CUNY chancellor to attend NYU graduation and receive an honorary degree


Tdorante10 | Wikimedia Commons

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez will attend New York University’s graduation commencement ceremony on May 18 and receive an honorary degree, according to a March 28 news release from NYU.

NYU’s commencement will occur at Yankee Stadium a little over a week before Baruch College’s commencement on May 26. The ceremony will commence at 11 a.m. for class of 2022 graduates and a second ceremony at 6 p.m. for students who graduated in 2020 and 2021, who didn’t have an in-person graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The private university is publicizing its graduation as a “double header” as internationally known singer-songwriter Taylor Swift will be the guest speaker for the 2022 commencement and leading disability rights activist Judith Heumann will be the speaker for the 2020 and 2021 commencement.

In addition to remarks from the university’s administration, the speeches from the guest speakers and the part of the ceremony where the students graduating will be honored, NYU will also award honorary degrees to people who have not attended the school.

The honorary degrees will be presented to Lonnie Bunch III, Susan Hockfield, Jill Lepore and CUNY’s Matos Rodríguez.

Matos Rodriguez is set to receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa at the 2022 commencement for his work as CUNY chancellor, which he became on May 1, 2019.

“Chancellor Matos Rodríguez is the first BIPOC educator and the first Latino to lead the nation’s largest urban public university, serving 270,000 degree-seeking students and 225,000 adult and continuing education students in 25 campuses across New York City’s five boroughs,” the NYU news release explains about Matos Rodriguez. “Chancellor Matos Rodríguez’s distinguished career spans both academia and the public sector: He is a scholar, teacher, administrator, and former cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In addition, Chancellor Matos Rodríguez previously served as the president of Queens College and Hostos Community College, making him one of a select few US educators to have been president of both a community and baccalaureate institution.”

CUNY is regularly credited with being an institution that works to give low-income, first-generation, immigrant, disabled and returning students social mobility.

NYU, on the other hand, is known internationally as a world-class institution that rivals the Ivy Leagues. The university has campuses in New York City, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

It is also known for its high tuition, which is $58,168 for an in-state student without factoring in the cost of commuting, dorming, textbooks and other student expenses — a number that is roughly nine times the in-state tuition of a CUNY school.

The Ticker collected the opinions of CUNY students on Matos Rodriguez attending the NYU commencement and receiving an honorary degree through a Google Form shared on social media.

The consensus among the five respondents was that CUNY students overall do not approve, with more than 60% saying they do not like that the chancellor will receive the honor from another university, especially one associated with socioeconomic privilege.

“I will never support a man who makes the most accessible college inaccessible to thousands of people after raising tuition year after year being honored for anything,” Andres Aguirre, a Baruch senior, said. “Two years of stopping tuition hikes and a handful of grants are not enough to reverse the harm this ‘man of the people.’”

John Jay College alumnus Jose Rivera Jr., who graduated in 2020 with a degree in culture and deviance studies, said he also does not feel Matos Rodriguez deserves the honor.

“Mr Matos has done nothing to receive an honorary degree from NYU,” Rivera said. “If he was to focus on making CUNY competitive with major universities like NYU, then maybe deserves it. He has yet to do anything to invest in CUNY. He should focus on building CUNY’s brand by actually listing to students and not the board of trustee’s who are out of touch with todays era of education.”

However, not all students minded that Matos Rodriguez would be honored by the for-profit university.

“I just found out about this and honestly have no feelings,” Fanny Noriega, a junior political science major at Queens College, said. “Although it sounds wrong, his alma maters are both private institutions so I don’t see how this is an issue if he is receiving an honorary degree at another private institution.”