In our previous issue, The Ticker published an editorial touting CUNY’s admirable persistence to defend and uphold its students in the face of adversity, such as the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In this challenging time, and in others prior, the CUNY administration has stuck by its students and provided resources and aid to them. Given this, CUNY does many things correctly.
However, the university system’s public reputation causes potential current and past students and faculty members to see CUNY in a negative light. CUNY sells and prides itself as an institution that provides a quality education at an affordable price. However, it can be difficult to make this connection because, in recent years, CUNY has been plagued with various scandals that seem to take precedence over the affordable education for which it is known.
In October 2016, Lisa S. Coico, former president of City College of New York, resigned from her position following an investigation that probed into a misuse of funds that connected back to her. Investigators concluded that Coico had used over $150,000 of the school’s endowment to pay for personal expenses. A final report indicated that Coico had used $36,000 of the sum to pay for a part-time housekeeper and $35,000 of the sum to fund her retirement party.
In February of this year, Baruch College played host to its own embezzlement scandal when police arrested former employee Machli Joseph due to misplacement of $600,000 of the school’s funds. The money belonged to the athletics department. Instead, it went to Joseph’s personal expenses, such as home renovations, gifts and credit card bills. Joseph worked within the athletics department as athletics director, but he has resigned from his position.
More recently, Mamdouh Abdel-Sayed, a biology professor at Medgar Evers College, was arrested for “teaching unauthorized health care classes and selling students fake certificates of completion,” The New York Times wrote. Witnesses said that Abdel-Sayed implicitly encouraged students to engage in unethical and unsanitary practices, such as drawing blood from each other.
CUNY offers great services to over 500,000 students in attendance, but these services dramatically subside in significance when big scandals arise. As much as CUNY would like its name to reflect affordability and quality, it too often calls to mind unethical circumstances. The scandals do not reflect well on CUNY and its reputation will continue to stagger as long as these scandals persist.