SUNY Upstate’s $122 Million Boondoggle (Part III)


I had not expected there to be any Part III to this boondoggle but I was wrong.

Having discovered that the NYS Office of the Inspector General was letting the State University of New York investigate itself, and that the SUNY auditor was letting Upstate Medical Center investigate itself, I filed a complaint with Governor Cuomo and in return got a letter that said, in part,

“Thank you for . . . bringing your concerns to my attention . . . we need the participation of citizens like you to spotlight problems and areas in need of improvement.  Your input is invaluable to our mission to create a government that works for its people, and I appreciate you taking the time to write to me.

“. . . Your letter has been reviewed and directed to the appropriate members of my Administration.   Please be assured that they will follow up . . .”

It was signed by Andrew M. Cuomo—or a reasonable facsimile thereof—and printed on recycled paper.  What this means is that my complaint will be forwarded to somebody somewhere with a cover letter that says, in some words or others, “From your boss:  Fix it!”

People respond differently when a complaint comes down from the boss at the top than when it comes up from the citizen at the bottom.  I once tried to get legitimate information from a government lawyer—I think he was in HUD, which was supposed to be doing something about something—and he gave me such a bad mouth!  He was arrogant, rude, addressed me with distain and contempt, and wouldn’t give me the information to which I had a right.  After hanging up with him, I immediately called his boss and filed a complaint against him.  (They never see that coming, and it is such a hoot!)  A couple minutes later the lawyer called me back, all dutiful and cooperative.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are not getting cooperation from your government employee, go to the employee’s boss!  I really cannot fathom why people don’t do this on a regular and repeated basis.  If you are right, then go over the head of the person who says you are wrong.  Works for me every time.  Climb the ladder because the higher up you go, the smarter will be the person with whom you speak.  Go as high as you need to in order to find the person who is smart enough to understand that you’re right.  And keep in mind that everybody below the boss is going to catch hell for not having dealt correctly with the problem before it landed on the boss’s desk.

So, speaking of what’s right, let’s go back to what’s wrong:  SUNY auditor Michael Abbot had sent Nancy Quay to check out SUNY Upstate Medical Center’s Institute for Human Performance, guided by SUNY Upstate Medical Center’s attorney.  Afterwards, Quay called me—several times—but I couldn’t tell she was calling me because Caller ID dropped a digit from her phone number so I got a nonsensical 51-832-0457 instead of the useful 518-320-1457.

This week I was home when Quay called (when your glucose is double or triple what it’s supposed to be then you tend to be home a lot).  She told me that she’d been doing this job for thirty years, which, in itself, is a danger sign.  She is the system, boys and girls.  She’s what we’ve got to deal with.  Quay went on to argue that what SUNY Upstate is doing is just the way academe operates, implying that I’m too stupid to know that.  I was on my best terrifically good behavior and did not say “Bullshit!”  I grew up on a college campus and have spent a lot of the past forty years studying, working or visiting Syracuse University.  The wasted Institute at SUNY Upstate is not the way academe works—unless the academe in question is sucking off the public teat and is not being held accountable.  Quay has spent thirty years approving the status quo.

So we talked.  We talked about the Institute for Human Performance and she basically justified everything she’d seen there, pointing out that she works for SUNY.  Yeah, I noticed.  Excuse me, but what kind of idiot thinks SUNY should be auditing itself?

Quay asked me what made me think the Institute was bought and paid for with taxpayer’s money.  Instead of saying, “Because it’s part of SUNY, which is bought and paid for by taxpayer’s money, you idiot,” I said, “Well, why don’t you check and see if it was built with foundation money or a grant or whatever”—keeping in mind that the Upstate vice president told me it was built for a grant they didn’t get.  So who does Quay think paid for the Institute—the Easter bunny?

Regarding the hundred exercise machines sitting un-used, Quay said that they needed them because they’re different.  No they aren’t.  There are not one hundred uniquely different machines in that gym.  There are—maybe—ten or fifteen different kinds, with eight or ten copies of each machine.  Keep in mind that there never are two people working on the same kind of machine at the same time.  My recommendation was that they should withdraw from the gym, put one type of each machine in an appropriately sized room, and continue to do what they claim to be doing.  No, said Quay, stanchly defending the status quo.

Quay said that the Institute is occupied “at capacity.”  Having the space assigned is not the same thing as having the space used, and in regard to the three-story gym and the four-story atrium, and my complaint that they have walled-in empty space in the most crowded section of the city, Quay said it would cost too much to rehab that empty space.  So building a $72 million addition is cheaper?  Anybody want to go postal with me?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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