September 2, 2015
Welcome back! To those returning to the Graduate Center, I hope the summer was restorative and productive. To our more than 600 incoming students, who come to us from 32 U.S. states and 50 countries, we could not be more pleased to call you our colleagues. It is a privilege to welcome you.
With budgetary issues at top of mind University-wide, I would like to provide an update on our finances. As I have mentioned in many meetings and specified in a July community notice, the 2015–2016 State enacted budget for CUNY did not include funding for $51 million of mandatory costs. What this means for the Graduate Center is a nearly $3.2 million reduction in our budget—or a 3% decrease. According to a careful analysis this summer, our operating budget deficit amounts to about $4 million due mainly to other unfunded costs.
This shortfall poses both short- and long-term challenges. In the short term, we must close the FY16 deficit; measures will include reducing expenditures, drawing upon a reserve fund of tax-levy money, and selectively allocating funds from available non-tax levy resources. Since a very high percentage of our costs are personnel-related, we will be forced to make cuts to our Other Than Personnel Services (OTPS) budget. Additional expenses, still undetermined, will need to be trimmed in as fair, rational, and wisely determined a manner as possible. The pace of our searches will slow considerably, and we will need to bear with vacant positions. Provost Louise Lennihan and Vice President Sebastian Persico will be writing you with specifics.
This is not the first time we have faced budgetary challenges, nor will it be the last. Doing more with less has become a veritable cliché in public higher education. For the longer term we must engineer financial models that will ensure continued growth, which is a task that I have set for our Strategic Planning Committee.
The sobering budgetary news should not dim our enthusiasm about the promise of the new year. From a Pulitzer Prize and Guggenheim Fellowship awarded to English Ph.D. Program students Gregory Pardlo and Joshua Mehigan, respectively, to the inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship presented to Distinguished Professor Leith Mullings (Anthropology) and the Max Planck Research Award to Presidential Professor Bryan Turner (Sociology), last spring’s accolades reflected the outstanding caliber of scholarship here at 365 Fifth.
Autumn brings renewed vitality to our community, which is reflected in the arrival of several new GC-based faculty: Associate Professor Jason Kandybowicz (Linguistics), Assistant Professor Sam Al Khatib (Linguistics), Distinguished Professor Paul Krugman (Economics), Professor Feisal Mohamed (English), and Presidential Professor Tony Ro (Psychology). All bring extraordinary credentials and expertise to the Graduate Center.
Administrative changes also signal a new season. Dr. Joshua Brumberg, currently the Acting Executive Officer of the Ph.D. Program in Psychology, assumes his new role as Interim Dean for the Sciences. Dr. Brumberg will be responsible for overseeing all of the science doctoral programs, including the health science programs.Last month Dr. Luke Waltzer joined the GC as the inaugural Director of our new Center for Teaching and Learning, which will offer training in emerging pedagogical practices and tools, including educational technology and digital practices. And as I wrote last Thursday, Interim Provost Louise Lennihan will be stepping down from her position at the end of the 2015–2016 academic year. I am especially indebted to Provost Lennihan for overseeing the strategic planning process, which will take the highest priority. An international search for our next Provost and Senior Vice President will soon begin, led by a search committee that will be supported in its outreach by a search firm, as described in last week’s message.
In addition to the academic and research-related activities underway, we can look forward to an impressive array of public events featuring Fareed Zakaria, Brenda Wineapple, and the GC’s Paul Krugman and Peter Beinart, among many others. Do visit our GC website for specific details in the days ahead.
Our 2015 Convocation, September 16, from Noon to 1 p.m., followed by a light lunch, presents the first occasion for the Graduate Center community to gather. The program will feature a performance by first-year student Nicolas Namoradze (Music), whose performances the New York Times has hailed as “sparkling.” I hope you will join me for a collective reflection on the GC’s role within—and for—the University, the City, the academy, and society.
Until then, best wishes for another productive and rewarding year.
Chase F. Robinson