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$160K for 9 months of "leave"

Updated: Wednesday, September 25 2013, 06:20 PM EDT

Geneseo, N.Y. - Few will debate the accomplishments of outgoing SUNY Geneseo President Christopher Dahl during his more than 18 years in charge. Yet the conditions surrounding his departure are the focus of criticism from some.

Next week, on October 1, Dahl will begin a nine month long “leave” from the university before officially retiring in the in the summer of 2014. During that leave Dahl will be paid a salary of $215,000 plus benefits; pro-rated over nine months that works out to be more than $160,000.

"It just ain't right to give somebody that much money and there are people in food lines right now," said John Thomas of Castile. He then chuckled, "It's good to be him, on top!"

"More power to him, if he's done a good job why not?” Bob Bunce of Groveland said.

"Well, he did do a lot for the college and I think he deserves it,” said Gary Holt of Mt. Morris. Holt also grabbed a calculator and realized Dahl will earn more than $17,000-a-month under this arrangement. “Not bad pay if you can get it.”

On Wednesday WHAM1180-AM talk show host Bob Lonsberry weighed in on Dahl’s arranged leave that was described as a “sabbatical” in numerous press releases issued by SUNY Geneseo since May.

“Christopher Dahl’s “sabbatical” ends up being a pile of free money, a nine-month vacation in which he gets all of the pay with none of the responsibility….It doesn’t matter how long he’s worked there. It doesn’t matter how great a guy he was. It doesn’t matter how many buildings he built at Geneseo. All that matters is he’s gaming the system for his own personal enrichment.”

When 13WHAM News inquired about Dahl’s “sabbatical” SUNY officials in Geneseo and Albany were quick to point out that the term is not technically accurate. The New York State Comptroller criticized the SUNY system for the sabbatical system in a July 2013 audit.

Instead the leave granted to Dahl is called a “Title F” leave that was, in this case, approved by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. Dahl had requested this leave in a February 2013 letter (click here to view) to Chancellor Zimpher in which he noted some of the scholarly projects he hopes to work on while also helping to transition SUNY Geneseo to new leadership.

In a September 2013 reply (click here to view) to Dahl the Chancellor granted his request and stated the following:

“During your leave, you should remain available to assist the University at Geneseo during the leadership transition period; undertake and complete scholarly works, serve as a consultant to the Interim President at Geneseo, be available for fund-raising activities, and be available to consult with myself and members of my executive team as necessary. You will remain on the University at Geneseo payroll throughout your leave.”

"On one side it does seem a little bit wasteful because we have had three majors cut in the last year but on the other hand that's just a part of entering public service,” said SUNY Geneseo Senior Rob Leon. “There are sabbaticals and money goes to that and he has offered us years of good service and we thank him for that.”

"There were programs being cut however he's been a great president,” said SUNY Geneseo Junior Paige Cuddihy. “I don't think that in the end it's making a great difference in how I run my day."

"I would say it seems like a large sum of money to me; I'm a college student, everything sounds like a large sum of money to me right now,” said SUNY Geneseo Junior Sean Deacon. “To have nine months off, that's a lot and if we're funding his personal, scholarly research I don't know, I'm not a big fan of that but I don't know enough to make an educated decision.”

SUNY spokesman David Doyle explained that Dahl has already been tasked with certain duties for SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and he provided the following statement:

“President Dahl is exactly the kind of proven and experienced academic leader that we want associated with the state’s system of public higher education. He will continue to serve SUNY Geneseo to ensure a smooth transition while assisting with projects across the SUNY system and resuming his scholarly pursuits. We expect the same tremendous return on investment over the next nine months that Chris Dahl has provided as president for the past 18 years.”

$160K for 9 months of "leave"


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