Notes from the President
Updates on our state budget and how you can help with advocacy; staffing and operations; progress on a food pantry and food services; and campus initiatives and events.
Dear Graduate Center community,
Today I write to provide updates on our state budget and how you can help with advocacy; staffing and operations; progress on a food pantry and food services; and campus initiatives and events.
Budget and advocacy
As was shared in my last message, the CUNY central office directed the Graduate Center to develop a budget for fiscal year 2024 (FY24) that could achieve 5.5% savings in the state-funded portion of our budget. We were advised the savings could result from increased revenues and/or cost-cutting measures, but that they would have to be sustainable over future years, and not be one-time measures.
Grounded by our shared commitment to protecting the academic core and through guidance from the campus budget committee, the provost’s office, and senior staff with budget responsibility, we were able to meet the $5.074M savings target for the Graduate Center. Here are some of the key components of the plan we submitted on our deadline, March 23.
- The Graduate Center’s highest priority, student funding, was protected. There were no reductions in student funding, part-time employee hours or positions (college assistants), or in adjunct positions at the Graduate Center. Support for student affairs will also be sustained at current levels.
- Increased revenues are projected for external rentals, adult continuing education, indirect costs, and other opportunities.
- Savings are projected through a small reduction of in-course units and dissertation supervisions by consortium faculty (the latter a consequence of slightly lower doctoral enrollments) and through personnel savings that will result from attrition and the system wide hiring freeze.
What’s next? Although the GC may be asked to answer questions or respond to feedback from the central office about our plan, the main focus now is on the FY24 budget deliberations in Albany. Many of the chancellor’s funding requests remain under consideration, including an additional $7M for doctoral student stipends. I encourage all who are eligible to vote in New York State to advocate with your elected representatives for this critical need.
After the state budget has been approved (April 1 or later), CUNY will receive its FY24 budget allocation and prepare the campus allocations (May-June). Campus department and unit-level allocations are typically made in August.
Staffing and operations
Hiring. On February 3, the central office instituted a hiring freeze and reestablished the Vacancy Review Board (VRB), which reviews personnel action requests across the system. VRB review is predicated on prior review and approval by the campus-level committee, which at the GC is the Personnel Action Review Committee (PARC). On March 23, the chancellor announced streamlined VRB guidelines. Under the new guidelines, if positions are budget-neutral or result in cost-savings, they will need to be approved by PARC, but will not need to be submitted to the central VRB. Hires that are new or result in a cost increase, and are not otherwise exempted, must be approved by PARC and submitted to the central VRB for review and approval.
The campus CFO, Senior Vice President Brian Peterson is required to ensure that each personnel action under consideration was included as part of our hiring plan, which rolled up into the financial and FY24 savings plans, before the action is considered by PARC, and by the VRB when required.
Positions on the Research Foundation payroll or other non-tax levy payrolls are exempt from the VRB process, and there will continue to be exemptions for specific categories of classified, instructional, and non-teaching instructional employees.
What this means for the GC is that ongoing and approved faculty and staff searches will continue apace. As new staff vacancies occur, requests to fill the vacancies will be reviewed as described above. Unfortunately, the VRB categorically will not approve merit or certain other types of pay increases.
Vice President of IT/Chief Information Officer Search. We are gratified to have received more than 160 applications for the chief information officer position. The search committee is finalizing the slate of candidates for first-round interviews, which will take place in April. The finalist interviews will take place in May and will include opportunities for community input.
Honoraria payments. All campuses are being challenged by the recent CUNY-wide changes in the process for paying honoraria. Updated guidelines were issued by the central office in mid-March. Our business office website has been updated accordingly and the information was shared with EOs, APOs, and center and institute directors. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Ron Paynter (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions regarding tax levy honoraria or Althea Harewood (email@example.com) for questions regarding non-tax levy honoraria. We are continuing to work with the central office to address concerns about the payment process through CUNYBuy.
Food pantry and food services
Food Pantry. I again want to thank the DGSC for our conversations this year about food insecurity and establishing a permanent food pantry at the GC. This semester, the People’s Pantry has heightened awareness of the need to secure a consistent supply of quality, nutritious food that will support community needs. We also recognize that the GC must comply with city health and safety regulations. We have therefore consulted with the Food Bank for NYC to assist the GC in setting up and supplying an on-site pantry that it is sustainable and safe. I want to thank Interim Associate Provost Monica Varsanyi, Vice President for Student Affairs Matt Schoengood, Director of Student Affairs Elise Perram, and Assistant Director of Student Affairs Eric Brown for their leadership and for engaging members of our community in this project.
Food services. The Graduate Center is partnering with John Jay College on a joint food services contract. We expect to issue a request for proposals by May 1, with the goal of restarting on-campus food services in Café 365 and the Dining Commons, as well as catering services, by fall 2023. A forthcoming message will say more about the campus consultation process and timeline.
Initiatives and events
The strategic planning process is underway. Provost Steve Everett has identified co-chairs for the four task forces that will focus on Institutional Identity, Student Success, Operational Quality, and Institutional Impact. Stay tuned for an update from the provost’s office on the composition of the working groups and the next steps.
I’m sure you share my excitement that the 2023 Dissertation Showcase will be held in-person for the first time since 2019. It will be open to the public, livestreamed, and accessible online after the event. Please save the date: May 17 at 6:30 p.m.
As part of the CUNY-wide Black, Race and Ethnic Studies Initiative (BRESI), on March 31, the GC will launch the BRES Collaboration Hub. The hub will serve as a mechanism for convening CUNY faculty and doctoral students interested in inter- and multidisciplinary education and research in BRES. The hub will also be an intellectual home to support the development and implementation of a multidisciplinary Ph.D. program in BRES. Please join me in thanking Professors Martin Ruck and Van Tran for leading this effort.
Finally and importantly, please look forward to announcements about several staff recognition events that will be held in-person this May. We truly appreciate the staff’s expertise, dedication, and sustained commitment to our students and academic mission, and welcome the opportunity to thank and recognize them as key members of the GC community.
Robin L. Garrell