Notes From Faculty Advisory Council to the Research Foundation (RF)

10:00 a.m., Friday, May 12th, 2017

230 West 41st Street, 7th floor

Present were Professors Shirley Raps, Chair, UFS Chair Kay Conway. Prof. Steven Penrod, Loretta Broncaccio-Taras, KCC, Andrei Jitianu, and Executive Director Matthew Cotter.

  1. Acceptance of Notes from last meeting – accepted as proposed
  2. Old Business
    1. Prof. Katherine Conway – Recent Agreement with GRAs and Ongoing Issues with RF. Prof. Conway discussed her recent meeting at CUNY Central Offices with RF Directors in attendance. Among her concerns are the near-absent communication between RF and faculty and the absence of faculty consultation on how resources are utilized to meet each campus’ needs. She noted that she asked every campus what their experience has been with RF and heard almost unanimous discontent from the faculty. After Prof. Penrod asked if faculty even understand what RF does, Professor Conway insisted that better transparency and reciprocity was imperative when communicating with RF. Professor Penrod followed up by noting that since college presidents in general seek to conceal overhead costs from faculty the question is also one of boundaries. He further maintained that faculty need to communicate with one another and with their respective presidents about these issues – to which Profs. Jitianu and Broncaccion-Taras agreed. Prof. Penrod also noted that President Rothbard was taking the question of customer service (faculty-RF relations) seriously, and that the issue lies with Mr. McPartland’s office. Chair Raps noted that grants awarded by the NIH differ from NSF grants in that payments to grad students have always been treated as salaries. Moreover, she noted that there are problematic campuses as well, and that not all of Prof. Conway’s concerns are RF-exclusive. The discussion ended with an agreement that FAC needs to obtain from the RF all information regarding how grants are controlled throughout CUNY.
  3. New Business
    1. Streamlining communication and contract review with RF (per Prof. Parra’s attached email) and New Central Office Grant Innovations (Per Prof. Jitianu’s attached email) – discussion then took place around the various challenges associated with the fiscal transparency of the campuses, especially as it related to overhead and release time. It was clear from Profs. Jitianu, Penrod, and Broncaccio-Taras that there is no uniformity to the issue beyond that of communication, and after some time it was agreed that Mark Hauber be invited to present to FAC sometime in the fall semester.
  4. Meeting with President Richard Rothbard and RF Executive Administration. – Executive Director Cotter asked President Rothbard about the status of the website and the annual survey. The website is under construction with a fall 2017 launch scheduled. With regard to the survey, President Rothbard conveyed his desire for greater RF credibility across CUNY and that Mr. McPartland is working on the survey as of this meeting, coordinating a search for a third party to assist in its construction. FAC will be apprised along the way, he maintained, and he expressed his hope that the survey will be completed in the fall of 2017. President Rothbard then updated FAC on the status of the budget; the Inspector General’s investigation (Jeffrey Slonim noted that RF is complying with the subpoenas related to events at CCNY); proposed legislation to publicize RF employee salaries; the task force assigned to create a new Memorandum of Understanding; its new software platform called Grant Forward; and a newly established travel fund for faculty to find and secure sponsors for future grant opportunities. In addition the President briefly described the nature, scope, and activities of the RF for Prof. Jinitau and Brancaccio-Taras, who expressed some confusion about the organization. Prof. Penrod argued that department chairs, and not just PIs, should be made aware of grant opportunities moving forward. President Rothbard indicated that making everyone aware of Grant Forward was a good idea, and Executive Director Cotter suggested that he consider coming to a UFS Plenary in the fall to talk about it in greater detail.
  5. Members of the Executive Administration then updated the FAC on matters of importance to RF.
    1. Wendy Patitucci described how the GRA program has been refined for the PIs to include health insurance for graduate students. She also described how customer service was improving in terms of paying invoices in a timely manner more so than ever before.
    2. President Rothbard said that RF must disclose this progress even though there is still work to be done. The new website will have a link to a customer service satisfaction survey.
    3. Edward Kalaydjin briefly discussed that, in order to ensure operating costs, RF is looking into establishing a line of credit with a bank should the federal government shut down in the fall.
    4. Jacek Olszewski reiterated that the website is under construction.
    5. Chair Raps raised concerns over the indirect recovery costs, to which President Rothbard replied that campuses should return all extra resources, which led to a brief discussion of FNA rates and overhead costs on the campuses.

With no further business the meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by Matthew J. Cotter