The battle to keep SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse part of the State University system moved to a new arena today: a courtroom.
United University Professions, the union representing SUNY faculty - including medical and teaching staff at Upstate - filed suit in state Supreme Court in Albany against the Berger Commission, the governor and other New York state officials.
The lawsuit alleges the Berger Commission recommendation to join Upstate and Crouse Hospital and put it under the control of "an entity other than SUNY" is unconstitutional, irrational and illegal because it usurps a decision-making role that by law belongs to elected officials. In its lawsuit and media campaign, the union also makes the case that removing Upstate from SUNY governance jeopardizes its vital public health, teaching and research mission.
"We are filing suit to protect the rights of our members and the health of the patients they serve, but at the same time we will continue to look for ways to work cooperatively with the state to resolve this issue," said UUP President William E. Scheuerman.
"Time limits in the court system require this step to keep all options open, but our hope is that this will be a negotiated solution and not a legal one," said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, UUP's statewide affiliate. NYSUT attorneys are handling the lawsuit for UUP.
UUP maintains the Berger Commission did not have authority to recommend privatization or a change in governance of any SUNY entity, and that the Commission failed to explain why it suggested changing SUNY's role or how it should be changed, as was required in the law that created the commission.
"It was not up to the Berger Commission to make a public policy decision about a public institution," Scheuerman added. "Only the state Legislature has the authority to make a policy decision to take a public entity out of public control, and there is no rationale for making such a decision for Upstate Medical University."
UUP represents 32,000 academic and professional faculty throughout the SUNY system, including 2,200 employees at Upstate Medical University.
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