Honors College, Governors Island, High Schools

July 1, 2002 | CUNY Matters Columns

Sam Roberts of the New York Times interviewed Chancellor Goldstein on May 23 on the NY1 television show “New York Close Up.” Following are excerpts from the program.

SR: It is commencement season and the University’s students, faculty and administrators seem to have a lot to be proud about.

MG: We’ve had a very good year. The launching of our Honors College was particularly exciting. That very motivated students are turning down very prestigious institutions like Cornell, Penn, and Colum-bia and coming to CUNY is testimony, I think, to the turnaround at the University in the minds of so many New Yorkers.

SR: You have rather gingerly avoided jeopardizing the egalitarian status of CUNY by creating an Honors College but not making it necessarily elitist. What is the next step?

MG: There is absolutely no reason we cannot offer an array of academic programs–to students who are poorly prepared and not given the right opportunities in lower grades and in high school, as well as to students well prepared for the most rigorous college experience.

We started the Honors College at five campuses–Baruch, Brooklyn, City College, Hunter, and Queens–and we’ve just expanded it to Lehman and the College of Staten Island. We expect to reach a level of 1,200 to 1,400 students at any one time.

SR: What does money from the state legislature, from the Governor allow you to do now that you may not have been able to do before?

MG: You know, the irony of the last ten years is that in the 1990s a lot of liquidity and a lot of wealth was created but not very much money was invested in the University during that time. But I think we now have the confidence of our elected officials today.

Governor Pataki has been very gracious in his support, and Mayor Bloomberg has publicly acclaimed what is happening at the University. This year the Governor went out of his way to help us integrate our capital budget and operating budget.

SR: Suddenly you found that you were inheriting Governors Island. What are you going to do with it?

MG: I am swimming with ideas. We are now working with the Mayor and the Governor to craft a preliminary plan for the General Services Administration. There obviously are many players that want to participate. I have said right from the beginning that it was important for CUNY to reach out to partners–private universities and SUNY, for example.

One idea that interests me would be a consortial effort focusing on science that might produce a concentration of research and commerce centers such as the ones in Raleigh-Durham, Silicon Valley, or Route 128 in Massachusetts. CUNY could become the anchor of an intellectual capital that could attract businesses to lower Manhattan.

Another idea was establishing distinguished programs in teacher education. We produce now, 4,000 teachers a year. Too many of them don’t stay in New York. I would like to create opportunities on Governors Island to do what we cannot do now on the CUNY campuses that produce teachers now.

SR: What about the talk of Governors Island freeing space on CUNY campuses for high schools?

MG: We don’t need an island for that! In September we will open three new campus high schools–at York College in Queens, Lehman College in the Bronx and CCNY in upper Manhattan. The concept of students by their junior year and senior year taking classes with our professors, working in our computer laboratories, using our science laboratories, and libraries I just think is wonderful.

These high schools are going to be small–probably a maximum of about 500 students when they are fully operational. Each one is going to have a theme. The theme at City College is going to be math, science and technology; at Lehman College it’s about American studies; and at York College on the life sciences.

SR: You have also talked of expanding College Now…

MG: There are 213 public high schools in the five boroughs; we are in 200 of those high schools with College Now. About 30,000 students now participate as early as the ninth grade; we would like to expand this early-intervention program. Our message to them is that the world today is a very different place than it was when my generation was in high school. You could graduate high school in the 1950s and get a reasonable job. Today that no longer is an option.