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August 31, 2020

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

Welcome back for the start of a new, untouched and undiscovered academic year. Although the majority of us will not be returning to campus, much of the summer was spent putting together a reopening plan for the campus, which has been posted on our website and you can view here.

As I have said many times since March, uncertainly is the new certainty. Though there has been some forward motion, that still remains true. In the midst of these evolving circumstances, there has been a popular narrative that the value of higher education has plummeted with online delivery of courses. I've been determined to refute and push back against this narrative because, for Lehman's hardworking students, nothing could be further from the truth. I've included some of the reasons why here: "The Tuition and Fees Values Proposition in the Time of COVID-19: Should I Get A Refund?"

While in elite settings or universities, it may be that students who have the resources will be able to continue on the path to securing generational wealth which deepens institutional and societal inequity, CUNY serves a more diverse audience which mostly lacks that inherited head start. CUNY has earned a well-deserved distinction for offering a high-quality, affordable education for students who do not live at the intersection of luck and privilege, and who must continue to work hard to move into the middle-class, and a future that is financially secure for their families. CUNY has always operated with constrained resources, at Lehman that means educating one Full Time Enrolled (FTE) student for $16,000 annually. That is compared to per student costs as high as $170,000 annually at some private institutions.

Part of the reason we continue to embrace the ambition of 90X30, especially now, is that students with a bachelor's degree earn, over their lifetimes, an average of $1 million dollars more than they would without a degree. That investment may not seem substantial if you attend a private college or university. But at CUNY, the tuition students pay average about $7000 a year. That's certainly not a little bit of money. But compared to the $58,000 or $68,000 a year cost, it certainly is. Two-thirds of CUNY students pay no tuition, and Lehman students graduate with the lowest amount of student debt in the Northeast.

I also made the full argument in a letter to PBS NewsHour in early August. I wrote that our hard-working students are worth every penny that goes into their education, and I mean it. I want to say a little about the budget, though, unfortunately, there is not much to update. We're still waiting to hear from Washington D.C. and because of that we have been in a waiting mode. It is unfortunately likely that we will be operating without a CUNY Board-approved budget, and on temporary funding, for some time through the fall.

I have also met with a number of foundations with Vice President for Institutional Advancement Susan Ebersole, as we pursue additional support for The Campaign for Lehman College and for several other exciting initiatives.

Celebrating Excellence

Over the summer I submitted the Performance Management Process (PMP) report to CUNY once again. If you are reading this, you likely know how much and how often Lehman College stands out, but seeing the specifics in the context of other CUNY schools puts an even finer point on that notion -- The college is number one for a number of CUNY reporting indicators. It is impossible to not have a true sense of pride at Lehman College. The credit really goes to all of you and your colleagues and your work over the years that has generated this success.

Over the summer, nine students out of 15 who applied received Gilman Scholarships, making us, once again, a top-producing Gilman Scholar Institution. In fact, we're ranked the number 1 Top Producing Gilman Scholar institution among medium sized colleges and universities.

Congratulations to Dr. Matthew O'Dowd of the School of Natural and Social Sciences (Physics and Astronomy) who has been awarded a grant from Schmidt Futures in the amount of $2.94 million over the course of 5 years, with $1.8 million of that coming directly to Lehman (the remainder is a subaward to the University of Montreal). The title of this project is "Gravitational Lensing and Machine Learning in the Next Generation of Sky Surveys."

Professor Anne Rothstein, in the School of Education, has been awarded two grants for Student Support Services through the US Department of Education's TRIO program:

  • Pathways to Success using High Impact Practices to Increase Performance, Persistence, Retention, and Graduation, for five years beginning September 1st, 2020, with a total award of $1,356,000.

  • Careers in Teaching Using High Impact Practices to Increase College Performance and Persistence, Retention, and Graduation Rates, for five years beginning September 1st, 2020, with a total award of $1,259,000.

Margot Mifflin, an English professor at Lehman College, has published to glowing reviews, "Looking for Miss America: A Pageant's 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood."

Journalism students Jennifer Kelley, Amman Ahmad, Michael Forte and David Acevedo in Lehman College journalism professor Eileen Markey's class were recently published in The Intercept looking at the NYPD's pattern of settling cases of police brutality out of court.

Professor Naomi Zack has been selected to deliver the John Dewey Lecture for the American Philosophical Association's Pacific Division for 2021. Each of the APA's three Divisions award this lecture to only one philosopher per year, and it is considered very prestigious to be selected.

Meetings

In my meetings with elected officials over the summer, I kept them abreast of the fact that adjuncts at Lehman College who might otherwise have lost health insurance were reappointed for the fall term, despite the grim budgetary outlook across CUNY. I shared with them our plans to conduct more than 98 percent of our classes online for the Fall 2020 term, and the efforts we are making to be sure that students have the computers and internet access that they need.

In this year's New York City budget, the Bronx Borough President and Lehman alumnus, Ruben Diaz, Jr., and City Council Member Andrew Cohen, together provided the additional funding to complete the Department of Social Work renovation ($4 million total project), and to create the Teaching and Learning Innovation Space in the Old Gym ($3 million total project). Council Member Cohen gave the college $950,000 for the Teaching and Learning Innovation Space, and $525,000 for Social Work Expansion, and Borough President Diaz Jr., gave $525,000 for Social Work Expansion.

Council Member Cohen also generously donated $10,000 to our Virtual Food Bank earlier this summer. I want to congratulate him for being the Democratic nominee for the Bronx Supreme Court.

I met with Assemblymember Latoya Joyner to discuss a number of programs available to students in the Bronx such as the Nourish Food Program and other resources to help those who may or may not have benefited from the CARES Act funding. I also met with Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez to discuss the status of the budget in Albany and Lehman College recipients of the Excelsior scholarships.

I was delighted that Senators Luis Sepulveda and Jamaal Bailey took time out their busy summer Fridays to attend our first and third virtual screenings, respectively, as part of the panel discussions following the now Emmy-nominated documentary, College Behind Bars. Sepulveda and Bailey added important points to a discussion that included members of our Reentry @ Lehman Committee and several other dynamic policymakers and leaders in the community organization space. I also met separately with both senators.

I also met with Senator Gustavo Rivera who has a special interest in wellness and healthcare. He hopes to be engaged as the CUNY Institute for Health Equity enters a new phase with its new director, Professor Maria Isabel Roldos-Prosser.

I also met with Assemblyman Victor Pichardo, and we agreed about the need for extra assistance for the Bronx, having experienced the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the city and is now in jeopardy of experiencing tenant evictions that may impact some of our students.

I met with Senator Jose Rivera, a long-time legislator and ardent supporter of the college. And I also met with Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is the head of the Bronx Delegation, an alumnus, and also a steady supporter of the college.

My last meeting of the month is with Mr. Kenny Burgos who will be filling the seat of Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, who is leaving the assembly. I want to thank Assemblymember Crespo for his support of the college over all the years he has been a Bronx legislator and wish him all the best as he begins a new venture.

Shared Governance

  • September 1 Faculty, Personnel & Budget
  • September 2 Lehman College Senate
  • September 3 Cabinet (Strategic)
  • September 9┬áCabinet (Operational)
  • September 16 Convocation
  • September 17┬áCabinet (Strategic)
  • September 17 Final College Behind Bars Screening
  • September 30 President's Advisory Board

I will continue, as I have since May, to update the community during Live Briefings held via Zoom on Thursday afternoons and to engage with students every two weeks on Monday afternoons via Instagram Live from our @LehmanCuny account. I encourage you to tune in for the informative briefings as your schedules permit. In the meantime, I wish you a productive start to the academic year.

Daniel Lemons
@LehmanPresident

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.