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Viewpoints: 'What I’d Say to the Chancellor...’

Since he took office in June, CUNY Chancellor J.B. Milliken visited a number of CUNY campuses. Many PSC members would have liked to join a campus meeting with the chancellor, but often only a small group was invited or the announcement was not widely shared. And many members were out of town.

We asked PSC members what they’d like to tell the chancellor – and they have a lot to say! On this page we share selections from their comments; you can add your voice below.

Resist the temptations of elitism.

Remember that the original mission of the Free Academy was to provide higher education for “the children of the whole people.”
Respect the community colleges as CUNY’s only open-access institutions.

Recognize their importance by appointing a Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges.

– Joanne Reitano, professor of history, LaGuardia Community College

At CUNY, full-time faculty are overloaded with coursework, advising and service. Part-time faculty are underpaid and often have responsibility for large classes and advising. They need job security and the same benefits as full-time faculty. Yet more than half of all teaching at CUNY is by part-time faculty. This is the road towards assembly-line production: more poorly paid part-time teaching, less full-time faculty, more work for HEOs and more power to management. Our students are shortchanged when most faculty have insecure, underpaid positions; academic freedom also suffers when teachers are vulnerable.

After working for four years without a contract, we all need a raise. But our contract should also provide for more full-time faculty lines and convert part-time to full-time positions. We need to end precarious and contingent work, strengthen the role of faculty in governance, and end the rule of assembly-line experts over public education.

– Tom Angotti, professor of urban affairs and planning, Hunter College

As someone who supports a family on just one salary, I am most anxious to see our contract settled favorably. Food prices, rent, property taxes – all have gone up while my salary has decreased in terms of real dollars. Next year, my son goes to college, with tuition ever on the rise. Chancellor Milliken, we deserve a fair contract now.

– Kathleen Offenholley, associate professor of mathematics, BMCC

Baruch College has never made the list of “best party schools,” but our academic prestige has steadily increased, and national evaluators have given us high grades. They attribute this partly to our program being less vocational than many business-oriented colleges since we required that Baruch students, in addition to their major, also follow a rigorous general education curriculum in the arts & sciences. Unfortunately, that reputation and achievement is now threatened by Pathways, with its less demanding course of study, leaving Baruch with 12-15 fewer general education credits.

A major reason for our success has been our faculty’s commitment to providing a first-rate education to those traditionally excluded from higher education. Students say our work really changed their lives. What helped make this possible was the active role of faculty in developing the college, including its curriculum, through our departments and governance bodies, in collaboration with administration. When I started teaching at CUNY, I was impressed with how engaged the faculty was, and how little I saw of the alienation that prevailed at another public university where I had previously taught. Sadly, the imposition of Pathways and other policies from above is undermining this favorable state and leaving CUNY demoralized.

I urge you to follow in the footsteps of our well-regarded former chancellor, Joseph Murphy, and restore CUNY to its once fortunate condition.

– Jackie DiSalvo, professor emerita of English, Baruch College

When the CUNY Board of Trustees ended open admissions for the four-year colleges in the 1990s, faculty critics warned that doing so would reduce racial diversity. Today we see that the chickens have come home to roost. As a Community Service Society study has indicated, the number of incoming black and Latino students has vastly decreased in the so-called top tier colleges, such as Baruch, Queens, Hunter and CCNY, with the decline especially steep among African Americans.

The irony is that the academically qualified students who are now being eliminated from these colleges are the descendants of the student activists who brought about open admissions a half-century ago. Opportunity and not exclusivity is the proper model for a university founded on educating all of the people. Chancellor Milliken, therefore, should oppose the current admissions practices and work to being about a more just and equitable institution.

– Larry Rushing, professor emeritus of psychology, LaGuardia Community College

I hope that you will take the lead in restoring the professoriate to the dignity and respect it deserves by making strong strides toward providing adjunct faculty with the opportunity to earn the salaries, benefits, job security, and working conditions needed to provide CUNY students with the best possible learning experience.

This means a pay scale that does not force adjunct faculty to dash around from school to school in order to survive financially in New York City; recognition that people who have been teaching for a number of semesters or years at CUNY deserve not to suffer the anxiety of insecurity at the start of every new semester; access to office space and computers to maximize contact with students; and the opportunity, whenever possible, to join the ranks of the full-time faculty.

It’s a dire situation when the vast majority of college courses are taught by insecure, underpaid adjunct faculty, a situation that has only grown worse in the past 40 years. But as you have noted, people all over the country look to CUNY as a bellwether leading the way to the future. You are in an excellent position to turn this truly tragic situation around.

– Shirley Frank, adjunct assistant professor of English, York College

College Laboratory Technicians (CLTs) serve as the backbone of CUNY’s science and technology programs. CLTs provide lecture support in the form of set-ups of equipment and demonstrations and laboratory support for experiments and for research, and some of us play supervisory roles. We prepare students for careers in scientific and technical specialties. As CUNY continues to expand in its course offerings, programs, and research in the STEM fields, greater demands and responsibilities are placed on the CLT staff – often without any increase in compensation or additional hiring, and limited opportunities for advancement. What changes, if any, do you foresee in the CLT title series to meet these changing and increasing demands, consistent with CUNY’s mission and commitment to academic excellence?

– Amy Jeu, CLT, Department of Geography, Hunter College

I write in the hope that you will embrace the PSC as a true, and much needed, partner in all of CUNY’s endeavors. PSC members are dedicated to the mission of public education.

The first thing I want to stress is that we need a new contract. We have been without a contract since 2010. Salaries, workloads, adjunct equity, advancement for Higher Education Officers, health benefits, and other contract issues have a dramatic effect on the well-being of our membership and our families.

I also urge you to work with the PSC to do away with Pathways. The vast majority of our membership has rejected Pathways, and the PSC and University Faculty Senate are ready to work with you on an alternative transfer policy that will more directly address that issue. Pathways does not adequately address the transfer-credits issue, and this was never a reason to reduce the standards of our general education programs.

– George Emilio Sanchez, professor, chair of the Department of Performing & Creative Arts, College of Staten Island

In the 39 years I’ve been a part of CUNY (as undergraduate, graduate, and faculty member), authority and control have increasingly been centralized at the top of the system, in what used to be known as “80th Street.” This trend has, I believe, brought about two pressures deeply hostile to the mission of the University. The first is toward the effacement of the distinctive and autonomous cultures and “souls” of the colleges, which have become more and more mere “units” in a total system. This has also contributed to increasingly severe administrative bloat of these “units,” and of the University as a whole. These trends feed into faculty and staff demoralization, “bureaucratization creep,” and waste of energy and resources. I urge you to do whatever you can to reverse these trends and “bring the beast to heel.”

– John Pittman, associate professor of philosophy, John Jay College


What would you like to tell the chancellor?
If there's a concern that you think CUNY's new chancellor should address, let us know. Click "add new comment" below to post your thoughts.


For too many years, the skyrocketing costs of textbooks and journals have hindered teaching, learning, and research — and interfered with CUNY's mission to educate the public affordably. It's time for CUNY to say "no" to these unnecessary costs, to join the many universities rethinking how knowledge can be published and evaluated. It's time to embrace and promote open access alternatives to commercially published textbooks and outmoded systems of scholarly communication.

- Jill Cirasella, Associate Professor / Associate Librarian for Public Services and Scholarly Communication, The Graduate Center

As we begin our twentieth and fifteenth academic years respectively as faculty members in CUNY, we can attest to the fact that the CUNY Libraries are as relevant now as they have ever been, and our services, Information Literacy classes, and technology are being used more heavily every year. Today's CUNY graduates are entering increasingly complex information landscapes, most often in areas beyond the scope of their degrees. They must cope with a vast amount of information unimaginable to past generations. This is as true for the undergraduate entering the workforce or graduate school as it is for the newly minted PhD entering the academy or an "alt-academic" career. The CUNY Libraries have been at the forefront of the University's efforts to empower students with the information skills and habits of mind they need to distinguish signal from noise and make meaning out of mere data. If the Libraries are to build on their successful work and continue to meet this growing educational challenge, the University must invest in the Libraries -- its faculty, staff, and resources. Chancellor Goldstein invested heavily in the "Decade of Science," which was a good start and certainly brought much-needed resources to the CUNY Libraries in support of the sciences. Chancellor Milliken, won't you now invest heavily in the Decade of the Libraries?

    - John Drobnicki (Professor, York College)
    - Mariana Regalado (Associate Professor, Brooklyn College)

CUNY needs to consider an inspector general to investigate corruption and executive misdeeds.

I would tell the new Chancellor that CUNY has become far too centralized. Leaders, including administrators, staff, and faculty, are afraid to speak out against or oppose CUNY Central policies. At my campus we routinely point out to presidential candidates that they will have little autonomy, and ask why they would be willing to take a position with such circumscribed authority. This over-centralization curtails initiative and backbone, and has harmed morale. If the Chancellor wants a dynamic university, he needs to convince the campuses that they can and should act on their own.
Glenn Petersen, Professor of Anthropology, Baruch College

It is important for administrators at all levels to bear in mind that faculty are on annual leave during summer months. Quite often, CUNY divisions have very real needs for faculty participation during the summer, but compensation may not be offered, and faculty members may feel pressured, out of good will or out of fear, to volunteer their time. This amounts to exploitation, whether ill-intentioned or not.

Dear Chancellor Milliken:

I teach graduate students in Counselor Education/School Counseling at Lehman College. How can you help me/us get more funding for graduate assistantships for students in education seeking to become school counselors? Every year we admit great candidates but even though CUNY undergrads are often debt-free, that is so not the case for graduate students. While our program is nationally accredited and the least expensive of all in NYC, we are in the Bronx, and folks have little money for annually rising graduate tuition, let alone books and fees. On another note, having taught here for 17 years in Carmen Hall, the furniture has never changed. Is it possible that we might go to all executive-style seating so that we can get rid of those horribly hard individual desks and chairs? Our teaching methods have evolved over the last 17 years, but our bodies are still stuck in really outdated furniture in all but a handful of our classrooms. Last, as faculty and staff, we work hard, and we've gone 5 years now without a contract. That's way too long. But our costs haven't lessened....tolls, parking, gas, property taxes have all skyrocketed in that time and many of us have not had any raises. I love what I do but most of us (faculty, staff, and students) can barely afford living and working and studying in NYC metro. We ALL need a raise.