August 16, 2017
Bronx Community College has announced it is taking steps immediately to remove the busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans on its campus. This must occur without delay. There are many great Americans, many of them New Yorkers, worthy of a place of honor in this hall; these two Confederate generals are not among them.
August 14, 2017
“The CUNY community mourns the tragic loss of life, violence and hatred we saw in Charlottesville over the weekend. The bigotry, anti-Semitism and racism of the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and their followers showed us, sadly and vividly, the views that we oppose so strongly at The City University of New York. It was a painful spectacle, but it was also a reminder of why we must never waiver from the principles of inclusiveness, equality and respect, which need to guide us as a university and a country. A great source of strength of CUNY, the country’s largest urban university, has always been our diversity and inclusiveness. I hope that, as we mourn and try to come to terms with the terrible events of the weekend, we can also reaffirm our commitment to the principles that must overcome hatred and divisions in our country.”
June 13, 2017
“The City University of New York enthusiastically supports the ‘We Are Still In’ commitment to the critical goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The future of our planet depends upon the kinds of actions that our University and State are already taking to create a clean-energy future. At CUNY, we have reduced energy consumption on our campuses by retrofitting older buildings and erecting energy-efficient new buildings. The $520 million that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo invested recently in energy efficiency on CUNY campuses will greatly help in this effort. In addition, our Sustainable CUNY office leads the NYSolar Smart Plan, a strategic partnership with New York State and City agencies, municipalities and more than 70 utility, industry and other organizations to promote solar energy and reduce the soft costs of going solar. The importance of addressing climate change and global warming cannot be overstated.”
April 26, 2017
The current discussion about the invitation to Linda Sarsour to speak at the commencement ceremony of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy draws into sharp focus principles central to a free society and its academic institutions.
The decision to invite Ms. Sarsour was made by the School of Public Health. The commencement speakers are selected at the college level. The School of Public Health made a decision to focus on women leaders for its commencement this year and invited Ms. Sarsour because of her involvement in public health issues in New York City and her position as a leader on women’s issues, including her role as co-chair of the recent Women’s March in Washington. Ms. Sarsour has been recognized by President Obama at the White House as a “Champion of Change” and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 leaders and Fortune magazine’s 50 global leaders.
CUNY’s administration, its Board of Trustees and political leaders are being asked to overrule the college and cancel Ms. Sarsour’s speech because critics object to things she has reportedly said or written. While one might disagree with the School of Public Health’s decision to invite Ms. Sarsour to speak at commencement, that difference of opinion provides no basis for action now. Taking action because critics object to the content of speech would conflict with the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom.
This is not to say that the critics are wrong to call out statements with which they disagree. That also is the essence of the freedom we enjoy in this country and this university. CUNY’s leadership and I personally have been strong and consistent opponents of BDS, a movement Ms. Sarsour reportedly supports. Obviously, it cannot be said that CUNY endorses her view on this matter; we continue to believe BDS is anathema to the values of higher education. But the fact that Ms. Sarsour might hold views that are controversial cannot be the basis for withdrawing an invitation to speak.
March 31, 2017
I am writing to let you know that I have recently been diagnosed with throat cancer. Fortunately, it is a fairly common and highly curable form of this disease. The cancer was discovered during a routine physical earlier this month and, since that time, I have undergone numerous tests and meetings with doctors to determine the best treatment plan. I am otherwise in excellent health, the cancer has not spread beyond the throat area, and my prognosis is very good.
I am being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, one of the country’s leading cancer centers. The treatment program prescribed for me, which will include radiation and chemotherapy, will begin soon and continue for about seven weeks, and then there will be a recovery period. My doctors have advised me that I can continue a fairly routine work schedule during much of this period.
I will be meeting with my senior staff and the college presidents in the coming days to plan for what I expect will be minimal disruption in our operations during the period of my treatment and recovery. We have very capable leadership in place, and I am confident that CUNY will continue its remarkable progress. I have full confidence in the medical professionals who are treating me and look forward to making a complete recovery before the fall term begins. As always, thank you for your leadership and support.
James B. Milliken
The City University of New York
January 31, 2017
On Friday afternoon, the President issued an Executive Order that suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and for 90 days blocked entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, including holders of student visas. This action, which could affect approximately 120 students at The City University of New York, as well as some faculty and staff, has caused hardship and confusion for many across the country and beyond. While I understand it is the responsibility of the administration to keep our country safe, I believe that this Executive Order is inconsistent with the values of openness and inclusiveness that have made CUNY—and our country—great. Those of us who disagree with this policy should urge our elected leaders to change it. In the meantime, we will hold to the values that have been a source of strength at CUNY for 170 years, and we will offer legal assistance to affected members of the CUNY community who need it, through CUNY Citizenship Now, CUNY CLEAR, and other means.
There are few institutions that have done more to help this country benefit from immigration than The City University of New York. Today, almost 40 percent of our undergraduates were born in another country, and we are all the beneficiaries of their talent and ambition. Our commitment to protecting and supporting our students, regardless of their immigration status, is unwavering and includes the following:
CUNY will take no action to assist in the enforcement of the immigration laws except as required by law;
CUNY will protect student record information in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act;
CUNY will not turn over student information to immigration enforcement authorities except pursuant to court order;
CUNY will not request or gather information about students’ citizenship or immigration status in the course of providing educational or other services or in connection with public safety activities except as required in connection with tuition or financial aid eligibility; and
CUNY will not permit immigration enforcement officials to enter its campuses except to the extent required by a warrant or court order.
One of the greatest benefits of being Chancellor of CUNY is the opportunity to meet outstanding students and hear not just of their successes, but also their struggles to overcome obstacles. One that comes to mind now is the address that Orubba Almansouri, of City College, delivered as Salutatorian at commencement last year. Orubba described how, as a Yemeni immigrant, many in her family and village did not believe in higher education for women. She explained how she discussed with her father, over several years, her dreams, her passion for knowledge and her desire to study at CUNY. She won the argument. But certainly we at CUNY also won, and so did our city and country. That is why we continue to fight for our values and for the free movement of scholars who gain great opportunities and contribute so much to the world.
January 20, 2017
For 170 years The City University of New York has had a unique mandate, providing a high quality, affordable education to all New Yorkers, but particularly those from underrepresented groups and immigrant populations, and giving them remarkable opportunities to achieve their dreams. A penetrating new study has quantified how effectively CUNY fulfills that mission by opening the door for extraordinary numbers of New Yorkers to move from lower income levels to the middle class and above. As a New York Times columnist writing about the study summed it up, “The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.”
January 18, 2017
Governor Cuomo’s FY 2018 Executive Budget proposes significant investment in The City University of New York and will advance its vital mission of providing a quality, affordable higher education to more than a quarter-million degree-seeking students.
CUNY students will benefit greatly from the farsighted Excelsior Scholarship initiative, which will make college more affordable and reduce debt for middle-class students, and from passage of the state Dream Act, which will extend financial aid and other benefits to CUNY’s many undocumented students.
We are grateful for the Governor’s commitment to the state’s predictable tuition plan, which will help ensure financial stability for the University, allow families to plan ahead, and provide important support for academic programs and student services.
We are deeply grateful for Governor Cuomo’s proposed funding to ensure that our facilities are upgraded and repaired. The budget calls for more than $284 million for infrastructure improvements and critical maintenance at our senior colleges, a significant increase over last year, $80 million for community college matching funds, and $55 million for the next important investment in the CUNY 2020 initiative.
We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature over the coming months on these important opportunities for investment in the University.
January 13, 2017
On a tragic day in April, 1968, our nation suffered a profound blow with the assassination of a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those who understood the immense power of his message of equality and opportunity promptly sought to ensure that his mission would endure, and just four days later legislation was introduced to make Dr. King’s birthday a holiday so that the nation would honor his leadership and keep his goals alive. It went nowhere.
Just as Dr. King fought against the roadblocks in his path, his followers persisted. In 1971, three million people signed a petition urging Congress to act. It did not. In 1979, another bill fell five votes short in Congress, but Dr. King’s followers, like the people of conscience who stood at his side on Civil Rights marches, refused to turn back and, in 1983, President Reagan finally signed the bill establishing the holiday. It was not until 1999 that the last of the 50 states recognized the day. It provides an occasion for all Americans to discuss and embrace the fundamental truth that nothing is more American, and more important to the strength of our country, than Dr. King’s vision of equality, inclusion and opportunity.
What we should also reflect on today is the harder message Dr. King taught us, that progress is often not just a challenge but a trial, even for something seemingly easy such as honoring the memory of a transformational leader. The battle against our country’s history of inequity continues and each of us is called upon, by the values we share and that were so well championed by Dr. King, to accept the challenge without becoming discouraged or defeated.
Dr. King famously told us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” What his example teaches is that it may bend slowly, and it often bends only toward those dreams that we are willing to struggle to realize.
James B. Milliken
December 15, 2016
I am writing to announce the commencement of the search for a new General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs (“General Counsel”) at The City University of New York.
The General Counsel is the chief legal officer of the University, serving the Board of Trustees and the entire University on all legal matters. Pursuant to the Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, the General Counsel reports to the Chairperson of the Board and the Chancellor. He or she supervises a staff of attorneys responsible for representing the University’s interests in commercial matters, education issues and other areas. The General Counsel serves on the Chancellor’s leadership team and is an integral part of the University’s senior administration.
Trustee Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez will serve as the chair of the search committee. Other members of the committee include:
- Trustee Ken Sunshine
- President Jeremy Travis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY
- Dean Mary Lu Bilek, CUNY School of Law
- Professor Jay Weiser, faculty representative, Baruch College/ CUNY
- Mr. Fernando Araujo, student representative, Brooklyn College/CUNY
- Mr. G. Michael Bellinger, Esq.
We are confident that we will recruit an outstanding candidate for this important senior leadership role.