Chancellor’s Report Regarding the Chancellor’s Forum on CUNY Master Plan

Dear Chairman Badillo:

I am pleased to report to you on the two Chancellor’s Fora that were conducted last week, on June 15th and 16th. As you know, these fora were intended to provide an opportunity for members of the University community and others who had not previously commented on the University’s Master Plan 2000-2004 to present views and observations. A total of fifty-five people signed up to speak; the vast majority supported the Master Plan or various parts thereof. As you know, forty speakers attended the Board’s public hearing on May 22nd. Thirty of these spoke in favor of the Master Plan. Video and audio tapes of the fora are available.

At the fora, speakers commented on the direction the University’s leadership has taken. They discussed the University’s concern to strengthen academic quality and the Plan’s references to the provision of a range of services for students of various levels and abilities. In particular, speakers praised the Plan’s blueprint for

  1. replenishing the ranks of full time faculty
  2. creating a flagship environment at CUNY
  3. establishing a CUNY-wide Honors College
  4. supporting improved Teacher Education and the professionalization of the teaching force
  5. expanding College Now
  6. enhancing student services
  7. developing a more coordinated effort to better serve students with disabilities
  8. increasing the number of certificate programs to better serve the workforce, and
  9. enhancing instructional technology.

I would like to note that the speakers included several Distinguished Professors, as well as department and program heads, deans, directors, and student leaders. It is particularly noteworthy that the University’s most distinguished faculty found reason for optimism some said for the first time in many years in the Master Plan’s program of academic renewal. Also noteworthy was the enthusiasm of those involved in the delivery of student services, and their interest in the University’s plans for enhancement in this area.

There were several observations that I believe should be given consideration as the University moves forward to implement the Master Plan over the next four years. I would like to draw these to your attention and request that they be communicated to the Board of Trustees.

  1. First, a number of speakers were concerned to underscore the role of faculty in developing curricula. As I responded at the fora, it is clearly the prerogative of the Board to establish policies relating to the University’s educational offerings. The Master Plan describes faculty involvement and responsibility in its sections on establishing core curricula throughout the University. As we balance these legitimate principles, we will continue to keep in mind our shared objective to assure that all CUNY graduates are fully prepared to realize their potential.
  2. Second, a concern was expressed by several speakers to stress the importance of the University’s goals for diversity in particular continuing to recruit a diverse faculty and professional staff to serve CUNY’s diverse student body. The Board’s commitment to diversity was made clear at its two Long Range Planning Committee meetings, but I feel it important to reaffirm that commitment as we move forward to achieve the Master Plan’s objectives.
  3. Third, a concern was expressed by a number of speakers to seek improved funding for the University. While the Master Plan cannot serve as a Budget Request, clearly CUNY’s requests to funding partners in the City and State over the next four years will have to reflect the needs its successful implementation entails. In related fashion, the University must, as one speaker noted, develop and maintain a physical plant that enables true academic quality to be attained.
  4. A number of speakers made suggestions for implementing some portions of the Master Plan, including scientific research and enhancement of instructional technology. My staff has taken note of these suggestions and we will ensure their consideration as those specific areas are addressed.

Some speakers expressed concern about access to the University. As I said in response to several speakers, CUNY has and will continue to provide access to all students with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Within a system comprising seventeen undergraduate colleges, there will be many entry points that take into account student preparation and opportunities for academic success. The need for ongoing consultation was raised by some, including former University officials who would have preferred a more formal involvement on their part in the process of the Plan’s formulation. Their views, and the views of others are always welcome. I note, however, that submissions to the Master Plan were provided by all colleges. These submissions emerged from long-range planning documents produced in full consultation with faculty and students. There were numerous meetings between my staff and faculty, provosts, and deans to help flesh out the Plan’s contours. Two Long Range Planning Committee meetings of the Board were held with the participation of the elected Chairmen of the University Faculty Senate and University Student Senate (who fully supported the Plan). There was a Public Hearing with forty speakers. And, at the Board meeting itself there was discussion and debate prior to the unanimous approval of the Plan.

Chairman Badillo, I believe that the University benefited from these two fora. The Master Plan is, in the end, a living document that will be shaped through thoughtful analysis and deliberation by the University’s many constituencies. As we pursue the important goals of the Master Plan, I intend to continue listening to and talking with members and friends of the University community who are working to help CUNY realize its extraordinary potential.

Matthew Goldstein