Report from Albany: Chancellor at the Legislature

High-Quality, Full-Time Faculty a Priority

Retaining and recruiting high-quality, full-time faculty to keep pace with record enrollments and maintain the University’s competitive advantage is a top priority, Chancellor James B. Milliken told the New York State Legislature as he made his first swath of budget-related appearances in Albany.

Chancellor James B. Milliken with 2015 CUNY Educational Leadership Award winners Arva Rice (right) and David Banks (left).

Chancellor James B. Milliken with 2015 CUNY Educational Leadership Award winners Arva Rice (right) and David Banks (left).

At the Joint Budget Hearing on Higher Education of the State Senate Finance Committee and the State Assembly Finance Committee, Chancellor Milliken called for state support to help provide a new and fair collective bargaining contract for faculty and staff citing the University’s importance to the state and city. He emphasized the case for increased state investment in critical programs such as expansion of online programs, digitalization of libraries, and critical maintenance of aging classrooms and buildings.

Returning to Albany in mid February four days later on Feb. 14 for the New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian Legislators weekend conference, Chancellor Milliken stressed CUNY’s historic commitment to educational opportunity at the CUNY Educational Leadership Award luncheon, which this year honored New York Urban League President Arva Rice and Eagle Academy Foundation President and CEO David Banks.

The luncheon was attended by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, a Baruch College MBA, who had only days prior been appointed to the powerful post.

“I’m a proud product of public education,” Heastie noted as he outlined his higher education-rich Assembly agenda, which includes passage of the state Dream Act, providing state tuition aid to undocumented students; funding for CUNY’s successful and expanding ASAP program to improve community college graduation rates; and for the CUNY Leads academic program for students with disabilities.

“I want all of you to know — particularly the students — where our hearts are: It is really the utmost important thing for us to provide a foundation for you to have a quality education,” he said.

Other luncheon speakers at the CUNY program included State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Public Advocate Tish James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Conference Chair and Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Aubry.

In speeches, interviews and testimony in February, Chancellor Milliken repeatedly touched upon the value of CUNY’s faculty to the University and the critical importance of retaining and attracting accomplished full-time professors.

But he noted that these goals cannot be achieved without a new contract for faculty and staff who have been without an agreement since October 2010. “Our ability to attract and retain talented faculty is compromised by our inability today to reach a collective bargaining agreement with appropriate salary and benefit increases,” he said.

At the same time, he noted that resources must be identified. “We cannot make an agreement we cannot pay for,” he said. “It’s essential we get state support for an agreement that will be in alignment with those of other state unions, including retroactive increases that would recognize the commitment our faculty and staff have made over the last six years.”

The Chancellor elaborated in an appearance on CUNY TV’s City Talk public affairs program hosted by Doug Muzzio. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about K-12 education or university education,” Milliken said. “A fundamental principle is that the quality of teaching, the quality of the faculty, makes the most difference. There is no such thing as a great university without a great faculty.

“We haven’t had a contract in years for our faculty,” Chancellor Milliken continued. “It’s a difficult position at CUNY because we have city and state support for the University. In some ways that’s a great advantage. In some ways, to try reach an agreement there are additional challenges to get everybody on the same page. … No one wants to do this more than I do.

Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl E. Heastie addresses the CUNY and Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Conference Luncheon in Albany.

Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl E. Heastie addresses the CUNY and Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Conference Luncheon in Albany.

“I’ve been in this business for over 25 years, and first among my priorities — whether it was in North Carolina or Nebraska or New York — we need to be competitive for faculty. We need to retain the best faculty. To do that, we need to reach an agreement with the PSC. We need to be in a position to have a fair agreement with them. And so that’s a high priority for me — investing in people.”

He pointed to the “amazing statistic” that years ago, (CUNY) “had far more full-time faculty than we have today, with far fewer students. We’ve added tens of thousands of students and we’ve actually reduced the number of full-time faculty. That’s unsustainable.”

The FY2016 state Executive Budget for CUNY’s senior colleges totals $2.329 billion, an increase of $70.7 million, or 3.1 percent, over this year, according to the University Budget Office. The Executive Budget does not provide funding for mandatory needs including employee fringe benefits. For CUNY’s community colleges, which receive more than half of their funding from the city, the Executive Budget proposes $221.6 million, a decrease of $3.4 million from this year’s level.

In his budget testimony in Albany, Chancellor Milliken emphasized: “CUNY’s core priorities remain: the retention of talented faculty and staff, the recruitment of more full-time faculty, increased academic support and broadening our student services. Over the last decade, we have achieved a 23 percent net increase in full-time faculty. However, these gains have been countered by an unprecedented growth in enrollment during the same period, slowing our ability to increase the percentage of classes taught by full-time faculty. This year we are working to hire 325 new faculty members. And through our FY2016 budget request, we hope to hire 500 more.

His testimony added, “While the Governor’s executive budget proposal provides a relatively stable budget for CUNY in fiscal year 2015-2016, there remain many areas that we hope you will address in order to provide our students with the higher education experience they deserve, and to ensure that employers are being served with skilled graduates that are ready to enter the workforce.”

Chancellor Milliken told the Legislature the University is requesting additional funding to expand its online programs, which “offer many benefits” to students “juggling multiple roles” and can prepare students “for a competitive future since many of them will need to refresh their skills through online learning.” He said CUNY is also seeking funds to provide students with opportunities for international study and faculty with “opportunities to work collaboratively with international colleagues.

“To compete and thrive in the transnational environment, it is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, to bring CUNY to the world and the world to CUNY,” he said. CUNY also needs “sufficient funding” to transition its libraries to the digital age,” the Chancellor testified. “Many of our most important resources are textbooks and books that are not digitized. But the new generation of learning and scholarly materials are being produced online.

At the CUNY and Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Conference, in the back row, left to right, David Banks, Nana Smith; Chancellor James B. Milliken; and far right CUNY Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Philip Alfonso Berry, with students from the Eagle Academy.

At the CUNY and Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Conference, in the back row, left to right,
David Banks, Nana Smith; Chancellor James B. Milliken; and far right CUNY Vice Chairman of the Board of
Trustees Philip Alfonso Berry, with students from the Eagle Academy.

“Our libraries must be redesigned to support a variety of instructional modes,” he said. “However, our libraries continue to be challenged by the price increases that outpace inflation, and students continue to struggle to purchase necessary textbooks and course materials. CUNY’s libraries have the capacity to help students in this regard, and sufficient funding would enable us to invest in costly textbooks for use by students and to purchase electronic texts, together with the means to display and catalogue them.”

The Chancellor thanked the Legislature for “your continued attention to our facility needs, which remain urgent. We are thankful for the more than $3.8 billion that the state has provided CUNY since 2008 in support of our academic mission. This funding has allowed us to open new facilities as well as maintain our 24 campuses. Despite this strong support, much more needs to be done.”

Because of rising enrollment, he said, an additional 56,000 students over the last decade are now using CUNY facilities. “Not surprisingly, our classrooms and common areas are experiencing significant wear and tear.” Additional funding is needed, he said, for critical maintenance and for key capital projects including the Roosevelt Hall Science Complex at Brooklyn College, the Academic Village and Conference Center at York College, the College of Staten Island’s High Performance Computational Center and Hostos Community College’s new Allied Health and Sciences Building.

“Projects like these,” the Chancellor said, “are critical to our academic growth, helping to improve classroom instruction and research capacity and create good paying jobs. … CUNY is a public university in every sense of the word and one in which I hope you will continue to make wise investments.”