CUNY Administrators: Hanging with the Powerful

Readers of my ‘With Trustees Like These, Who Needs Enemies‘ series of posts will know that I’m not overly fond of CUNY administration. From interfering with faculty governance, to cracking down on academic freedom, to awarding golden parachutes to overpaid, retiring vice-chancellors, they appear to have most bases covered in their drive to subvert the mission of a public university.

What is it that animates this herd so much? A small clue presents itself for perusal in propaganda missives that are issued by the Office of University Relations, an office presumably dedicated to showing this university in the ‘best light’, and charged, possibly, with highlighting the university’s achievements in all matters academic and cultural. That its publications often serve to echo 80th Street’s party line is, I’m sure, purely accidental. One of the Office of University Relations’ publications is CUNYMatters. In its Spring 2013 issue, on page 5 of the print edition, (i,.e., five pages on from the front page story that glorifies the detested–and contested by faculty–initiative Pathways), we have a photo, prominently placed and highlighted with the tag ‘Inauguration Day 2013’. The caption for the photo reads:

First Lady Michelle Obama, leaves the White House with CUNY Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning Iris Weinshall en route to the U.S. Capitol for President Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in for his second term. Weinshall is married to New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who headed the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Elsewhere, in the same issue of CUNYMatters, we have stories on faculty book publications, grants, student awards, and the other items of news showcasing the life of the mind. But, as noted, we also have this photo noted above.

And what’s the photo about? It shows a CUNY administrator in the presence of Someone Powerful at an Important Event. This ‘powerful’ person is not an elected representative of the people, but the spouse of one, the American President. Nevertheless, this person is the closest we’ll get to American Royalty, so presumably our CUNY Administrator is blessed, and consequently, so are we, her minions. But what has the CUNY Administrator done to deserve this entrée to the corridors of power? She is the Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning at CUNY; is she being recognized for stellar planning of facilities? The caption does not say so. Rather the caption merely notes that she is the spouse of Someone Powerful, a US senator in this case.

So there you have it folks: this is a photo worth publishing in an official publication of the Office of University Relations because a CUNY Administrator, who happens to be the spouse of the US Senator that heads the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and thus was able to score an invite for the inauguration, happened to walk out of the White House–that palace in which American Royalty lives–with the spouse of the President of the US.

Fawning, bended knees to power; basking in reflected glory; these, apparently, are the values of the CUNY Administration, worth highlighting to all and sundry.

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