A Look Back to 1991

Elizabeth Berlinger, English

As we honor CETLS’ 20th anniversary and join together to celebrate, let us scroll back to the past for a moment to take a quick glimpse at life twenty years ago — at BMCC, in New York City and in the world. Here are a few facts about life back then.

Twenty Years Ago at BMCC

It was 1991, nearly a decade before the new millennium, and a time when many of our students were not even born. The president of BMCC was Augusta Souza Kappner. There were approximately 14,867 students compared to 24,463 now, and fifteen academic programs that led to A.A., A.S., or A.A.S. degrees compared to 28 degree programs now.

Tuition for New York City residents was a mere $612.50 per semester for full-time students and $40 per credit for part-timers. The student activity fee was less than $40.

It would be hard to picture today, but smoking was still permitted on campus—though only in the student cafeteria, faculty cafeteria, on the 3rd floor bridge, and in a few other designated places.

Covering all the campus news, the BMCC student newspaper in 1991 was evocatively named The Bittersweet: the Instrument of Expression for the BMCC Student. And in December, 1991, one of the headlines “CUNY in Crisis,” topped an article about tuition increases and budget cuts.

In the spring of 1991, the 26th graduating class held its commencement at Carnegie Hall.

And CETLS? It used to be called the Teaching Center, and later, The Teaching and Learning Center.

Twenty Years Ago in New York

Meanwhile, in New York City, David Dinkins was Mayor. We still used tokens in the subway; we did not have recorded voices on the platforms, or electronic signs announcing when the next train would pull into the station. Union Square and Times Square still existed in their previous incarnations, before bright lights, the blossoming of the farmer’s market, and the boom of commercial development. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Starbucks did not yet exist in New York, nor did the gentrification of so many neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In sports, although the Yankees, Mets, and Knicks had a fairly unremarkable season, the New York Giants won the 25th Super Bowl.

Twenty Years Ago in the World

And in the world, George H.W. Bush was president and Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign was gearing up for the 1992 election. The Persian Gulf War was ending. The USSR collapsed. On a lighter note, in 1991, Garth Brooks had the bestselling album, while Janet Jackson and Nirvana also rose in the charts. That year, Comedy Central was launched. At the Oscars, it was a good year for Beauty and the Beast, City Slickers, and The Silence of the Lambs. Billy Crystal hosted (some things stay the same). And, of course, most of us, except for the technologically savvy, did not yet have a glimmer about how the Internet would explode across the world.

So we find ourselves here at BMCC in 2011, continuing to evolve. Just as we and our students have grown, CETLS has grown, too. Congratulations to CETLS on its first twenty years, and here’s to the upcoming decades, when BMCC will look back with pride at where we were in 2011.

Thank you to Prof. Dorothea Coiffe, Library, and Mr. Gregory Wist, Registrar’s Office, for their help with this article.