CUNY professors angry over handling of financial crisis

The City University of New York professors are furious with the public university system’s handling of its financial crisis — and warning that the “micromanaging” hiring procedures will cost it top talent.

The university announced a hiring freeze and budget cuts last month to help shore up a deficit fueled by enrollment declines.

It convened a central vacancy review board to examine exceptions to the freeze.

“What we find unacceptable is the manner in which the CUNY Central Administration is carrying out economizing measures,” said a letter sent this week to CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez and signed by 110 department chairs and others. “Instead of planning in time for fiscal exigencies that were visible for months if not years, CUNY is imposing cuts immediately.”

The cuts were announced months after some CUNY administrators received fat raises.

“It is heartbreaking and demoralizing to have this top-down clamp put on the whole process for no good reason. Can’t we build CUNY up, instead of throttling it with financial cuts and bureaucracy?” said Talia Schaffer, the co-executive officer of English at the Graduate Center

Queens College and Graduate Center English professor Talia Schaffer says CUNY’s top-down approach is “demoralizing.”

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CUNY enrollment has declined because of the pandemic.
Christopher Sadowski

Larissa Swedell, chair of the Queens College anthropology department, said the review board was slowing the hiring process for candidates and that “with each day that goes by, we lose high-quality candidates to other institutions.”

Michael Newman, chair of linguistics and communications disorders at Queens College, said if the university couldn’t hire professors, class size could grow or sections may be cut.

“Our colleges and central offices are in the process of looking for cost-saving measures without cutting student services or compromising our academic offerings. It is not unusual in processes like this to encounter questions and concerns from faculty and students … This academic year, our class sizes dropped while our ranks of full-time faculty rose and we plan to continue on this trajectory in spite of budget challenges,” a CUNY spokesman said.