What happens next?

?Many questions remain about Simpson's sudden retirement


Monday started as nonchalantly as the first day of classes possibly could. But some big and unexpected news was released around 3 p.m.: University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson announced his retirement, effective Jan. 15, 2011.

Do the freshmen who are still trying to find Cooke Hall really need more school-related uncertainty in their lives?

Simpson and colleagues should have timed this announcement better. Placing it on the first day of classes sent the wrong message to members of the UB community, especially newly arrived freshmen and transfer students. Simpson's ambitious UB 2020 plan attracted many here; now that he is leaving, that plan may be in serious jeopardy.

Questions are about all we have right now, because we haven't been provided with much of an answer from anyone about Simpson's retirement. The only thing we do have is the prepared statement Simpson read on Monday.

In the statement, Simpson explained that his main motive for retiring was to spend more time with his family on the West Coast. He also offered some additional reasoning, saying that he would be "less than forthright not to note that this difficult decision has been made somewhat easier by Albany's failure to give UB and SUNY the policy tools and state support needed to fully achieve this university's great potential."

It's true that the state legislature's recent decision not to include the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act in the state budget was a huge blow to the school's UB 2020 plan. Following the decision, Simpson speculated that as a result, even 2030 is optimistic for his plan's completion date.

So is Simpson giving up? Is he backing out and quitting on UB 2020 after all of his hard work? If the state had included the crucial bill, we don't think he'd be as eager to spend more time with his family.

After all, this doesn't sound like the same John Simpson who seemed so passionate about improving UB and the Buffalo-Niagara community in a speech not even a year ago. Attempting to rally support for UB 2020 and the then-proposed bill, he quoted Teddy Roosevelt, saying, "The credit belongs to the man who… at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."

Maybe there is something else to this. If there is, we want to know. At this point, though, it looks like one bill not passing at the state level was enough to derail Simpson's aspirations.

It's worth noting that most people who really do care about improving the city of Buffalo do not have the luxury of suddenly going off to live in sunny California.

Simpson will still serve as president for this semester. After that, Scott Nostaja will serve as interim president. What happens after that is anybody's guess. We just hope that after all this talk about 2020 and 2030, somebody actually figures out what is going on at UB in 2010.