On April 12, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein announced that he will step down this summer. As Clarion went to press, it was announced that Graduate Center President William Kelly will take over as interim chancellor on July 1.
Appointed in 1999, Goldstein became the longest-serving chancellor in CUNY’s history. He chose to resign now, he told The New York Times, because “I had an agenda that was in my mind when I first accepted the invitation to do the job, and we have succeeded beyond that agenda.”
“That agenda,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, “has included concentrating power in the office of the chancellor, overriding the faculty voice, and retooling the student population. There are important accomplishments of Goldstein’s tenure – such as the increase in full-time faculty and the avoidance of retrenchment even in an economic crisis. The union congratulates his administration on those successes. But the search for a future chancellor should include serious evaluation of Goldstein’s stratified, centralized, neo-liberal CUNY.”
Centralization and stratification of the CUNY system were both hallmarks of Goldstein’s chancellorship. He said CUNY had to be reshaped to become “an integrated university,” and spoke of the need “to tier the system.” With management tools such as the Performance Management Process, which sets goals for college presidents, or the new CUNYfirst computer system, Goldstein sought to concentrate information and decision-making in CUNY’s Central Administration. The centralizing trend was also seen in the creation of new schools largely designed by Central Administration, and sweeping policy shifts like the controversial Pathways Initiative.
Supporters saw this as progress, using the methods of the business world to bring order to “a disjointed academic jumble” beset by “chaotic management,” as Eleanor Randolph of The New York Times editorial board wrote recently.
Critics demurred. “I agree with the idea of a true integrated CUNY…but integration and centralization are not necessarily synonymous,” wrote Felipe Pimentel, associate professor of sociology at Hostos Community College early last year. “The Central Administration has been centralizing and taking ‘powers’ away from the local colleges and the faculty during the past 20 years,” said Pimentel, resulting in “decisions made at the top and implemented…without real effective participation of the faculty.”
In terms of stratification, the most dramatic change at CUNY during Goldstein’s tenure was the end of remedial classes in the senior colleges. The policy change was adopted in 1998, Goldstein was named chancellor in the summer of 1999, and the policy change was phased in over the next two years. New minimum SAT scores also changed who was admitted to the senior colleges, especially the five designated as the “top tier.” The new Macaulay Honors College, with its promise of free tuition and a laptop, got more middle-class students to apply to CUNY. By 2006, the chancellor could tell a Manhattan Institute audience that “we have tiered the system.”
In an article titled “At CUNY, Stricter Admissions Bring Ethnic Shift,” The New York Times reported in 2012 that “ethnic changes at CUNY’s top colleges confirm the predictions made during the battle over ending open admissions…. Proponents said the colleges would rise in status, while opponents said black and Hispanic enrollment would fall.”
“Goldstein’s tenure as chancellor has been an educational disaster for students of color,” argued Larry Rushing, professor emeritus of psychology at LaGuardia Community College. The policy shifts of the last decade and a half, he said, “have resulted in the exclusion of thousands of African-American and Latino students from the four-year colleges.”
In an “exit interview” on WNYC radio after his resignation was announced, the chancellor called The Times report “seriously flawed,” and said it had concentrated too much on the racial composition of each college’s freshman class. Transfers to the four-year colleges were more racially diverse, he said, and “if you look at the overall racial balance of the top four-year institutions, they look very different than the entering class.”
But while there is a difference, declines in the proportion of black and Latino students are usually evident in total enrollment as well. For example, total undergraduate enrollment at Baruch was 10.8% black and 14.9% Latino in Fall 2012, down from 18.7% for each group in Fall 2002. City College’s undergraduate student body was 21.4% black in Fall 2012, a drop of more than 15 percentage points from 36.7% ten years before. CCNY’s Latino enrollment increased three percentage points in the same period, rising to 33.8% from 30.7%.
Goldstein’s public resignation letter cited “the creation of new schools and colleges, including the William E. Macaulay Honors College, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Public Health, and the New Community College” as key successes. Some of the new institutions, like the School of Journalism, have been widely supported, while others, like SPS and the NCC, were often criticized for their lack of departmental structures through which faculty could have a democratic voice.
For a centralizing administration, one attraction of creating new institutions was the chance to work from a blank slate, making key decisions largely independent of faculty opinion. “The New Community College’s 120-page Concept Paper was developed without input from any elected faculty governance body, or from any other CUNY or even non-CUNY faculty,” said Lenore Beaky, former UFS vice chair and a current member of the AAUP’s Governance Committee. “Only later were invited faculty selected to implement the already-decided…policies.”
The sharpest conflict over faculty authority came with Goldstein’s recent Pathways Initiative, which has sought to impose CUNY-wide rules on general education and transfer despite sharp opposition from CUNY’s elected faculty bodies. As The Times reported this April, Pathways has been “met with defiance” from faculty, and in his “exit interview” on WNYC, Goldstein conceded that Pathways “has had a fair amount of faculty pushback.”
Even many of Goldstein’s critics gave him credit for working with the PSC and others to add 2,000 lines to the depleted ranks of CUNY’s full-time faculty. The dramatic expansion of enrollment in the same period, however, meant that the percentage of instruction from full-time faculty –and CUNY’s reliance on the exploitation of low-paid adjuncts – did not show a similar change.
With CUNY’s budget, Goldstein sought to limit cuts and gain some modest increases in public support. Today, CUNY’s revenue from state aid per full-time-equivalent student is about one-third lower than it was 20 years ago, but the chancellor never campaigned to reverse this drastic disinvestment, viewing such a call as politically unrealistic. Goldstein’s main initiative on the budget was to promote the “CUNY Compact,” a funding formula that calls for state support to match the mandatory costs of current operations, while relying on steady tuition hikes and private fundraising to pay for any new initiatives.
In the context of rising tuition, the terms of the chancellor’s departure are attracting attention. On April 21, the New York Post reported that “CUNY is planning a golden parachute for Chancellor Matthew Goldstein,” citing the Board of Trustees’ 2011 addition of the title chancellor emeritus to CUNY’s Executive Compensation Plan, with no limit on its salary. “We’ll craft a special package for Matt,” Board Chair Benno Schmidt told the Post. “I think he’s been underpaid as chancellor.” Goldstein’s current salary is $490,000 a year, with an additional $90,000 housing allowance. He has other income as well: as a member of the Board of Trustees of the J.P. Morgan Funds, he was paid $325,000 in 2011.
“Schmidt acknowledged that Goldstein’s post-retirement pay is likely to stir controversy among students and faculty members amid tuition hikes and budget cuts, but said private funds may subsidize the salary,” reported the Post.