An April 27th letter to the editor [published in Anton Community Newspapers] authored by Philip H. Smith, president of the United University Professions, leads one to believe that Mr. Smith does not closely follow the topics or institutions about which he writes. In his letter, titled “Let the Sun Shine on SUNY Foundations,” Mr. Smith states that The Research Foundation for the State University of New York (“Research Foundation”) is “largely led by government officials”; that it feels “no…compulsion to share information with the public,” and that it is an organization that “cloak[s] [its] activities in secrecy.”
All three statements are easily refutable and simply untrue. The Research Foundation is not led by government officials. Most importantly it is an organization that over the past year has demonstrated, and has been recognized for, its pledge to accountability and transparency.
The Research Foundation, a nonprofit educational corporation, complies with the letter and spirit of New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). It produces many dozens of documents upon request under FOIL; posts information on its website; develops materials to explain its business, and regularly communicates with its many stakeholders, namely the public.
Underscoring its commitment to operate openly and transparently in the interest of the public trust was the Research Foundation’s resolution of its FOIL litigation with the Hearst Corporation in January 2012 and its acknowledgment that it was subject to FOIL due to its current charter and relationship with SUNY. Following the Research Foundation’s decision to resolve the matter, the editor of the Times Union, a Hearst publication, stated “We’re gratified by what seems to be a new spirit of openness at the foundation and hope this is reflected in the behavior of other entities controlled by the state.”
Like any entity subject to FOIL, the Research Foundation applies standard exceptions provided under the law. These exceptions exist to, among other things, protect individual privacy as well as proprietary information relating to intellectual property. They foster a climate that helps New York stay competitive by supporting entrepreneurial opportunity and economic development in this state.
Consistent with its compliance with FOIL, the Research Foundation openly reports its activities to the world. The Research Foundation website provides quick access to a comprehensive range of data and information on its administration of grants awarded to SUNY, key businesses indicators, financial and operating reports, ethics and compliance protocols and much more. A visit to the Research Foundation’s Facebook page is an easy way to learn about the latest extraordinary research achievements by SUNY faculty and students. A subscription to the Research Foundation’s widely distributed RF eNews Quarterly Report provides readers with a regular update on business involving the Research Foundation, its strategic plan and mission to serve SUNY. The RF eNews is distributed to audiences spanning government, business, industry, media and education. I invite Mr. Smith to subscribe. It’s free.
The 90-page study from 2010 that Mr. Smith refers to has been addressed by two task forces charged with reviewing the relationship between the Research Foundation and SUNY. A report detailing the recommendations of the task forces was released and has been posted on the Research Foundation website since November 2011. Much work has been done to pursue and implement the recommendations in the report.
There’s a lot to know and learn about the Research Foundation for the State University of New York. It’s out there for all to see. The sun is shining; you just need to look out the window. www.rfsuny.org.
Peter M. Taubkin
(The writer is the director of external relations and corporate communications for The Research Foundation for the State University of New York.)