Transparency at The University?

Updated: Mar 4

The Academic Senate assembled both faculty and administration to go over upcoming plans, concerns and decisions for the college. The fate of New York Institute of Technology was heavily discussed on Friday, February 12. President Hank Foley, who has been under the microscope recently for how he has handled the university during the pandemic, took charge at the beginning of the meeting with top- ics that have not been communi- cated with the student population. This has been alarming considering the knowledge that has been with- held from many parties. The talk of COVID-19 and how it has been almost a year of remote learning were brought up. Although there were talks about transitioning students back into campus after March 1, it was also shared that there will not be an in-person commencement ceremo- ny for the 2021 graduating class. However, Foley began with good fate by believing in his words “the hyper model is working and helps them stay on track for graduating and career.” Whether or not the stu- dents believe that also is a question as many student sources believe otherwise.

Foley attributes COVID-19 for causing the financial burden. But at the Convocation on September 3, 2020 Foley stated that the University would be in “solid financial ground” by 2021. In December the Globe reported Foley’s estimate of losses ranging from $20 million to $30 million.

The main building of the Manhattan campus, 1855 Broadway, was previously put on the market for sale and in contract with the company Extell. Although not discussed in the Senate meeting, Extell is currently suing NYIT over breach of contract. Foley said the building is currently off the market now and that it does not seem plausible to sell at the current moment and price. He believes if a certain offer does come to the table, it will be discussed and the building may possibly go back on the market. Ideas such as other companies subletting the first floor of the current library are arising. Adding something of value to the university such as a Barnes and Noble or a Starbucks have been considered, except this would take away from the main source of social interaction at the campus which is the library. As faculty questions arose, one shared that they would like to be better informed on whether or not the sale would happen. The person continued saying, “If there can be an adequate amount of notice such as 18-24 months,” later adding, “Can you ensure us that you will actively solicit input from faculty and administrators, I am deeply concerned that major decisions that impact our lives are being made in a vacuum.” Foley responds by explaining that any offer can come unexpected- ly in certain situations and they would be considered. He stated, “I expect that sometime in the next 18-24 months we will put the building back on the market, so this is the essence of that and I want you to think about that. I’m not sure if we would get enough for it to make us want to sell the building, but right now we are assuming we won’t sell the building and instead look for ways to repurpose it and to use it more effectively and to try to break even.” Later, there were discussions on the millions spent on asbestos cleanup in 1855 Broadway and the improvement of lavatories and lighting. It was shared how when doing a bit of work in the Old Westbury buildings, the amount of damage was “aston- ishing” from the lack of work on the campus in the last twenty years. The main strategy shared by the whole Senate was to reduce costs and to reduce the number of programs while focusing on programs that are “succeeding.” As enrollment has dropped with both international and domestic students, the plan is still to con- tinue to reduce in areas for the upcoming years, but build on enrollment. Doing this, they have cut the sports programs, are reducing staff, and deactivating programs such as Communication Arts. Asking what other programs have been canceled and flying around the rumor of replacement of faculty in these departments to save cost also, the response was “that it is up to the faculty if they decide to stay.” Foley continues saying, “as we suspend programs we will follow the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) exactly, as we work with faculty.” This is the agreement that the faculty union has with the administration. Sadly, students in those deactivated departments remain in despair, knowing that they may not have the same academic knowledge taught by well-versed professors as they did in the previous semesters at NYIT.

As the meeting went on and other administrators spoke, the question arose in me. When will the students know and be on the same page as everyone else? The lack of commu- nication among students, faculty and administration has been terrible in the past years. There have been numerous puzzling questions from the unexpected potential sale of the main building to not even having the correct numbers of students infected with COVID-19 to now wondering the consequences and reason on why programs have been cancelled. The communication is not there and the concerns are not listened to. Students demand to be heard and want to put their trust in a university to supply that. That is the true reason why people transfer from NYIT because the lack of transparency is unbearable. The core ideals of the university are incredible. The opportunity is there, the programs are amazing, the stu- dents are diverse and well educated, yet situations happen and students are ignored. My unsolicited advice is if you would like to mend the university, start with understanding who is the person that attends, what do they want, where can they go, and what is the potential. Because, regardless of any issue, the univer- sity should always do their best to benefit the next generation of professionals and make their current experience a wonderful one without worry.

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