Last week CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez ordered furloughs for the University’s top administrators to address the financial crisis brought on by COVID-19. The expected five day furlough will affect CUNY employees under the Executive Compensation Plan.
“As a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has experienced reductions in revenue, seen public funding significantly reduced and been obliged to take on unplanned emergency expenditures,” Rodriguez wrote in an email to faculty and staff on Nov. 4. “We have been forced to make decisions that only months ago seemed unthinkable.”
The furlough applies to CUNY presidents, deans, vice chancellors, administrators, and Chancellor Rodriguez himself. Rodriguez wrote that information regarding the furlough’s implementation would be forthcoming.
CUNY lost about $52 million in the Spring 2020 semester, and has so far spent around $75 million in emergency expenses, including the costs of laptops and equipment for students working at home, as well as overtime compensation for public safety workers. The 5.1% decrease in enrollment for the fall semester has seen another $32 million loss in revenue. CUNY’s current budget for 2021 will cut funding by $46.3 million.
According to CUNY’s largest staff union, the Professional Staff Congress, the five day furloughs for administrators is a drop in the ocean of financial relevance.
“It’s mostly symbolic,” PSC spokesperson Francis Clark told the Vanguard.
The PSC has sharply criticized CUNY’s handling of the fiscal crisis this year. This week, the union’s lawsuit against the University’s layoffs of 2,800 adjuncts was thrown out by a federal judge, but the union plans to file another suit against CUNY’s delay of a promised 2% increase in faculty’s salaries.
Believing CUNY cannot sustain the quality of education by laying off workers and slashing funding, PSC has advocated for Governor Cuomo to impose heavier taxes on New York’s richest, who have been thriving during the pandemic.
“That is a place where funding can be found and should be found,” Clark said. “They should chop from the top.”
CUNY employees facing the furloughs make within the range of $83,591 to $402,700, according to the Board of Trustees’ compensation plan. Brooklyn College president Michelle Anderson makes a yearly $320,656, with a monthly salary of well over $20,000. The five day furlough would glean about $4,000 from Anderson’s paycheck, an amount of money equal to what adjuncts make teaching one course.
“Thousands of adjuncts lost 100% of their CUNY income, not just a few days,” PSC president Barbara Bowen said in a statement.
Rodriguez has partially owed financial difficulties to a lack of federal aid and warned in his email that the University could face more cuts.
“We all have had to make sacrifices this year, and unfortunately, I expect more potentially difficult decisions in the near term,” he said.