October 15, 2020
Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) President Anthony E. Munroe spoke to more than 350 college community members during a town hall that was live streamed from BMCC’s Theatre 2 on October 8. During the event, the president updated the college on vital matters such as expanded student services, the college’s strategic plan and the fiscal year 2021 budget.
After recognizing faculty and staff achievements and milestones, the president extended a welcoming message to all new BMCC students. He told the students their success is the priority of all the college’s faculty and staff, especially during these times made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Communication during this unprecedented time is critical and necessary,” said Munroe who shared a part of his own story as a student, to amplify the importance of perseverance and determination.
“I’m a first-generation U.S. citizen who grew up in the Bronx and attended New York City public schools,” Munroe said. “My parents worked hard and did what they could to support my siblings and me. I experienced many challenges while I attended my undergraduate studies and it took me 14 years to earn my bachelor’s degree.”
President Munroe said students choose BMCC not just as an entry point to a higher degree, but also a better life. He said the college’s faculty and staff are entrusted with helping students not only earn a credential, but in enhancing their quality of living.
“What we need to do as a college, right now, is to recognize and address the challenges created or exacerbated by the worst pandemic in over a century,” said the president. “The health effects have been devastating to so many New Yorkers,” including members of the BMCC community.
Although the BMCC campus buildings have essentially been closed since March, the college has expanded many of its emergency services for a student population that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The president cited Panther Pantry, Single Stop and Project Impact and the program Feed the Frontlines, all of which have been on the frontlines in providing students with assistance. The college has also raised increasing amounts of money to provide students with emergency financial assistance.
President Munro said the problems that stem from digital inequality, such as lack of access to technology and unreliable internet and Wi-Fi service were exacerbated by the pandemic which has forced many family members to work from home or do classwork online.
“I want to recognize the efforts of CUNY to secure tens of thousands of devices and hotspots as well as BMCC’s information technology team, facilities staff and student affairs divisions to get these devices to as many students as possible,” said Munroe.
Addressing the scourge of systemic racism and racial disparities both within the college and city, President Munroe said BMCC should be a model organization on how to reduce inequalities.
“While progress has been made in reducing educational outcome gaps at BMCC, the work has only just started,” said Munroe, who thanked the college’s equity and inclusion task force for its efforts.
“Their work is included in the next strategic plan which will be released later this fall,” said Munroe. “We will hold ourselves accountable to achieving through assessment and evaluation, which is to work to dismantle systemic racism within and outside the college.”
On budget matters, the president said thus far, CUNY colleges have yet to receive fiscal year 2021 budgets due to delays at the state level. President Munroe said CUNY had adopted a $446 million budget—an increase of $4.7 million—but reductions are expected because of reduced tax revenues.
“For now, department OTPS expenses will be maintained at last year’s level, a hiring freeze has been implemented and per regulations from CUNY, college assistants are being appointed on a monthly basis,” said Munroe. “The country, the state and the city are experiencing extreme economic difficulties as a result of the pandemic.”
Despite potential budget challenges, the college has also been the recipient of a number of notable grants and awards.
“BMCC currently has more than $17 million in grants, most of those aimed at improving educational outcomes for low-income students and students from underrepresented populations,” said Munroe.
President Munroe also noted that although BMCC’s student population has ranked in the bottom five percent in regard to poverty, around 40 percent of BMCC’s graduates have moved up two economic quintiles. Also, BMCC has ranked in the top five for overall economic mobility each year, he said.
Nonetheless, the president said there are still educational outcome gaps, especially among the college’s Black and Hispanic males. President Munroe said those gaps must be eliminated.
“Through the numerous initiatives we have in place, and with enhanced assessment and evaluation, we will see a reduction and hopefully an elimination of these gaps soon,” said Munroe.