The Bridge was proud to receive this Certificate of Recognition from the University Student Senate at the CUNY Correspondents’ Dinner held at City College’s Great Hall.
On Thursday, March 29th, former CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken sat down with Humanities Professor Hugo Fernandez and discussed Mr. Milliken’s early days as the Chancellor of CUNY.
Mr. Milliken entered the the small conference room located in E-500 and greeted the crowd. He asked each individual in the room, whether student or faculty, for their name and what their role in the school was. One faculty member was wearing a LaGuardia Community College pin, which Mr. Milliken kindly asked to borrow so he could wear it and show his support for LaGuardia during the interview. Initially, the crowd wasn’t large, but as the interview progressed more people entered to fill up the chairs.
Former Chancellor Milliken is no stranger to LaGuardia. He recalls his last visit to the college when he spoke at a panel called “What Can You Do with An English Degree?’’ Professor Fernandez then began to ask what the early days were like for him as the newly appointed Chancellor. In his first two months, Mr. Milliken visited all 24 CUNY schools and spoke with students, faculty, professors, the presidents, and donors of the colleges. What he wished to accomplish was to understand who the individuals are that make CUNY what it is. “CUNY is not an office on 42nd street; it is the students, the faculty and the staff working at these 24 locations,” says Mr. Milliken.
CUNY is not an office on 42nd street; it is the students, the faculty and the staff working at these 24 locations.
When being recruited for the position of Chancellor, Mr. Milliken says that he “caught the CUNY bug” when he was told of all the progress the CUNY system has made and the integral part it plays for New York. Mr. Milliken also praised the fact that CUNY was able to combine what he believes to be the two pillars of education, “broad affordable access and high quality,” and he added, “there’s no place that does it like CUNY. This is sort of the peak of higher public education.” Despite being a big supporter, Mr. Milliken did realize there were hurdles that needed to be overcome as the newly-appointed Chancellor.
When his predecessor Chancellor Matthew Goldstein stepped down, Mr. Milliken found himself having to overcome a transition period for the whole CUNY system.
Pathways–a system of general education requirements meant to ease a student’s transfer between CUNY schools–was a fairly new system implemented before Mr. Milliken took over, which created friction between faculty and administration.
CUNYfirst was also introduced before Mr. Milliken took on the role of chancellor to unite all 24 institutions and replace eSims, which managed student records, staff and faculty employment and benefits, and all college business operations. On top of all this, there was an issue with a labor contract that had not been resolved over a six-year time period.
There was also an instance where faculty picketed outside Mr. Milliken’s home in protest of the labor contract that Mr. Milliken says he missed due to the fact that he was giving a speech in a hotel that same day. “You have to have a fairly healthy ego to do these jobs and you have to have a fair sense of confidence that if you are in charge, you can get things accomplished,” said Mr. Milliken when reminiscing of the struggles he faced as the new Chancellor.
Professor Fernandez closed the interview by asking former Chancellor Milliken about what the future has in store for CUNY. “You cannot deny the value of higher education when you see the kind of results CUNY has, and I think it’s going to do well,” Mr. Milliken mentioned. “More places need to offer more expanded access and offer the kind of support to help students graduate in a timely way.”