Judge clears SUNY in racial charges


By Jim Poole

It took a jury only two hours to rule in favor of SUNY Cobleskill in federal court in Albany on Friday.
The decision came after a two-week trial and exonerated the college, former Provost Anne Myers and former President Don Zingale.
"I think it's very significant that the jury deliberated only two hours after a two-week trial with lots of testimony," a relieved Dr. Myers said Saturday.
Former SUNY Cobleskill Dean Thomas Hickey brought the suit, charging that the college admitted students who were unprepared for college work in order to meet its budget.
The suit also contended the college had "a racially hostile environment."
Dr. Hickey was removed as dean before the suit was filed in 2009.
In the trial, Dr. Hickey's attorneys painted SUNY Cobleskill as a school that admitted students who would fail. In 2007, lawyers claimed, 70 percent of the school's freshmen didn't make it to their sophomore year.
"That's not even close to being true," said Dr. Myers, now retired. "If that was the case, we couldn't even begin to operate."
She said the college has improved its retention rate by 10 percent over the past two years.
And despite Dr. Hickey's claims, the college had no discriminatory policies, especially against African-Americans, Dr. Myers said.
"Frankly, it was the most color-blind place I've ever seen," she said.
Pointing to student fulfillment, Dr. Myers said SUNY Cobleskill is ranked fourth among more than 50 SUNY and community colleges in student satisfaction with advisement.
"We do what we can to help students," Dr. Myers said.