Overall Rating Platinum - expired
Overall Score 85.66
Liaison Mark Lichtenstein
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
PA-3: Inclusive and Participatory Governance

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.63 / 3.00 Justin Heavey
Sustainability Associate
Sustainability Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have formal participatory or shared governance bodies through which the following stakeholders can regularly participate in the governance of the institution?:
Yes or No
Students Yes
Academic staff Yes
Non-academic staff Yes

A brief description of the institution’s formal participatory or shared governance bodies:
In addition to the ESF Board of Trustees, which is described below, there are four other distinct sets of organizations at ESF where faculty, staff, and students can regularly participate in the governance of the College: 1) the ESF Academic Governance organization, 2) Academic Council, 3) two student governance organizations, and 4) five separate collective bargaining units.

1. ESF Academic Governance Organization

During the 2012-2014 timeframe, a deliberate and joint College administration/faculty initiative transitioned the then ESF Faculty Governance organization into the ESF Academic Governance (AG) organization. This purposeful change was driven by a collective interest to offer an equal voice and vote for students and professional staff in the formal, primary, participatory shared governance body at the College. The change gave staff and students equal standing to faculty within AG. ESF AG operates under a set of by-laws, and serves a variety of roles as defined by the SUNY Board of Trustees. Primarily, AG helps facilitate the initiation, development, and implementation of the College’s mission and educational program, and advises the College administration. The full body of AG (faculty, staff and student representatives) meets 8-10 times each year to discuss matters of college interest and conduct academic business, including the proposal, review, and consideration of appropriate College policies; and, the co-management of College administrative (academic) position searches. AG also has a series of committees focused on important issues such as curriculum, research, and technology.

2. Academic Council

Academic Council (AC) is led by the College Provost and includes representatives from the primary academic affairs’ administrative units at the College (e.g., Graduate School, Student Affairs), other administrative units (e.g., Communications and Marketing, Facilities), leadership from the Academic Governance organization (which represents faculty, staff, and students), and eight academic department chairs/directors. It meets approximately five times per year, and considers a multitude of issues relating to academic operations.

3. Student Governance

There are two separately incorporated student governance bodies at ESF: 1) the Undergraduate Student Association (USA), and 2) the Graduate Student Association (GSA). USA and GSA represent all the students at the College, and through extensive parliamentary procedures, routinely influence the governance and operation of the College. USA in particular has an extensive structure of committees and functional leads, which engage with College leaders to inform decision-making. Two examples are USA’s SustainabiliTEAM, and the USA student club, Green Campus Initiative, which both are members of, and inform the College’s Sustainability Division.

4. Collective Bargaining Units

There are four separate labor unions at the College, including unit that represent faculty and professional staff, civil service and non-professional staff, police, and the graduate students. These unions routinely engage with ESF leadership and influence governance at the College.

Total number of individuals on the institution’s highest governing body:

Number of students representing their peers as official members of the institution’s highest governing body:

Number of academic staff representing their peers as official members of the institution’s highest governing body:

Number of non-academic staff representing their peers as official members of the institution’s highest governing body:

Number of women serving as official members of the institution’s highest governing body:

Percentage of official members of the highest governing body that are women:

Website URL where information about the institution’s highest governing body may be found:
Does the institution host or support one or more formal bodies through which external stakeholders have a regular voice in institutional decisions that affect them?:

A brief description of the campus-community council or equivalent body that gives external stakeholders a regular voice in institutional decisions that affect them:
It is essential to understand how ESF defines “community” and how it characterizes external stakeholders. ESF is one of the largest academic institutions in the Country when it comes to land holdings. It has 25,000 acres of properties spanning multiple communities and municipalities. This includes a field station near the Canadian border in the St. Lawrence River; campuses, field stations, and properties within the vast Adirondack Park region of northern New York; the main campus in Syracuse; and, a field station and properties in a region south of Syracuse. In sum, there is no single "community" for the College to engage with; thus, for the purposes of this overall explanation, there are a few broad categories of communities and external stakeholders the College recognizes:

-The State of New York;
-Specific regions and areas of the State of New York where ESF facilities are hosted, including primarily the Central New York / Syracuse area, and its local neighborhoods, and the northern New York and Adirondack Mountain regions;
-A variety of community-based organizations;
-Industry sectors and interest groups that are important to ESF; and
-Economic development and job creation entities.

Because of this variety of external stakeholders, and the numerous communities hosting ESF facilities, the College does not have a stand-alone community engagement body; rather, it is purposeful in its intent to provide multiple and varied forums, venues, and avenues for community members and other external stakeholders to have a regular voice in institutional decisions that affect them. This includes:

1. The ESF Board of Trustees
2. Board of Trustees Committees and Task Forces
3. ESF College Foundation Board of Directors
4. Other Special Advisory Committees, Task Forces, and Working Groups
5. Targeted Leadership Engagements


1. ESF Board of Trustees

It is essential to point out that ESF is unique within the 64-campus SUNY System, in that it has a Board of Trustees as distinguished from the College Advisory Councils that exist at other SUNY campuses. This is partly in recognition of the unique nature of the College, and that it spans across a large swath of the state. The factors that make the ESF Board of Trustees significant, include:

-It is created by New York State law, whereas the Advisory Councils are not.
-It has broader powers than an Advisory Council.
-Other than its student voting member, which is chosen by the ESF student body, its members are chosen by the Governor of New York, and ratified by the New York Senate.

The present make-up of the Board brings expertise from a variety of regions, industry sectors, and interest groups, including:

-Adirondack region
-Central New York region
-Green and healthy buildings
-Environmental conservation
-Environmental risk and liability
-ESF students
-Forest products industry
-Local government
-Marginalized and underserved communities
-New York City area
-State agencies
-Syracuse University

In addition to the voting members, there are very important ex-officio members representing key communities and stakeholder groups that have membership on, or otherwise participate in this shared, participatory governance model:

-NYS Lt. Governor
-SUNY Chancellor
-NYS Education Secretary
-NYS Environmental Conservation Commissioner
-Syracuse University Chancellor
-ESF Academic Governance Executive Chair
-ESF Alumni Association
-ESF Administrative Staff

As depicted, this Board allows for input from a variety of community based and external stakeholder groups. It meets in public four times per year (not including meetings of its committees), the meetings are publicized and broadcast live via YouTube, and all meetings include an opportunity for public input. In addition, the Board has held targeted, multi-stakeholder forums. The Board is directly involved in institutional governance and decision-making.

2. Board of Trustees Committees and Task Forces

The ESF Board of Trustees has utilized a structure of committees and task forces to engage and involve a broader groups of stakeholders, and to address a variety of issues. This includes, but is not limited to:

-Certifications Task Force
-Finance Committee
-Governance Committee
-Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Committee
-Operations Committee
-Satellite Properties Committee
-Student Advising Task Force
-Student Internships and Career Services Task Force
-Sustainability Task Force
-Syracuse University Relationship Task Force

3. ESF College Foundation Board of Directors

The College has a separately incorporated ESF College Foundation, which is led by a Board of Directors that includes members from the region hosting the College. The Foundation manages a substantial portfolio of real-property assets across New York, and it directly supports the College mission. Input from these community members impacts important College decision-making. In addition to external stakeholders, ESF faculty and students have a voice in the activities of the Foundation.

4. Other Special Advisory Committees, Task Forces, and Working Groups

Recognizing the importance of collaborative, inclusive, and participative engagement and governance, College administrative leadership has formed many committees, task forces, and working groups, all of which have included both internal and external stakeholders. Some examples include:

-Board of Trustees Certifications Task Force
-Board of Trustees Student Advising Task Force
-Board of Trustees Student Internships and Career Services Task Force
-Board of Trustees Sustainability Task Force
-Board of Trustees Syracuse University Relationship Task Force
-Discovery Challenge Administrative Staff Structure Committee
-Discovery Challenge Steering Committee
-Discovery Challenge Ways & Means Committee
-First-year Experience Task Force
-Forest Properties Faculty Advisory Committee
-Strategic Planning Committees
-Strengthening our Community Task Force

5. Targeted Leadership Engagements

Members of the College leadership directly, routinely, and formally engage with local community based and stakeholder groups. A primary purpose is to create essential avenues for input into the activities of the College, particularly those activities that impact these communities and groups. This includes, but is not limited to:

-Routine dialogue and forums with elected leaders at the State level, as well as those representing the cities, villages, and towns hosting or adjacent to ESF facilities;
-Routine dialogue and forums with leaders from community groups and other nonprofit and member-based organizations across the State;
-Formal membership on Regional Economic Development Councils, and other economic development organizations;
-Partnerships and engagements with local neighborhood organizations representing marginalized groups; and
-Providing open access to College facilities and properties to local citizens and groups.

Number of people from underrepresented groups serving as official members of the institution’s highest governing body.:

Website URL where information about the institution’s governance structure is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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