On Friday, April 12, the announcement was made by the Chancellor of The City University of New York that he was planning to step down from this post this coming summer. Matthew Goldstein, who has held this position since 1999 said in a letter to the members of the CUNY community that “Serving this exceptional university alongside so many extraordinary colleagues has been the greatest privilege of my professional life.”
In an interview with the New York Times, he said that having been the longest-serving chancellor by far, he felt the time was right to leave. “I had an agenda that was in my mind when I first accepted the invitation to do the job, and we have succeeded beyond that agenda, things I never envisaged we would be able to do,” he said.
As a figure that has received accolades and plaudits from the CUNY community and the media for effectively revamping the CUNY system and labeled as a “great public servant”, Dr. Goldstein, 71, said in his letter, “Today CUNY is a transformed institution, re-energized by the creative, dedicated work of professionals across our 24 colleges and professional schools. A CUNY degree is highly valued in the marketplace of careers and ideas. I am extremely proud of the essential role the University plays in the well-being of our city, state, and nation, as well as the continued contributions of our accomplished graduates.”
With an eye towards vastly expanding the city’s public college system and setting out to raise its prestige with a new honors college and other measures, Goldstein faced formidable challenges when he first began his rein in 1999. He and his revived board of trustees proposed the termination of an open admissions policy to four-year schools, which had severely stymied CUNY’s ability to provide a first class education and to attract top students. Despite strident objections from faculty members and key administrators, Goldstein succeeded in implementing this policy and soon after, academically superior students began applying to CUNY.
As mentioned in the New York Times, when Dr. Goldstein assumed the CUNY chancellorship in 1999, a mayoral task force had just categorized CUNY as “an institution adrift.” The task force called for the university’s total restructuring, to transform it from a confederation of loosely affiliated institutions into a coherent entity with more consistent standards and effective practices. Benno Schmidt, a former Yale president and an author of the report, later said of CUNY, “The word chaotic doesn’t even begin to describe it; it’s moribund.”
Goldstein is proud to say that he is “the first CUNY graduate to lead the University (City College, Class of 1963).” He adds that, “I take enormous pride in what we have accomplished, together, to ensure an unparalleled educational experience for every CUNY student.”
Because Dr. Goldstein’s main priority was to raise the admissions standards at CUNY’s top five four-year colleges — Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — it has resulted in the average SAT scores of freshmen rising to 1147 last year from 998 in 1999, according to CUNY.
“The results of our emphasis on high standards, academic rigor, and student preparation—including our strengthened partnership with the New York City Department of Education—have been record enrollments, increased graduation rates, and more and more high-achieving students coming to CUNY. These students have the benefit of more than 2,000 additional full-time faculty members hired over the last 14 years, whose talents have greatly enhanced our core academic areas,” he continues in his resignation letter.
The New York Times also reports that in addition to adding more than 2000 full time faculty positions, Dr. Goldstein also opened new schools and initiated new degree programs, including the Macaulay Honors College, which began luring some of the city’s top public school graduates, including one winner of the nationwide Intel Science Talent Search; a school of public health; a graduate program in journalism; and a new community college meant to keep students on track toward a degree.