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December 11, 2019

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

Congratulations on making it to the final days of the fall 2019 semester. I hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving break as the official start of winter quickly approaches. It is hard to believe we’re preparing for the end of the year.

One of the most significant developments of this semester has been the welcome news that we will soon have a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which will include significantly higher salaries for adjunct faculty members, added paid office hours to their contracts, and improved benefits for faculty and staff. That includes retroactive back pay and stipends for extra work, among other things. The Professional Staff Congress for the City University of New York (CUNY) and Lehman agree that this is a historic contract that moves us in a productive, powerful direction.

The PSC membership voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract, and the CUNY Board of Trustees will act on in its December 16 meeting. I am optimistic that it will be approved, clearing the way for its implementation. Because there are significant new elements in the CBA, it may take some time to implement all of them, including the retroactive pay. Many of us remember that process from the last CBA. The largest changes will be in adjunct faculty pay rate, and in arranging their extra hour per week for meeting students and professional development. We are already starting to work on implementation, and we expect to be ready by spring term.

In November, we commemorated some days of significance for our students: Veterans Day – hundreds of our undergraduates are military veterans and it was important to reflect on their service; and, along with our CUNY sister schools, First Generation Students Day. Some 56 percent of our undergraduates are, like me, the first generation of students in their families to attend college.

I also enjoyed participating in the annual Pumpkin Smash with Lehman students, Jodie Colon, the Compost Project manager with the New York Botanical Gardens, and volunteers with Green City Force, who farm on New York City Housing Authority property throughout the city. You may not know that Lehman, under the leadership of Vice President Rene Rotolo, has been composting for over twenty years, and now the annual amount is over 50 tons, all of which ultimately makes its way to gardens around the Bronx.

Later in the month, I was a guest of the CEO and President of the New York Botanical Gardens Dr. Carrie Rebora Barratt at the NYBG annual meeting. There I had stimulating discussions her and several curators at the Garden about our ongoing collaboration.

I participated in a couple of important panels related to career and workforce matters. At the Continuing Education Association of New York (CEANY) Conference. I joined other CUNY and State University of New York (SUNY) presidents on a panel to discuss the continuing education and workforce partnerships underway at Lehman College. The panel was moderated by the CEANY Incoming President, Lehman’s own School of Continuing and Professional Studies Dean, Jane MacKillop. On the panel were Karen Wilkes, President of BMCC, Dennis Craig, President of SUNY Purchase, and President of Westchester Community College, Belinda Miles.

I also enjoyed sitting on a panel of judges one weekend as part of Project Destined’s $10,000 scholarship competition. Five impressive teams of students, many from Lehman, pitched to the panel a real estate project they had developed for a particular property. After probing the proposals of each team, we voted for the winning one. Since Lehman students were on all five teams, it was assured that some Lehman students would win some scholarship money.

I have mentioned in previous communications that CUNY and Lehman would continue to strengthen our responses to external threats to our community. With that in mind, Senior Staff held a three-hour Active Shooter Tabletop Exercise in November. These trainings will continue in other areas of the College.

I had the great pleasure of attending a special event held at the CUNY Graduate Center, hosted by Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez, to honor Judy Bergtraum, Senior Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning, Construction and Management, who is retiring from CUNY after 12 years of service to CUNY.

I also attended a reception for new CUNY faculty members at the Graduate Center, also hosted by the Chancellor.

There was a wonderful celebration of the writing of Lehman students on a rainy afternoon the last Sunday of November in which they unveiled and read from their new publication, Our Words Have Power: Lehman College Students Tell Their Stories of Resilience, Strength and Beauty. Lehman students Quameisha Moreno and Kassandra Montes, emceed the fundraiser which benefitted the Lehman Food Bank and the Aissetou Cisse Scholarship for Undocumented Students. The project was led by Suzette Ramsundar, who heads the Center for Student Leadership Development, and it grew out of a leadership module in storytelling. Sylvia Blumenfeld and Carol Foresta suggested the project and volunteered as mentors to the twelve students who contributed to the volume. The Hon. Jeffrey Dinowitz, our State Assembly person, and New York City Council member, Brad Lander, attended.

State Senator Luis Sepúlveda, chair of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, hosted a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform at Lehman. Before the meeting began, he told me this was the first time for such a meeting, in which the wide range of perspectives and interests in the topic would be represented. He has engaged our faculty members of the Reentry Committee who were present at the roundtable discussion.

Finally, the Student Government Association of Lehman College (SGA) leaders invited me to join them and a couple hundred Lehman students in a Thanksgiving meal on the Tuesday evening before the holiday. The leaders did the serving, and over an hour into the meal, they still hadn’t eaten their meals as they continued dishing out food for newly arriving students. It was a great event and I really enjoyed meeting many of the students who attended. Thank you, SGA!

Other Meetings

  • Director of Government Relations Sandy Cheiten and I met with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz to discuss our upcoming RESO A funding request, as well as the soon-to-be-released study of the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.
  • At the monthly President’s and Dean’s Lunch with Chancellor Matos Rodriguez, we began discussion of the preparation of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget.
  • I met with Lehman alum Ivan Seidenberg, a former Verizon CEO, and Evalyn and Stephen Milman, for conversations which touched on a number of important topics.
  • Lehman’s Social Work program was re-accredited after a site visit; in addition to making specific recommendations for improvement, accreditors had well-deserved praise for the social work program. Congratulations to Prof. Mazza and the faculty and staff of the department!
  • I met with the CUNY Graduate Center President Jim Muyskens and Provost Julia Wrigley to discuss the ongoing collaboration between Lehman and the Graduate Center.
  • As part of my ongoing consultation with him, I met with Michael Kaiser regarding his strategic planning for the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, conducted through his firm, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.
  • I met with Alessandro Weiss, Principal of the High School for American Studies, to discuss our long-running relationship.
  • I also met with City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, who was very interested in Lehman’s role as an engine of social mobility. We also discussed food insecurity in the Bronx and among college students, as well as its long-term effects.
  • The Herbert H. Lehman College Foundation Board of Directors had its quarterly meeting in which new officers were elected for 2020.

Celebrating Excellence
November also marked the inaugural Catherine Alicia Georges Nursing Research Conference, a daylong symposium and major milestone both for Dr. Georges and for Lehman College. Dr. Georges is an institution at Lehman, in The Bronx, New York City and beyond. Attendees came from all over the world; a clear acknowledgement of Dr. Georges’ global stature. Earlier this year, Dr. Georges was awarded the highest honor in the nursing profession when she was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing. She has been a leader in the profession and a champion for diversity for forty years – a remarkable achievement by any measure. It was my pleasure to sing her praises with her colleagues in the East Dining Room. There it was announced that the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) which will be the only DNP in The Bronx, and one of just a few established in the CUNY system, and that it will also offer a scholarship in Dr. Georges’ honor.

Senior Computer Science Major Emeka Mbazor led a two-person team with a City Tech student, Harpreet Gaur as part of the Lyft Data Challenge and they ranked among the top four teams as the only students representing CUNY. The challenge was meant to highlight the use of data science and give talented students a chance to vie for a summer internship at the company, along with other awards. Congratulations to Mbazor and Gaur for representing Lehman and the CUNY system so well!

Last month we also celebrated the official appointment of Vice President for Administration and Finance Rene Rotolo in the President’s office. Rene has served Lehman College well for more than twenty years in a number of roles with progressively increasing responsibilities. She has an amazing track record and it was nice to commemorate her latest achievement in a long career marked by many.

Speaking of achievements, I will have the opportunity to thank Vinny Prohaska for his work on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee during our last Lehman College Senate Meeting on December 11th, which will be his last Senate meeting as Interim Vice Provost.

2019 has been a banner year for our sports teams, especially soccer. The men’s soccer team reached first place in the CUNY Athletic Conference (CUNYAC), clinched a bye into the conference semifinals, claimed the regular season finals and entered the conference tournament in early November as the top seed.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded Lehman a $5.4 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Teacher Quality Partnership grant to help prepare diverse educators in grades pre-K through 12 by way of the Lehman College Urban Transformative Education program. Lehman was the only CUNY institution to receive such a grant out of 31 awards granted. Professors Anne Rothstein and Niki Fayne are the Principal Investigators on the grant.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, 2019 marks 50 years since the creation of the of Latinx and Africana Studies Departments at Lehman College, a fact commemorated with a panel discussion hosted by the Lehman Latinx Alliance.

Shared Governance and CUNY-Wide Meetings
December 2 Labor Management Meeting
December 3 Faculty, Personnel & Budget Meeting
December 11 Lehman College Senate

Daniel Lemons

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.