Clarion Masthead

A year without a chancellor

A new chief may arrive soon

It has been more than a year since James B. Milliken announced his intention to step down as CUNY chancellor, and Vita Rabinowitz has served as interim chancellor since the summer. Rumors swirl that the search committee – assisted by an executive search firm (Isaacson, Miller) and made up of trustees, college presidents, faculty and students – is coming close to making a decision on a new top administrator.

LEADERSHIP VACUUM

The Wall Street Journal reported that in December, “Robert Hughes, who runs K-12 education strategy at the Gates Foundation and previously led New York-based New Visions for Public Schools, asked to be taken out of the running, according to people familiar with the search” and that “Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, withdrew his name in August, saying at the time that he wanted to remain at the library.” Last summer, two CUNY presidents, Gail Mellow of LaGuardia Community College and Félix Matos Rodríguez of Queens College, were reportedly also in the running for the top job.

The continued lack of a permanent chancellor has had a negative impact on CUNY. City Tech PSC Chapter Chair Benjamin Shepard told Clarion that the vacuum of leadership has led to lower-level administrators “pointing fingers at each other,” shifting blame over things like broken equipment on campus or the lack of a contract for faculty.

He said, “The ripple effect of not having a leader at the top means there’s no one to deal with what campuses need, no one to lead the Board of Trustees and no one to seek what adjuncts need to move beyond poverty wages.”

Martin Burke, chair of the CUNY University Faculty Senate, said, “The ability of the respective campuses to move forward in a variety of important areas, for example in developing and deciding upon online degree programs, has been hampered.”

Media have reported that the committee is close to ending the search. PSC officials said that they hoped a new chancellor would, upon taking the job, soon speak to the mayor and the governor, insisting on a final budget that would allow for a quick settlement to the PSC contract, one that addresses across-the-board raises, $7,000 per course for adjuncts and other demands.

A CHAMPION FOR CUNY

“The chancellor should be CUNY’s greatest advocate in Albany,” said Penny Lewis, PSC vice president for senior colleges. “The new chancellor needs to be politically independent, and that means standing up against political leaders who want to cut us back. Not having a full-time chancellor means that the forces of austerity have not seen a challenge from people in CUNY administration.”