Cuomo Administration to Public University Trustees: Sit Down and Shut Up

Thanks to the state Freedom of Information Law, the New York Times has obtained “the lobbying emails Cuomo fought hard to keep secret.” Among the revelations is that the Cuomo administration demands total subordination from public university trustees. In an email to Jim Malatras, a top Cuomo administration official, now-disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe explained the governor’s expectations with regard to trustees.

Howe sought to remind board members that “The Board and the Chamber” (i.e. the Governor’s office) “are one and the same.” A dissenting trustee should know that “the governor and you expect him to carry the chamber’s water, and if he can’t do that day to day, he should rethink his commitment, and you’ll work with him to find a diplomatic way to move off the board.” Any break with the “family” headed by the governor is, in Howe’s words, “totally unacceptable.”

The guys who call the shots

For those of us who care about CUNY, this news would be another drop in the putrid sea that is the Cuomo administration, if it weren’t for the ongoing contract negotiations between the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), CUNY administration, and our ultimate boss, the governor. The most important demand in these negotiations is a $7,000 per course minimum salary for the adjuncts who teach over half of all classes at CUNY.

It is a safe bet that the austerity-minded Cuomo does not intend to double the salaries of thousands of CUNY adjuncts, even if that is the only way for them to approach a modicum of dignity in their working lives. Yet a strategy emerging from an influential corner of the PSC purports to enlist the Board of Trustees and the college presidents, whom the Board selects and oversees, in a campaign to convince state lawmakers to buck the governor’s wishes and carve out a chunk of money in the state budget to fund the $7K demand.

But given this airtight embrace between the governor and trustees, is there any reason to expect they should suddenly want to flip on their patron? This latest news suggests that if $7K is to become a reality in this contract, it may take more than moral appeals.

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