Budget, governance at issue
The College of Staten Island (CSI) Faculty Senate issued a vote of “no confidence” last December against President William Fritz and Provost Michael Parrish. The vote is just the latest sign of ongoing distrust and discontent between faculty and staff on one side and CUNY Central and the CSI administrators on the other.
The vote focused on two main issues: the undermining of faculty governance and the mishandling of the campus budget.
In its statement of no confidence, the senate said the president and provost “did not articulate a clear intellectual or scholarly vision for CSI and have failed to provide leadership or consistent instructional polices, guidelines, or parameters during the pandemic.” It went on to state that administrators “approved and allowed online class sizes to increase against the recommendations of the Faculty Senate and the faculty in general,” and “ignored the Faculty Senate Committee reports on research and technology submitted over the last two years.”
The president has “jeopardized the college’s financial solvency,” said the senate. Leadership “drastically cut the budget of the library and the necessary resources for faculty to do their research and scholarship” and “cut the adjunct faculty and the staff of the college during this pandemic in order to address the budget crisis that was, in part, their own making.” At the same time, the statement continued, CSI invested “in Division II athletics without any consultation with the faculty and have yet to publicly evaluate this decision for its efficacy and impact on the college.”
CSI is the only CUNY campus in Staten Island.
ANGRY & DISCOURAGED
George Sanchez, PSC chapter chair at College of Staten Island, helped organize faculty for the vote.
George Sanchez, PSC chapter chair at CSI, told Clarion that faculty and staff have long had questions about the administration’s sense of accountability for its fiduciary responsibility. Alleging that CUNY Central has had to give loans to the college in the past, Sanchez said other “[CUNY] colleges have austerity funding, but they have better fiscal management and more shared governance.” Sanchez added, “The morale on the campus is so bad among the faculty, staff, and students; it’s really dropped in [the past] five years. People email me all the time… angry and discouraged.”
Deborah DeSimone, an associate professor of education at CSI and the secretary of the college’s Faculty Senate, said, “The issues of inclusivity, communication and accountability are particularly a problem at CSI because, in [the administration’s] attempts to divide the faculty, squash dissent and make unilateral decisions without consultation, the administration created a crisis of confidence. This crisis has direct impact on policy making at CSI. Hence, the motion to bring a vote of no confidence to the floor of the senate.”
Frank Sobrino, a CUNY spokesperson, said, “Amid the adversity wrought by the health crisis, the College of Staten Island nonetheless was able to accomplish a great deal. We look forward to the CSI leadership team building on these accomplishments as we turn the page on 2020 toward a brighter new year.”
HISTORY OF NO CONFIDENCE
Faculty members around CUNY have often used votes of no confidence to hold campus administrators accountable. Last Fall, PSC members at the Hunter College Campus Schools voted no confidence in Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and in Hunter College Campus Schools Director Lisa Siegmann when the school attempted to start in-person classes without proper safety protocols in place.
In February of 2020, Clarion reported that the Bronx Community College Faculty Council passed a vote of no confidence against Kay Ellis, vice president of administration and finance, on the grounds that she allowed “gross physical deterioration throughout campus, including a lack of proper lighting and inadequate indoor heating under her watch.”
“I believe that the president and the administration should be uniting with the faculty, staff and students to oppose cuts, instead of administering them,” said Sarah Schulman, a distinguished professor of English at CSI. “The presidents of all 23 CUNY campuses and the CUNY Board of Trustees should be the front line, not the faculty and staff.”