So… you say you have concerns about the budget…

by Sean

I felt like I could follow the big picture in CUNY’s financial statement, but got lost in the weeds in the details. I mean, I already knew CUNY was having financial difficulties, but seeing it laid out like that was something different. LaGuardia’s situation is perhaps more precarious than most because our student population has crashed since the pandemic started. 

Rumors of merging schools have been floating around. Now, I don’t know how much credit to give those rumors, but they are out there. 

Back in a dark era called the 1990’s, I was involved in an attempt to get NEH funding for continued work on the Kolb-Proust Archive. I was mostly involved in writing up the work I and my fellow research assistants did and giving a presentation to the powers that be at the University. I was never involved in the budget set up, though.

We didn’t get the grant. 

I am not high enough in LaGuardia’s hierarchy to be involved in this level of budgeting, and I’ve never tried to do any grant writing, even though there are grants specifically for non-instructional instructional staff. 

But… I have tangled with budget issues on the departmental level. 

First, I was put in charge of the budget for our tutors. I schedule them both for the maximum I could for the term, because I was never given an idea of the budget. In fairness, I didn’t ask, and I absolutely should have. 

I went over budget so badly that it landed on the college president’s desk and all spending for the entire department was suspended until the situation could be fixed. My supervisor and my department chair found funding, and I am still not allowed to deal with scheduling and budget for tutors. 

Keep in mind that this was sixteen years ago.

However, I am the person in the Communication Studies area responsible for ordering small items (headphones, hard drives, flash drives, webcams, wireless remotes, etc) for the area. To do this, I’ve had to deal with both our business office and CUNYFirst. 

The business office can be an issue, but once I figured out how they wanted things, my relationship with them was smoother.

My only constant issue with them was that they would drag their feel. The price quotes I’d get would only last two weeks, and they would not always process the request in time. 

So I would have to cancel the request and redo everything. 

Dealing with CUNYFirst’s requisition section is not A circle of Hell. It’s EVERY circle of Hell. It’s not intuitive. For instance, when I made a request, I had to attach an invoice or a price quote, which makes sense. However, there were two? Three? Different places it could go. I just would end up attaching it anywhere it let me to make sure the business office saw it. 

Another issue is that it was difficult to find the code for the vendors in the system. And if there wasn’t a vendor in the system, I couldn’t add them myself. As a result, I stopped trying to find the best overall price, and just stayed with the same four or so vendors. 

It was odd. 

Overall, it’s easily the most frustrating part of my job. 

2 thoughts on “So… you say you have concerns about the budget…

  1. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    Hi Sean, it’s true, dealing with CUNYFirst is just appallingly difficult in ways that make it hard for people to do their jobs. This also gets back to the questions about compromise and tradeoffs we were asking last week. In theory, the reason to go with costly enterprise software would be for ease of use and functionality. And yet, CUNY has spent millions (anyone know how much?) on software that is universally despised. There are questions of power to be asked there.

    I’m sorry to hear about the grant budget issues. It’s really a problem when people are given only a small piece of the information that they need—in this case, you didn’t have access to the budgetary information that would have been a critical part of determining scope of work. And yet, sometimes having all the info can be equally unhelpful, when it comes in a deluge or when someone doesn’t have the training/literacy to parse it meaningfully. Maybe that’s something we can take up in class.

    1. Sean Patrick Palmer Post author

      I was told that CUNY spent $500 million on CUNYFirst, but I do not know how true that it. And, in theory, the idea that we should have one management software across CUNY makes sense. I mean, that’s the only part of the decision making process here that makes sense.

      As far as budget information goes, you’re right. Too much information is just as bad, if not worse, than not enough, There needs to be a balance, and I don’t know that my institution manages it. In the case with the grant for the archive, I would not have known what to do with the information, honestly.

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