The content of the letter below was sent by DSC leadership and was addressed to the incoming Graduate Center Interim President James Muyskens on May 13, 2019. 

Dear Incoming Interim Graduate Center President Muyskens,

We are writing as current leadership of the Doctoral and Graduate Students’ Council (DSC) of the City University of New York. The DSC comprises elected representatives from Doctoral and Master’s programs at the Graduate Center CUNY and has for many years continued a tradition of promoting shared governance within the university in order to empower its students, faculty, and staff to participate in the important social, political, and economic decisions that affect the quality of their lives and of their community. As DSC leadership, we are proud of the legacy of CUNY’s historic “commitment to academic excellence and to the provision of equal access and opportunity for students, faculty, and staff.”

We are optimistic about the work to be done in the years ahead under new leadership. In particular, we hope that work may be done towards opening up decision-making processes concerning the budget. Issues concerning the budget decisions of the Graduate Center are seen as an important concern among many constituents within the college, not just students. During the most recent DSC Plenary meeting on April 12, a resolution was adopted by unanimous vote in favor of a democratically-elected membership consisting of faculty, staff, and students. We hope that this resolution may be the start of a productive dialogue around budgetary decision-making.

Over the past year, the representatives of the DSC have been vocal in supporting initiatives to ensure that funding for graduate students is viewed as a priority. We firmly believe that all students, doctoral as well as master’s students, are deserving of full and fair funding. Apart from funding required to sustain a livable income, the academic lifestyle also comes with additional expenses, such as the costs of conference registration and travel, supplies and equipment for research, among other forms of expenses related to one’s scholarship. While we acknowledge that some forms of funding exist within CUNY, there remains a need for more opportunities to apply for these additional research specific funds.

Given the current funding scheme, many students are not eligible for health insurance. All students should be eligible to enroll in affordable health insurance, regardless of the status of their financial awards. During the September Plenary for the DSC, we had the opportunity to hear from former Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz about the possibility of health insurance for doctoral students, especially students in the sciences. We believe that under the current leadership, strides may continue to be taken to ensure equitable access among students to affordable health insurance, as well as reinstating on-campus health services for students of the Graduate Center.

Students of the Graduate Center are deserving of an adequate quality of life experience while on campus. Unfortunately, for many students, particularly those with mobility constraints, their quality of life is threatened by easily resolvable issues such as a door to the library with an automatic opening featuring. While we commend the college for recently establishing personnel to work directly with students to promote accessibility of on-campus resources and opportunities, continued personnel and financial support should be contributed to such initiatives.

We believe that participation by students, faculty, and staff will lead to more productive conversations around the aforementioned concerns. Participation in shared governance requires transparency within program-level processes, as well as college-level governance. Ensuring that program governance documents are current and promote opportunities for broad participation, particularly from students, is one important step forward. We are optimistic that future participation through program standing or Graduate Council committees will recognize it as a responsibility which carries the opportunity to improve the institution.

We recognize that there has recently been a time of great transition within the Graduate Center and throughout CUNY. We acknowledge and appreciate the leadership your successors have shown. We also firmly believe that greater work can be done to promote access to higher education through advocacy for improved practices around shared governance, greater budget transparency, and equitable funding and benefits for students. We have the utmost expectations that the incoming administration will strive to achieve these aims.

Best regards,

DSC Steering Committee, 2018-2019

Alison Parks, Co-Chair for Student Affairs
Teresa Ober, Co-Chair for Communications
Raj Korpan, Co-Chair for Business
Roderick Hurley, University Student Senate Delegate
Anaïs Wong, University Faculty Senate Liaison
Elizabeth Che, Officer for Funding
Jason Nielsen, Officer for Governance & Membership
Ana Perry, Officer for Health & Wellness
Shoumik Bhattacharya, Officer for Outreach
Elena Chávez, Officer for Student Life & Services
Marlene Nava Ramos, Officer for Library & Technology