The Future of Doctoral Education at CUNY – UFS Conference!

Dear Commons Community,

The University Faculty Senate sponsored a conference today on The Future of Doctoral Education at CUNY (see program below).  This is a timely topic as the CUNY Central Office contemplates moving some doctoral programs out of the Graduate Center and into the colleges.  The lab sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Biochemistry) have specifically been designated for reassignment to individual colleges or to consortial arrangements among colleges.  The details of their future organization and governance are still to be worked out.

After welcoming remarks by Dr. Terrence Martell (Chair, UFS), Chancellor Bill Kelly set the stage for the day.  The Chancellor was clear and straightforward and spoke honestly on the state of doctoral study in American higher education.  For example, while cautioning the audience not to rely entirely on some of the published statistics, he indicated that we cannot ignore the fact that only 32% of all courses offered last year at American colleges and universities were taught by faculty in tenure-bearing positions.  The rest were taught by adjuncts or faculty on contract.  At CUNY the percentage is 42%.  The implication was clear that full-time, tenure bearing positions are on the decline thereby limiting traditional academic job opportunities for Ph.D. graduates.  He also expressed concern about the “crisis of the humanities” and supported the need for change in “our monastic enterprise where change at times is glacial”.  He reviewed some of the policies  (more fellowships, health insurance provisions, lowering of admissions) that were  initiated at the Graduate Center during his presidency.  There were a number of questions from the floor after his comments.   In my opinion, his comments were well-received by the audience.

Martin Burke was the next speaker who called on faculty interested in doctoral education to get involved in governance at their colleges and to have their voices heard.

The next panel featured Vice Chancellor Gillian Small who reviewed possible changes in doctoral study as programs move from the Graduate Center to the colleges.  She specifically expressed concern about the availability of positions in the sciences.  She mentioned for instance that only 14% of Biology Ph.Ds had found tenure-track positions within five years of graduation and that approximately 300,000 chemistry positions in private enterprises had been eliminated globally because of consolidations among the large pharmaceutical companies.  She was followed by President Karen Gould of Brooklyn College and Professor Edward Kennelly (Biology, Lehman College and the Graduate Center).  Professor Kennelly was most effective in stating the case for science faculty at the smaller and newer CUNY colleges and that the result of the movement of these doctoral programs to other CUNY colleges whether individually or in consortia would relegate faculty such as himself to second-class citizen status.  He called for continuing these programs at the Graduate Center.

The day concluded with presentations by President Chase Robinson and Provost Louise Lennihan on the state of doctoral study at the Graduate Center and its future. They made the case that many of the programs in the humanities and the social sciences at the Graduate Center were among the best in the country.   They also reviewed recent changes in the Center’s financial aid packages guaranteeing that all new doctoral students would receive some form of fellowships.  Combined with a three-year plan to reduce overall doctoral enrollments by 14%, the Center’s programs were becoming very competitive. They also affirmed their commitment to diversity during this period of adjustment.

In sum, I thought that this was quite a good program for those of us interested in doctoral study at CUNY.   And a thank you is in order to the University Faculty Senate for making it possible.








“The Future of Doctoral Education at CUNY”

Friday, December 6, 2013

8:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Baruch College

Introductory Remarks – 9:00 a.m.

Dr. Terrence Martell, Chair, UFS


First Topic (9:10 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.)



Presenter – Interim Chancellor William Kelly


Remarks –  Professor Martin Burke (Graduate Center Governance Leader)


Audience Q & A


Second Topic  (10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.)



Presenters –    Vice Chancellor for Research Gillian Small

Brooklyn College President Karen Gould


Remarks –  Professor Edward Kennelly (Biology, Lehman)


Audience Q & A


Third Topic  (10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.)



Presenters –     Graduate Center Interim President Chase Robinson

Graduate Center Interim Provost Louise Lennihan


Remarks –   Dr. Terrence Martell, Chair, UFS


Audience Q & A (11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m

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