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Campus News

President Hitchcock on Leave; Provost Santiago Named Officer in Charge

by Greta Petry

On Friday, Jan. 30, University at Albany President Karen R. Hitchcock and State University of New York Chancellor Robert King released a joint statement noting that, effective immediately, Hitchcock was going on leave due to “an ongoing illness in her immediate family.”

King appointed UAlbany Provost Carlos Santiago to serve as officer in charge in Hitchcock’s absence. Hitchcock had previously announced in October that she was resigning in June 2004, at the end of the current academic year.

In a memo thanking UAlbany faculty and staff for their dedication and service, Hitchcock said, “While our families are always our first consideration, my love and respect for all of you have made this a truly wrenching decision.”

She also said that she is “deeply proud of all we have accomplished together; and, that I know you will give Provost Carlos Santiago – now Officer in Charge – your full support as UAlbany continues to move forward under his leadership.”

Santiago addressed the campus community briefly on February 2 in the Campus Center Ballroom, saying he will serve in the title of officer in charge until a decision is made to appoint an interim UAlbany president.

“I anticipate that such a decision will be made in the next several weeks,” he said, in his remarks.

Santiago, who joined the UAlbany faculty in 1988, noted that as provost, he served as the chief executive of the University when the president was traveling or on vacation. “The phrase ‘officer in charge’ is used when this arrangement is not a short-term, temporary one for a day or two, but will last for a somewhat longer period of time,” he said.

“It has been a great privilege and an honor to work and learn for the last 16 years at the University at Albany,” Santiago continued. “I now feel duty bound to help out at this critical juncture in the institution’s history. I join you in expressing our support for President Hitchcock and wishing her and her family all the best in these difficult times and our thoughts and hopes are with them. I also want to thank Chancellor Robert King for his immediate response and for the supportive position he took in light of President Hitchcock’s unanticipated request.”

Santiago served the University as faculty member, department chair, Senate chair, associate provost, and dean of Graduate Studies before becoming provost and vice president for Academic Affairs in April 2001. “I know this institution well and I am proud to say that I know virtually all of the faculty and staff in this room,” he said.

Santiago said it is “particularly important for all of us — faculty, administration, staff, and students — to continue to work closely together to ensure that the institution not lose the momentum that has developed under President Hitchcock’s leadership and that of the academic deans. The senior administration of this campus — vice presidents, deans, and their staffs — looks forward to continuing our close association with faculty leadership and governance as well as student leadership, parents, alumni and friends, and our union partners. Like other SUNY institutions, we count on continued support from the SUNY System Administration and its Trustees, our University Council, and the executive and legislative branches of New York State government to help us fulfill our mission on behalf of the citizens of this State.”

Santiago said that while public higher education faces difficulties across the nation, “the faculty, in particular, through their scholarship, teaching, and service, must continue to lead the way in confronting our challenges and seeking outcomes that bring greater excellence in all that we do.”

He said, “The job of the senior administration on this campus is to provide direction, options, and opportunities. Nonetheless, this is a time of change and while change brings with it uneasiness and conceivably a sense of instability, change also provides an opportunity to markedly advance our institutional goals. I can assure you that our institution will stand by its commitments and I will do everything in my power to assure continuity in the weeks ahead.”

Santiago concluded, “Together, we can sustain the momentum. Together, we can help our University Council, the Chancellor of the State University of New York and the SUNY Trustees attract the best possible leadership to lead this institution through the next exciting phase of its evolution.”