March 20, 2018 | Academic Affairs

By Kay Conway
At a recent meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee, we requested an update on CUNY’s Strategic Framework, specifically the goal of hiring more full time faculty, which is the first bullet on page eight:

  We will expand our full-time faculty and implement new strategies to build greater diversity in the faculty. Leaders will be accountable for success.

We reviewed the attached data on faculty and enrollment for the last three years, 2015-2017.  I modified the data slightly to separate what I will call the “unique” schools, (the GC, Law, Journalism, SPH and SPS), from the senior colleges, and added the gray columns to show the three-year changes.

What we can see from the overall data is that the number of full time faculty (FTF) per 1,000 Full time equivalent students (FTEs) has improved slightly from 33 faculty per 1,000 FTEs in 2015 to 36 per 1,000 FTEs in 2017, largely due to the net increase of 109 new FTF at the community colleges.  The result was a narrowing of the staffing gap that exists between the senior and community colleges.  However, the community colleges remain understaffed relative to their senior college peers, at 33 FTF per 1,000 FTE versus 35.

But the message here isn’t the differences between senior and community colleges—it’s the troubling evidence that there has been so little improvement.  Among the senior colleges, every campus except CSI and York had enrollment increases or remained stable in the three years presented.  Yet at the same time, every campus also had declines in the ratio of FTF to 1,000 FTEs, or at best remained flat.  During a period when senior college enrollment increased by 3,172 students, the number of FTF declined by 72.  City is in the best shape, albeit after experiencing the same declines as others, with 45 FTF per 1,000 FTEs.  NYCCT brings up the rear with 31 FTF/1,000 FTEs.  Lehman had the biggest decrease in the ratio, because they did not grow the faculty in a period when enrollment grew by 1,000 FTEs.

Some of the declines at Hunter, Lehman and Brooklyn may be a result of the shift of their faculty (48 in total) into the School of Public Health (SPH).  SPH is one of the “unique” programs that I mentioned earlier – mostly graduate level – they have much better faculty: student ratios.  SPH has the highest ratios in CUNY with 140 FTF per 1,000 FTEs.

The picture is bleaker at the community colleges.  My home campus, BMCC, increased the faculty by 21 in this period, but because our enrollment remains above 20,000 FTEs, the largest by far in CUNY, our ratio of FTF to 1,000 FTEs, is tied with LaGuardia for the lowest of any campus at 27.

The Budget Advisory Committee requested ten-year data and will share that with you when we receive it.  We are also not forgetting the second part of the bullet above, to build greater diversity, and will report to you on those efforts shortly.  President Michelle Anderson of Brooklyn College and President Jose Luis Cruz of Lehman, are co-chairing the effort to improve faculty diversity.  President Anderson will be updating us at our next Faculty Governance Leaders meeting in April.  The task of diversifying is made all the harder by the lack of hiring, but these numbers only show the net result; we need to dig deeper to provide data on retirements, non-reappointments etc.

If we are not improving this ratio of FTF to FTEs, and our college are evaluated on the proportion of FTF in the classroom, then Presidents will not be motivated to provide reassigned time.  It also goes without saying that if the proportion of FTF remains low, fewer faculty share a greater burden of college service, including advising and mentoring our students.

Kay Conway is a Professor of Business at Borough of Manhattan Community College and chairs the University Faculty Senate.

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