2-14-13 Letter from President Kelly

Dear Friends,

A recent story in the online journal Inside Higher Education describing new initiatives at the Graduate Center has generated some misunderstanding. I write to provide a more complete sense of the interview upon which the article was based.

  • I was quoted as repudiating the “roach motel” model of graduate education in which students “check in and don’t check out.” I regret the use of a decades-old cliché, but I reaffirm my rejection of that paradigm. Doctoral institutions have a moral obligation to attend to the progress of their students. Providing a clear course to degree completion is our responsibility, one that must be discharged with attention and care. 
  • I said that programs should align their curriculum, exam structure, and dissertation protocol in the interest of student progress. When asked how that might happen, I replied that both incentives and injunctions (“carrots and sticks”) could be deployed to encourage programs to reexamine current practice.
  • I noted that a one-sized approach to degree completion was unlikely to succeed. The Graduate Center’s long-standing limit on time-to-degree is eight years. That duration may be appropriate for some disciplines and for some students, but for others, a shorter time-to-degree is achievable.
  • I described the Graduate Center’s intention to reduce the size of its incoming Ph.D. cohorts. I also explained that we were increasing master’s degree enrollment. The Graduate Center will remain primarily a doctoral institution, but in the interests of maximizing access and retaining a broad curriculum, we will grow master’s enrollment.
  • I spoke at length about the crucial role diversity can and must play in our programs. Time and again Executive Officers have told me that their efforts to recruit more diverse cohorts have run afoul of inadequate fellowship support. Now that our packages are more competitive, I expect programs to enjoy greater success in those efforts.
  • I said that the new fellowships are more robust than those currently in place. I further noted that existing fellowships are more generous than those they replaced, and those better than their predecessors. The regression continues to the days in which the Graduate Center offered no fellowship packages, no tuition remission, and no health insurance. I am attentive to the disparities that result from that process, and we are working diligently to reduce them wherever possible.
  • Finally, the article maintained that one of the objectives of the new packages was to recruit “better” students. In truth, the point of the new packages is to “better support” our students. That has been my goal in all of the years that I have served this remarkable institution. It remains so today.

With all best wishes,

William P. Kelly

Submitted on: FEB 15, 2013

Category: President's Office - Archive