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

10:00 a.m., Friday, October 20th, 2017

230 West 41st Street, 7th floor

Present were Professors Shirley Raps, Chair, UFS Chair Kay Conway, Profs. Loretta Broncaccio-Taras, KCC, Andrei Jitianu, Lehman, Amy Hsiu, Queens, and Executive Director Matthew Cotter. Richard Rothbard, President of RF, Jerry Steele, Chief Operating Officer, Ed Kalaydjian, Chief Financial Officer, Jarnee Bramlette, Deputy Chief Financial Officer/Controller, Jacek Olszewski, Chief Information Officer, Jeffrey Slonim, Chief Counsel, Matt Drost, Deputy Chief Counsel, John Tsapogas, Director of Award Pre-Proposal Support, Sean McPartland, Director of Customer Service Development, were present from 11:00 – 12:00.

  1. Acceptance of notes from May 12, 2017 meeting – Adopted As Proposed
  2. Reports
    1. Shirley Raps, Chair, FAC (10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.) – Chair Raps began the meeting by introducing the newest members of the FAC, Professors Amy Hsin, who was present, and Jamal Jalilan-Marina, who was unable to attend. Discussion then ensued over the nature of the proposed Research Foundation (RF) survey that was initially discussed before FAC in the spring of 2017. The Chair noted that since then it had been agreed that three members of FAC would actively participate on the committee charged with its design and implementation. Professor Jitinauu asked how, once completed, the data from the survey would be analyzed. He proposed that there be some form of independent arbitrator charged with the task, and the remaining committee members concurred. It was then agreed that further explanation of this process would be raised with the President of RF. After Professor Hsin noted that many faculty would benefit from some information about the structure and function of the RF, Professor Conway suggested that the RF would benefit from competition, if the colleges had the ability to go to another source to manage their grant funds; and or further consideration should include the possibility of the RF staff being redistributed out to the campuses. Professor Jitinauu pointed out that the relationship was both fiscal and legal, and CUNY was indeed bound to collaborate. Professor Conway concluded by asking if a representative from CCNY was needed on the survey committee, and on the grounds that that college receives a significant amount of grants and has raised its fair share of concerns with how the RF has handled them in the past.
    2. Richard Rothbard, President of the Research Foundation, and RF Executive Administration, CUNY (11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.) – President Rothbard briefly mentioned changes to the RF Board composition (Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Secretary to the CUNY Board of Trustees, Gayle Horwitz, will now serve as Chair of the RF.  Marc Shaw is stepping down as Chair, as he will be too busy with other responsibilities, including CUNY’s administrative efficiencies initiative.) and the organization’s Annual Report in now available online. He updated the FAC on the construction of both the RF website and its building. Construction to the RF offices should be completed by April or May 2018; the website will launch in January 2018. He then took questions related to the process by which vendors execute and process their invoices to Principal Investigators (PIs), the composition of the RF Survey, which will include three (3) members of FAC throughout the process, and whether or not he or any of his staff has been contacted by the Executive Vice Chancellor’s regarding the results of the CUNY/RF taskforce. John Tsapogas discussed several National Science Foundation (NSF) grant applications, awards, and recipients, as well as several local and international grant opportunities to be made available to CUNY faculty in the near future. He discussed the upcoming RFCUNY International Research and Education Forum, and encouraged the FAC to have faculty consult Grant Forward, a search engine of available opportunities for CUNY faculty. Sean McPartland apprised the FAC on the changes to the paperwork requisite reimbursement via RF and further elaborated on the composition of the committee requisite the RF survey. Professor Conway asked when the survey would be administered, would RF consult the survey put together by CCNY, and – once the RF survey was competed – when the results would be disseminated. Mr. McPartland replied that the survey would be ready by early 2018, that they would look at, but not necessarily rely on, the CCNY survey, and that the results would be ready for distribution roughly six weeks after its initial administration. Jeffrey Slonim discussed recent developments with Contract Manager, a platform of import when PIs are interested in soliciting the work of independent contractors. He noted that it is a useful portal for organizing, streamlining, and reviewing the application process for PIs. [CIO] seconded the accounts about the website and Contract Manager. Jerry Steele announced the open enrollment window for RFCUNY employees was underway, and that so far he reached out to 14 campuses to that end. Edward Kalaydjian described how the RF was in a place to provide for its retirees due to its solvency, which allowed for it to reduce the fringe benefit rate for its employees. He then noted that the RF was in process of arranging for a line of credit with its bank, which would be used to fund payroll in the event of a government shutdown.  In response to questions from Prof. Conway he said the line will be unsecured and will not have a commitment fee. President Rothbard reinforced the point by indicating that the RF was in a reasonably good position to self-fund payroll for the first few months should a shut down occur.
  3. Old Business – There Was None.
  4. New Business (Note: New Business was discussed prior to President Rothbard and Staff arriving)
    1. Resolution on CUNY – RF Relationship – Resolution – Chair Raps noted that there was little to report in light of the dearth of communication from Central Office to her or the committee. Discussion revolved around the recently formed Task Force involved in revisiting and revising the relationship between CUNY and the RF. Chair Raps noted a few of the challenges some campuses faced with regard to the administration of grants, and there was a general concern that, despite the resolution, that the CUNY-RF relationship would remain as it is despite all appearances to alter that fact. Prompted by Professor Conway, it was decided that greater consultation with Executive Vice Chancellor Rabinowitz’ office was necessary, with regard to the next steps in revising the Memorandum of Understanding. It was agreed that this also would be raised with the President of the RF.

Professor Conway asked President Rothbard for a brief update on the New York State Inspector General’s investigation into RFCUNY practices, and President Rothbard indicated that he had not been contacted since the spring but had complied with any documentation related to the IG’s investigation at CCNY. She then asked if there was a plan to increase RF transparency of use of non-tax levy funds; President Rothbard said that he would not be disclosing salaries of RF employees but could provide an organization chart if that is helpful.  He again noted that the annual report is online on the RF website and Prof. Conway and Ed Kalaydjian noted that the tax return is available on Guidestar.

With no further business the meeting adjourned at 12:15.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew J. Cotter