The largest union representing staff and faculty at the City University of New York blasted the public-university system’s decision to furlough hundreds of administrators in light of major budget shortfalls as “theater.”
CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez announced that CUNY’s 580 executives, including university Presidents, Deans, Vice Presidents and Assistant Administrators, would be placed on a five-day furlough during the current fiscal year.
'No Sign of Federal Help'
“Unfortunately, with no sign of relief from the Federal government, I am announcing an additional spending control measure,” he wrote in a Nov. 4 letter.
Mr. Matos Rodriguez added that he would also go on furlough for a week. CUNY’s executives receive salaries as high as $400,000, in sharp contrast with the public-university system’s thousands of adjuncts, who were paid about $4,000 per course.
The state Budget Division is withholding 20 percent of CUNY’s state funding because of the shortfall due to COVID. The system has seen a 5-percent decrease in enrollment, resulting in a $52-million drop in revenue, while the city has cut funding for CUNY’s seven community colleges by $46 million.
In order to address these gaps, in addition to implementing a hiring freeze, CUNY sent letters of non-reappointment to 2,900 adjuncts over the summer, which prompted protests by the Professional Staff Congress.
'Spectacle, Not Strategy'
“A five-day furlough for highly paid managers is not a budgetary strategy; it’s theater,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “And if it is meant to suggest shared sacrifice or soften us up for delays in our contractual raise, it’s an insult. Thousands of adjuncts lost 100 percent of their CUNY income, not just a few days' [worth].”
But Mr. Matos Rodriguez suggested more cuts could come.
“We all have had to make sacrifices this year, and unfortunately, I expect more potentially difficult decisions in the near-term,” he said.
The decision to furlough top staff resembled the one-week furlough of 495 mayoral staffers Mayor de Blasio announced in mid-September, which was also dismissed by some as a public-relations gesture.
Although CUNY was allocated $251 million in Federal coronavirus funding under the CARES Act, it has held off on spending $132 million of the aid until its budget was finalized. Mr. Matos Rodriguez has stated that the funding was to be used to invest in training and infrastructure for online instruction, to reimburse campuses and for mental-health support.
Still Fighting for Adjuncts
The PSC sued CUNY to use the funding to rehire the laid-off adjuncts, but in August, a Federal Judge rejected the effort. Reinstating the part-time staff members would cost about $30 million, the union estimated.
“Management should concentrate on using the CARES Act money to get those [adjunct] jobs back and on securing more public funding for CUNY, not on symbolic gestures,” Ms. Bowen said.
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