New era for CUNY Board of Trustees
The former city comptroller, the current state budget director, a former Bronx borough president and a regional director of public affairs at The Coca-Cola Company were among the seven people confirmed by the State Senate this June to join the CUNY Board of Trustees. Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated six of the board members, Mayor Bill de Blasio selected one.
The 17-member board wields decision-making power on major university matters, including approving the CUNY budget, tuition hikes and union contracts. Newly appointed board members attended their first meeting on June 27, where the board approved CUNY’s collective bargaining contracts with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 237, and the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY. Former New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate William C. Thompson now chairs the Board of Trustees, replacing Benno Schmidt, who held the post for more than a decade. Schmidt was a key champion of the Pathways curriculum, which faced near-unanimous opposition from CUNY faculty. Of the current board, more than half of the trustees assumed their positions in the past year. In addition to Thompson, the most recent appointees include Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President and New York City Council member (see the April 2016 Clarion); Mayra Linares-Garcia, director of public affairs and communications for New York and Puerto Rico at The Coca-Cola Company; Robert F. Mujica Jr., the current budget director for the New York State Division of the Budget; Ken Sunshine, a head of Sunshine Sachs Consultants, a public relations firm and longtime friend of Cuomo; Sandra Wilkin, founder of the women-owned construction firm Bradford Construction Corporation, and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, senior vice president of corporate relations and government affairs at Emblem Health and former secretary of state of New York.
Several of the new trustees are CUNY alumni, including Mujica (Brooklyn College), Wilkin (Kingsborough Community College, Hunter College), Cortés-Vázquez (Hunter College) and Ferrer (Baruch College). Outgoing board members include Benno Schmidt, Peter Pantaleo, Valerie Beal, Hugo Morales, Freida Foster, Philip Berry and Carol Robles-Román. Of the 17 board members, 10 are appointed by the governor, and five are appointed by the mayor. The chairperson of the University Student Senate sits on the board along with the chair of the University Faculty Senate, who is a non-voting member. Five of the board members will complete the terms of the board members they replaced. Trustees are normally appointed to seven-year terms, as specified by state law, with service limited to two terms, but many trustees have served beyond the expiration of their terms.