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Notes from Emergency Budget Meeting on 1-27-20

In response to Interim President Muyksen’s January 9th email about budget freezes and cuts at the Graduate Center, the PSC chapter called an emergency meeting on the first day of the semester. The Skylight room was packed, and President Muyskens attended the second half to answer questions. Below is a summary of the meeting and some proposed ideas for moving forward, drafted by Penny Lewis.

The first and ongoing discussion of the meeting concerned budget transparency—while the administration held conversations with various constituencies last semester, none appear to have been directly consulted or informed about the decisions reflected in the January 9th letter. Some ideas about transparent communication that came out of the meeting included sharing exact details about the budget shortfall, sharing budget documents and the economic logics to decisions about where cuts are proposed, consulting regularly and ahead of time with relevant governance and union bodies about proposed changes to the budget, having the heads of finance meet with school leaders who understand more directly how the proposed budget shrinkages will affect the running of the school. The GC community could also be more directly informed about the status of some of the traditional sources of revenue, including MA programs, CUTRA, and research grants, and how/whether disappointed expectations about or changes to those sources of money are affecting the shortfalls the GC sees today. Finally, while we are heartened to hear of the reduction of ECP staff, the administration at the GC continues to appear large to us, and transparency about the size, scope and responsibilities of the overall ECP staff is critical for the broader GC community to appreciate why and whether proposed cuts (elsewhere) are legitimate.

Additionally, there are longer-term and structural conditions faced by the GC that we think should be considered in light of the GC’s perennial budget problems. The reimbursement arrangements for consortial faculty, the support that the GC extends to numerous CUNY-wide programs, the support the GC provides to University Center schools – how is the GC’s budget negatively impacted by these CUNY-wide practices, and does CUNY central administration adequately or fairly compensate the GC for its unique role and structure?

Our members are concerned that contingent staff, such as College Assistants and NTA’s, not bear the burden of hiring “pauses” or freezes. We have already heard about the non-replacement of a research librarian, and are concerned that other essential positions will go unfilled. Rather than figuring out how to survive with fewer people in the building, we think our position should be to do all that’s necessary to increase funding to maintain and, as needed, increase essential staff, faculty and student support. 

To that end, we believe that the GC administration can, and should, engage a robust, coordinated with CUNY but also independent, campaign for greater funding within CUNY and in Albany. The GC is a unique institution that makes singular contributions to the system as a whole, to the city, and to the profession. Much of the central lobbying around issues such as tuition reimbursement, or the “TAP gap,” for instance, are irrelevant to the GC, and in fact all funding ratios connected to FTE’s are irrelevant to the GC. We are made invisible in our uniqueness, and it would not, we believe, sabotage the efforts of the system as a whole to draw particular and special focus to our institution through pressure at CUNY central, in public campaigns or in lobbying. As a start, President Muyskens committed to meeting, along with members of the PSC-CUNY Graduate Center community, with state senator Brad Hoylman, whose district encompasses our campus.

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