matters of common interest for transmittal to community college presidents, the boards of trustees of each community college and the municipalities which sponsor each community college; and to provide a means for the interchange of ideas among community college faculties, the State University faculty, and System Administration. The voting members of the Faculty Council include one faculty delegate from each of the 30 community colleges under the program of the State University (8 NYCRR Part 606). Legislation enacted in 2011 provides that the President of the Faculty Council shall be a non-voting ex officio member of the Board of Trustees (Ed.L. §353(1)).
The official organization by which the student body participates in the governance of the University is the Student Assembly, established by the Board through its Policies. The Student Assembly serves as a forum for consultation and the exchange of information among students, the Chancellor and the Board on matters of system-wide student concerns. Each State-operated campus, statutory college and community college is represented in the Student Assembly (Policies, Art. XVII). By statute, the President of the Student Assembly serves on the Board of Trustees as a voting ex officio member. The student Trustee is a required member of the Board’s Executive committee (Ed.L. §353(4);By-Laws, Art.II, §1)
By statute, there has been created for each State-operated campus (other than the College of Environmental Science and Forestry) a college council, comprised of ten members (nine appointed by the Governor and an elected student member). Each college council is required to meet at least four times annually. By statute, each council is authorized to recommend presidential candidates for appointment by the State University Board; to make regulations concerning the management of campus capital facilities; to make regulations concerning student conduct; and to name buildings and grounds. The college councils are authorized to review major plans (as determined by the State University Board) of the campus President and to review the campus President’s annual budget request and recommend to the State University Board the campus budget. The exercise of all such powers of the college councils is subject to the general management, supervision, control and approval of the State University Board (Ed.L. §356). With respect to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (“ESF”), statute provides for a fifteen member college board of trustees which exercises a statutory listing of advisory powers which parallels the statutory listing for college councils. In addition to college council powers, the ESF college board is authorized to recommend courses of study, departments, degrees to be conferred, and the size of the faculty. The exercise of such powers is subject to the general supervision and management by the State University Board (Ed.L. §§6003, 6004).
By statute, authority with respect to the governance of the State University’s five statutory colleges (four at Cornell University and one at Alfred University) is divided between the State University and the private host universities, Cornell University and Alfred University, respectively. The State University’s statutory authority is set forth primarily in the State University’s enabling legislation (Ed.L. Art. 8), and the statutory authority of the private universities is set forth primarily in the separate acts that establish each of the five statutory colleges (Ed.L. §§5711, 5712, 5714, 5715, and 6101-6103). Authority for the day-to-day administration of the statutory colleges vests in Cornell University and Alfred University, respectively. In nearly identical terms, the separate statutory college acts provide that the private host university administers the college with respect “to the establishment of courses of study, the creation of departments and positions, the determination of the number and salaries of the members of the faculty and other employees thereof, . . . the maintenance of discipline and as to all other matters pertaining to its educational policies, activities and operations (Ed.L. §5715(6); see §§5711(2), 5712(2), 5714(3), and 6102)). The State University is vested with general supervision of the statutory colleges (Ed.L. §§355(1)(a) and 357; see also e.g. §5711(1)), and general supervision over requests for appropriations, budgets, estimates and expenditures of the statutory colleges (e.g. Ed.L. §5712(3)). Faculty and staff at the statutory colleges are employees of Cornell University and Alfred University, respectively. The head of each statutory college is appointed by the private host university, subject to the approval of the State University Board (Ed.L. §355(1)(e)). Tuition rates at the statutory colleges are determined by Cornell University and Alfred University, respectively, after consultation with the State University, and fees are determined solely by the private host universities.
The governance of the thirty community colleges under the program of the State University is divided by statute between the State University and the board of trustees of each college. Education Law Art. 126 provides for the establishment, financing and administration of each community college. The role of the State University is set forth in its enabling legislation and in Art. 126. The roles of the local boards of trustees and local sponsors are set forth in Art. 126. The community colleges are financed jointly by the State, the local sponsor, and students pursuant to statutory and regulatory requirements (Ed.L. §§6304 and 6310; 8 NYCRR Parts 602 and 603).
The establishment of a community college is subject to the approval of the State University Board (Ed.L. §355(1)(c)). Importantly, because each community college is a separate legal entity, separate from the State University and from each other, the State University is authorized to promulgate codes and regulations to standardize certain operational and academic aspects of all the community colleges. The State University Board is authorized to provide standards for the organization and operation of community college programs, minimum and maximum standards for curricula, qualitative and quantitative standards for capital facilities, standard administrative procedures (budget formats, disbursement schedules, systems of accounts), financing arrangements, State financial assistance, tuition and fees regulations and other matters relating to the operation of the community colleges (Ed.L. §§355(1)(c); 6304(1)(b)(iv)). The State University Board approves the appointment by the local board of trustees of the President of each community college (Ed.L. §355(1)(e)). Each community college must develop its curricula with the assistance and guidance, and subject to the approval, of the State University Board (Ed.L. §6303(4)). The State University Board may limit training for certain occupational skills to certain community colleges to avoid unnecessary duplication (Ed.L. §6303(2)). The State University Board is authorized to determine what community college operating costs are eligible for State financial assistance, and, with the City University of New York, to promulgate regulations that set forth formulae and maximum limitations for such State financial assistance ((Ed.L. §6304(1)(a), (b)(i); 8 NYCRR §§602.4 and 602.8). With respect to each community college, the State University Board approves the operating budget, tuition and fees (8 NYCRR §§602.3 and 6.02(10)(e); Ed.L. §6305(8)).
Authority for the day-to-day administration of each community college is vested by statute in its board of trustees. Generally, each board is comprised of ten members, five appointed by the local municipal sponsor (including a member of the local sponsor’s governing body), four (local residents) by the Governor and an elected student member (exceptions apply with respect to Corning Community College, which has a 14 member board, Jamestown Community College, which has a 15 member board, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, which has a 16 member board)(Ed.L. §§6306(1), (3-a)(c); and 6310(1), (1-a)). The board of trustees appoints the President of the community college, subject to approval of the State University Board, and appoints or delegates to the President the appointment of staff (Ed.L.§6306(2)). The board of trustees adopts the curricula, subject to approval by the State University Board, and prepares and submits an operating budget to the local sponsor for approval (Ed.L. §6302(2)). Ultimately, the operating budget is subject to approval by the State University Board (8 NYCRR §602.3). The board of trustees is authorized to transfer appropriations in an approved operating budget among functions and expense items (8 NYCRR §602.9(a)). The local board of trustees is vested with authority for the care, custody and control of the capital facilities of the college and campus security ((Ed.L. §§6306(5), (5-a) and (8-a); and 6310).
The local sponsor of each community college approves the overall operating budget of the community college before the budget is submitted to the State University Board for approval (Ed.L. §6306(2); 8 NYCRR §§602.3(b) and 602.9(b)). Capital budgets for each community college are approved by the local sponsor, the board of trustees and the State University Board (8 NYCRR §§603.1, 603.3 and 603.6).