By: Nate Izzo
Photos By: Nate Izzo
On Thursday, the first of November, CCNY President Vincent Boudreau held a staff town hall to discuss the college’s budget and strategic planning for the next several years.
Faculty and staff from all over City College gathered in Aronow Theater to hear what Boudreau had to say about CCNY’s ongoing financial crisis and his plan to solve it. They also had the chance to express and inquire about any concerns with his plans.
Boudreau opened the meeting with an overview of the current status of the college, with an intense focus on the bleak state of CCNY’s finances. The TAP Gap, the difference between stagnant Tuition Assistance Program awards and rising tuition costs, has grown to $6.2 million, which is often covered by philanthropy, tuition reserves, and borrowing money from research and engineering.
The state does not fund labor contracts, so $3 million of tuition increases have to be held in reserve each year. These financial stresses have culminated in a massive deficit. “These are serious times for us financially,” Boudreau summarized. “I guess the bad news for the institution is this: there is no reason to believe that this governor is going to invest in higher public education.” Current projections expect state funding to hit zero in 2034, and Boudreau intends on planning accordingly.
The bulk of Boudreau’s speech revolved around the establishment of the Objective Key Result (OKR) management strategy, which revolves around focusing on a select few goals with as many resources as possible in order to produce measurable results.
The President claimed that the previous management strategy was largely ineffective. In it, numerous arbitrary goals had been set without much maintenance, leading to resources being spread thin with little tangible effect overall.
With this new planning strategy, Boudreau and his cabinet have set forth five OKRs for this institution to achieve over the course of the next several years. One of these OKRs focuses on intensive fundraising and lobbying for state funds. Because of its concentration of higher-cost, STEM-focused programs, Boudreau wants to “have a City College conversation, not a CUNY conversation, because we’re different, and […] we have to be represented as different.”
In another OKR, Boudreau expresses his desire to “restructure the way we message the [City College] campus.” This sort of rebranding will emphasize research as an intrinsic part of the school’s identity, in hopes that it will encourage investments. Boudreau ensured that humanities and arts programs would not be left behind. With the expectation of state funding running out, the long-term stretch goal of his cabinet is to be totally independent of state funding in ten years.
Boudreau has also vocalized his plan to create a Staff Council for CCNY faculty as a permanent institution. While every CCNY employee has union representation, there is no governance body for staff at this time. A permanent Staff Council would provide a space for staff to convene, get to know each other, do advising, and help the staff-side of things run smoothly. Boudreau hopes to complete bylaws, get approval from the Board of Trustees, and hold elections for the Council this upcoming spring or summer.
After his message, Boudreau opened the floor to questions.
One faculty member expressed concern about Boudreau’s plans for a redistribution of funds, especially in favor of research, possibly resulting in less funding for other departments. Boudreau responded by reiterating his intent to speak to legislators about how schools need to be funded; he encouraged the faculty member to sign up for an upcoming trip to Albany to lobby for a better budget.
Another faculty member asked for details on how the OKR strategy works; her department had come up with the recommended three to five goals, but subcategories of those goals had effectively brought the number up to thirteen. Boudreau clarified that the OKR strategy is meant to emphasize the most crucial goals, setting other smaller ones aside. Thirteen goals create a heavier workload and lessen the ability to focus on each one effectively.
An IT staff member commented that they had used a similar strategy to Boudreau’s OKR strategy, and that it had greatly improved efficiency and operations in their department. The strategy being adopted by the administration means that CCNY can have a narrow focus on improving individual departments and the school as a whole.
Overall, this town hall meeting represents the beginning of Boudreau’s plans for a new and improved City College. If they are successful, the goals that he laid out will bring the school out of the debt crisis, change CCNY’s public profile, make management much more efficient, and make this institution financially independent. Boudreau has an understanding that these steps require the participation and engagement of every person on campus. In this way, students, faculty, and staff alike are at once waiting to see change and are driving that change.