A Message from the President: Taking Stock After 100 Days

Office of the President

Dear colleagues,

Today marks the end of my first 100 days as your president. This week has been particularly eventful. Our country has elected its next president, although we cannot yet move forward with certainty, and a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is within reach. This seems like the right time both to take stock of where we are and to look ahead.

I want to thank you for welcoming me so warmly to The Graduate Center, and for the thoughtful and thorough conversations I have had with many of you over the past several months. My meetings with executive officers, the Doctoral and Graduate Student Council leaders, and many other individuals and groups within and outside The Graduate Center, including 23 of the other CUNY presidents, have been illuminating and inspiring. Despite the relentless pandemic and budgetary challenges, we are embracing the future with both optimism and well-founded confidence that we can sustain and advance our mission.

My appreciation goes to the many faculty and staff who helped steer us through two significant achievements: the success of our Middle States reaccreditation visit and the development and implementation of our reactivation plan. And with your input, we are continuing to refine our reactivation plan. I can report that the Advanced Science Research Center is in Phase 3 and has been approved for up to 50% occupancy, while The Graduate Center building is poised to enter Phase 2, which enables up to 15% occupancy.

Ensuring that students throughout CUNY are able to continue to make progress towards their degrees is fundamental. To support this effort, we have been awarded an impressive $300,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation to further enhance distance education. Our fundraising efforts are focusing on emergency grants to address students’ immediate needs and on a Research Continuity fund that will address barriers students are facing in sustaining research progress while their access to archives, laboratories, and human subjects remains limited.

Supporting the ability of faculty, staff, and administrators to do their jobs as effectively as possible is also a high priority. Thank you to everyone — more than 400 of you — who completed the Working Remotely Staff Survey in July. I appreciate what you have said about the resources you need for success and we are working on addressing those needs.

The pandemic has changed our lives, our classes, our communications, and definitely our budgets. Regrettably, it is unlikely that Congress will pass a stimulus package before the end of the year, and the prospects for both New York State and the CUNY system are highly dependent on whether and when federal resources become available. The continued absence of a budget for the current fiscal year, reduced allocations from CUNY Central, and the likelihood that the economy will remain depressed for some time have led The Graduate Center to curtail spending and identify strategies for addressing anticipated shortfalls. I recently initiated a Budget Toolbox Project that is designed to gather, assess, and implement ideas in three areas: achieving cost savings, efficiencies, and organizational synergies; aligning academic programs with institutional priorities; and increasing and diversifying revenues. You’ll hear more about this project soon.

We remain committed to advancing diversity and inclusive excellence as both central to our mission and as a strategic priority. Professor Martin Ruck has convened several working groups that have developed informational resources, guidelines, and action recommendations in areas such as advancing transparency, supporting continuity, and creating inclusive processes for decision-making. Their work will be shared in the coming weeks.

The approach of our 60th anniversary next year is a perfect time to reflect on why The Graduate Center was created and how far we have come. The consortium structure was Mina Rees’ great contribution to our success, harnessing and building on connections between The Graduate Center and the many CUNY colleges. Today, our doctoral students teach more than 150,000 undergraduates throughout the most diverse public higher education system in the country. Our faculty bring depth of scholarship across CUNY, spanning all fields of endeavor. Our interdisciplinary doctoral and master’s programs brilliantly prepare our graduates for diverse careers within and beyond academia.

Let’s use this challenging time to consider the strengths of the consortium and how it can continue to evolve. Our historic commitments to diversity, inclusion, and excellence in research, scholarship, and innovation are unwavering. I look forward to working with you to ensure we remain at the forefront of graduate education: a destination for outstanding faculty and students who will be prepared to lead the city, state, and nation in the years to come.

With best wishes,

Robin L. Garrell

Submitted on: NOV 11, 2020

Category: GCstories | General GC News | President's Office - Community Message