Community Notice from President Kelly

My dear Friends,
Welcome back! I hope your summers have been pleasurable and productive. We’ve had a busy few months at the Graduate Center. The highlight has been the opening of our new apartment complex on 118th Street. The apartments are fully subscribed, and it’s been a treat to watch residents moving in over the last few weeks. In every way, the building has exceeded our high expectations; it’s a first-class facility with lots of amenities. Profound thanks are due to our Foundation Board, particularly Trustees John Streicker and Michael Hecht, to our great friend Barbara Slifka, whose generosity brought the project into being, and to CUNY Vice Chancellor Iris Weinshall, whose ingenuity made the site available for development. I also want to note the exemplary leadership of Sebastian Persico who directs our housing initiatives. He has been tireless, tough, and creative throughout the long march to this happy ending. We are fortunate to have him among us. A tip of the hat as well to Jack Williams who has overseen the licensing of apartments with great energy and vision.
The opening of the apartments brings to closure the ambitious agenda we established six years ago. We now have firmly in place 1700 five-year fellowship packages; tuition remission is offered during their first five years of study to doctoral students who teach or provide service at the CUNY colleges; low-cost health insurance is available to our students. Our central faculty ranks have been refreshed with the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of new colleagues. Our fund raising efforts have yielded 83 million dollars, and we are poised to do even better. The Graduate Center’s public profile has been sharply defined; our programming attracts a broad and enthusiastic audience from across the city.  One measure of our progress is last spring’s admission cycle. We attracted a record number of applications, admitted the smallest percentage of applicants in our history, and enjoyed our highest yield rate. These accomplishments are entirely collective, and we should take considerable pride in them.
The task that now confronts us is course charting. How do we imagine the next phase of the Graduate Center’s growth? As you know, Provost Robinson, with the active support of Provost Emerita Linda Edwards, has launched a strategic planning process. Representative committees met throughout the spring and have submitted recommendations. We are preparing a draft plan for broad discussion this fall. Our intent is to identify highly focused goals to direct our work. I look forward to your suggestions and count on your support.
Planning depends on funding, of course, and the other primary activity of the summer has involved our budget. I want to update you fully on where we stand. I’ll begin with the good news. As you will surely know, the Assembly and the Senate agreed on legislation that will prevent the state from reducing SUNY’s and CUNY’s operating budgets during the next five years. Only by declaring a “fiscal emergency” can that prohibition be lifted. Mandatory cost increases and inflation are not covered by this legislation, but make no mistake, this is a major victory for the university. CUNY now enjoys an unprecedented degree of budgetary certainty and can begin to develop effective mid and long-term management and investment strategies.
To my knowledge, no public university system in the nation currently enjoys this level of fiscal security. Further, the state legislature has approved a modest annual undergraduate tuition increase of $300 for each of the next five years, and critically, has decreed that these dollars will remain at the university. Across time, this new revenue will help CUNY recover from the cuts it has absorbed over the last four years. This outcome is a tribute to the leadership of both Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Goldstein. I note as well the tireless efforts of our colleagues at 80th Street. We are much in their debt.
Unfortunately, this good news must be set against the background of four years of dramatic reductions in our operating budget. As I have reported on several occasions, the Graduate Center experienced a permanent loss in tax-levy revenue of $6,377,600 from 2008-09 through 2010-11. The 2011-12 budget calls for an additional reduction of $2,606,600. We have implemented these cuts as painlessly as possible, relying primarily on administrative cost reductions, unfilled vacancies, and OTPS economies. But at this point, all of the low-hanging fruit has been picked. The measures we must now take to protect the vitality of our institution will pinch, but they will position us to take advantage of the next five years of financial stability. None of them, I hasten to note, will result in a reduction of student financial aid. All will be familiar to you; I previewed them in a wide range of settings during the spring semester.

Vacancies: For another year, except under rare and pressing circumstances, we will leave unfilled any position which becomes vacant.

OTPS: We will reduce OTPS spending by 10% across the board, with the exception of the library where that cut will be held to 5%.

Academic Affairs:

  • Program course units will be reduced by 5 to 10%.
  • Faculty travel and research funds, tithe expenditures, and chair funding will be reduced by 10%.
  • Significant reductions will be made in tax-levy support for certificate programs, centers and institutes.
  • Summer salary stipends for Executive Officers will be reduced.
  • The review of Centers and Institutes will continue with an eye toward consolidating operations and reducing administrative costs.


  • Nighttime custodial staff will be reduced, affecting the frequency with which offices are cleaned.
  • Overtime for facilities staff will be curtailed. Consequently, maintenance work will more frequently be performed during normal operating hours.
  • Use of U.S. postage and express mail services will be closely monitored, and in some cases, restricted.

Information Technology:

  • No new desktop or laptop computers or monitors will be procured.
  • Underutilized equipment will be eliminated or redeployed to areas of greater need.
  • No new desktop printers or fax machines will be procured nor will existing machines be repaired.
  • Home-based equipment will not be replaced, nor will requests for new home-based equipment be entertained.
  • The refresh life-span of PCs will be extended to five years.
  • Support for outdated media formats will be discontinued.
  • All existing software resources and new requests will be rigorously reviewed with an eye toward reducing redundancies and under-utilization.
  • The use of open source software will expand to replace proprietary products.
  • VPN access will be replaced by enhanced remote computing resources.
  • Fee-based Directory Assistance from GC telephones will be eliminated.
  • Use of analog telephone circuits will be curtailed.
  • Technical support will be provided for GC-funded hardware and software only.
  • Technology training will be limited to advanced topics.
  • GC IT services that overlap university resources will be curtailed.
  • Hardware, software or services procured through external funding sources must be compatible with the GC’s IT infrastructure.

Revenue Enhancement: Ultimately, our financial well-being depends upon our ability to increase our revenue. To that end, we will continue to emphasize sponsored research and philanthropy. Critically, we will also seek to grow tuition revenue. That, as you know, is a complex matter. The revenue target set by the university is predicated on enrollment growth. Failing to meet that target yields a de facto budget cut. But growing doctoral enrollment beyond our capacity to place graduates in appropriate position is unacceptable. Hence, we will focus our attention on expanding master’s degree enrollment in existing and newly developed programs.

I believe that these measures will be sufficient to sustain us throughout the 2011–12 year. I recognize that they call for additional sacrifice, and I thank you for your patience and your support. Counterintuitive though it may be, better times seem to be approaching.
With warmest regards,
William P. Kelly

Submitted on: OCT 15, 2011

Category: President's Office - Archive