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President of SUNY ESF will face no confidence vote

Tom Magnarelli
Faculty, staff and students sit in on an Academic Governance meeting at SUNY ESF.

Members of the Academic Governance body at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry plan to hold a vote of no confidence in President Quentin Wheeler. Some faculty members have been raising issues about Wheeler's leadership for more than a year.

The resolution to hold a vote of no confidence said Wheeler has failed to fill vacant faculty positions while adding administrative positions. It said the president has failed at strategic planning and created a climate of fear and retaliation while losing the trust of faculty and staff. At an Academic Governance meeting, Wheeler defended his record of reducing the college’s deficit and said a vote of no confidence will do damage to the college’s reputation.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
WRVO News File Photo
Quentin Wheeler, president of SUNY ESF.

“It only compounds the stresses and challenges we currently face, and unnecessarily slows progress," Wheeler said. "And it has no particular outcome. A vote of no confidence does nothing to permanently close the budget gap, to strengthen our partnerships, to attract new sources of revenue. It is already hurting us as colleagues and friends, and it is driving us apart at a time when we need to come together. I defend your right to do what you wish with a vote of no confidence. But please ask yourself what we will achieve by adding one more obstacle to our path to the future.”

Ben Taylor, president of the Undergraduate Student Association, said they are generally satisfied with how President Wheeler handles student concerns. 

“We are losing sight of the destination here, which is teaching, research, learning, educating and moving forward as an institution,” Taylor said. 

Ruth Yanai, a professor in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, said after a year of some of the faculty being dissatisfied, the vote is necessary to move forward.  

“So there’s many people whom I respect, I don’t know how they intend to vote," Yanai said. "It’s come to this point that we have to have a vote.”

Yanai said even if they vote for no confidence, it will not be binding. Wheeler reports to the Board of Trustees who have expressed confidence in him. Wheeler started as president of the college in 2014. The no confidence vote will be conducted by electronic secret ballot in two weeks.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.