With senior colleges facing a 3 percent budget shortfall, faculty, staff and students shoulder the burden, facing larger class sizes and short supplies.
Larger Classes, Fewer Adjuncts
Senior colleges across the CUNY system began the school year facing the sobering reality of budget cuts of at least 3 percent, all because the state failed to fund mandatory cost increases, such as increases in building rents and utility bills.
The most drastic news came out of City College, which faces a staggering deficit of almost 10 percent, about a $14.6 million shortfall.
“The entire campus is experiencing serious mid-academic-year downsizing,” wrote PSC member Harold Forsythe in an email to union officials. “This downsizing, particularly in instruction, almost certainly will mean a net drop in enrollment, which will in turn lead to further budget cuts in subsequent years.”
Many variables have contributed to the multimillion-dollar deficit, including increased personnel costs, a decline in meeting CUNY enrollment targets and the state’s failure to adequately fund senior colleges, among other things. College administration officials arranged several meetings with the City College community, at which administrators were “open to criticism,” and presented the bad budget news in a transparent manner, according to PSC Chapter Chair Alan Feigenberg.
“This is something that we all have to unite around. It’s not an ‘us versus them’ issue,” Feigenberg told Clarion. College-wide, administrative departments are taking a 5 percent hit, and academic departments face a 3.6 percent reduction in their budgets. Departments with lower enrollments face even greater budget constraints.
In the CCNY School of Education, faculty expect a 50 percent adjunct budget cut, according to Feigenberg, and departments in the Division of Humanities and the Arts have been asked to draw up a plan that would eliminate all adjunct faculty. Additionally, the Mathematics Department is looking into creating super-sized sections, according to Michael Green, professor of chemistry, and the chemistry department, he says, may no longer conduct workshops.
“Undesirable things will happen, for sure. It’s the magnitude that’s difficult to determine,” wrote Jerry Carlson, chair of the Department of Media and Communication Arts, in an email to his department. “[We] are doing whatever we can, whenever we can, in order to preserve the educational integrity of our programs. As we all agree, our students deserve nothing less.”
Meanwhile, CUNY Chancellor James Milliken addressed the lack of adequate state funding in a letter to the CUNY community saying, “The failure to fund mandatory costs … has led to a required budget reduction at the senior colleges and more significant cuts at CUNY’s central office.” This point, though, was buried in the letter, sent via email on September 10, which touted CUNY achievements, such as overall record high enrollments and new state-of-the-art facilities. (Milliken, however, did prominently state that reaching agreement on a union contract was his “highest priority.”)
Presidents at other senior colleges zeroed in on the 3 percent budget cut, and how it would affect their respective colleges. At Brooklyn College, the reduction adds up to a budget decrease of between $3.5 to $4 million. As a result, the administration will subject adjunct appointments and the filling of vacant positions to additional review. Money from tuition increases at Brooklyn College will be set aside for a potential new union contract, according to a June 25 email from President Karen Gould.
Faculty at Brooklyn College have been encouraged to apply soon for non-contractual travel because of limited money, and some City Tech faculty have been told that they may have to bring their own toner cartridges for use in college printers. At John Jay College, there has been “a hiring pause” for administrative staff, and searches for new faculty will be authorized only in the “most compelling circumstances,” according to a September 24 memo from President Jeremy Travis.
Senior college presidents across CUNY describe the financial reality at their colleges in grim terms. “The news from the state is a sobering reminder of challenging financial realities,” wrote Travis in his memo to faculty and staff. “As a result, we clearly have to tighten our belt, even more, to create a balanced budget.”