Defending a 160-Year Legacy: Overcoming Uncertainty at the Departmental Level

Previously published in The Campus
Design by Carmen Quang

Change and transition has dominated the City College of New York this past year. Ever since former president Lisa Coico’s resignation in October, the students, faculty, and administration have had the daunting task of adapting to their surroundings. The investigations about Coico’s resignation have not yet been finalized. This has only added to the uncertainty of the college and its departments. In times such as these it’s important to look to the heads of our individual departments.

Dean Gordon A. Gebert, the interim dean of the School of Architecture, is hopeful concerning Coico’s resignation. He explains, “the president left with some clouds over her head, that I believe will clear, but there was not a cloud over Architecture.” He further elaborated that “Architecture lost a good friend.” Gebert believes that City College is a “powerhouse” in the CUNY system. “The original campus is more than a jewel, it’s a crown,” he boasts. Gebert finds it necessary for the next president to continue our mission and “represent the school well.”

Dean Gretchen Johnson is the head of the School of Education. Johnson found it discouraging how the college conducted Coico’s resignation. She notes how the deans and students “didn’t get much information until the very last minute.” She continues to say that “We [The School of Education] think it could have been handled better, that it would have been less painful to her and less difficult as a transition to the rest of the college if it was handled more judiciously.”

She applauds how willing and flexible the faculty has been throughout this entire transition. “We moved into these positions to hold things together, to keep things going until things are resolved,” she goes on to say, “We have a good group of deans, I think we will be alright until we get a new president.” She hopes the next president will be as “open and willing to talk to faculty and hear their opinions as our last president was.”

Dr. Laurent Mars, the Associate Dean of Science, has been at CCNY since 1994. In his 22 years at our campus he has seen several presidents come and go. However, Coico’s hasty resignation surprised him considering “there were no formal charges.” Mars referred to the media coverage of the ordeal. He shares, “I wish these issues could have been kept in the family of CCNY. When you have a problem within your family you don’t want that issue to be exposed in the public arena. We are a family and I think our job is to work out things with ourselves.”

Because of the negative influx of media concerning CCNY, Dr. Mars is disappointed that the great things that are happening on our campus get “lost in the conversation.” When considering a new president, he hopes CCNY finds someone who is not only a “cheerleader” but also someone who “practices transparency” and “can reduce administrative costs.” In the past several years, The City College of New York has lost a substantial amount of funding.

Because of this, every department has had to figure out how to do better with less. In the next president, Mars finds it imperative that they “show great fiscal restraint, and try to do better with less.”

Lisa Coico’s resignation “came as a surprise” to Dean Doris Cintrón as well. Cintrón is the Senior Associate Provost and Interim Dean of Humanities and the Arts. She finds it critical to “stay focused on the mission, which stays the same no matter who is at the helm.” Cintrón thinks “The situation was handled the best way it could be given all the restraints.” Cintrón hopes the school can find someone who can “pose new questions on how we do public education.” As far as the Humanities and the Arts are concerned, Dean Doris Cintrón sees that “There’s a lot of exciting work being done in the department. It needs to get out to the campus and beyond.” In this period of confusion, she continues to aspire for her current department to “have a more visible footprint in the community.”

Vincent Boudreau is the Interim President and Dean of the Colin Powell School. He is immensely excited to have the opportunity to lead the college he has called home for the past 25 years. “There’s no place like City College in the country, and I love it, I love it to death” he praised. Despite the confusion he assures that “It’s possible in this interim period to try to identify things that we can fix and address.”

When prompted on his emotions entering this new responsibility, Boudreau elucidated how “You’ve got excitement. Then you find yourself walking down Convent Avenue and it’s 7 o’clock at night and the lights are on and there are all these buildings and students and you can see all the way down to architecture and theatre and the science buildings and you think ‘Oh my God someone has trusted me to take care of all of this’!” He explains that the presidency requires more than just infrastructural work. “You’re not just taking care of ‘those guys’ (gesturing to workers on the nearby building), you’re taking care of a 160-year legacy,” he states. Boudreau wants to ensure that the next president will “walk into a strong institution.”

To continue the legacy of City College, Boudreau knows he has to struggle and approach all possibilities with an entrepreneurial attitude. “I kinda assumed from day one at CCNY that anything I really passionately wanted to happen I was gonna have to go out and build” he reflected. In conclusion he remarks, “Everyone needs to understand that they are crucial, and that goes all the way down to the student level.”

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Although nothing is certain about who our next president will be, the faculty, administration, and student body can find solace in knowing that their current leaders are hopeful and willing to make this academy as successful and welcoming as possible.