1960s – A Board of Higher Education report of 1962 envisioned a university that could admit almost two-thirds of the city’s high school graduates by 1975.  Faculty began developing plans to expand access.  

1969 – In response to a reduction in funding from Albany, the Black and Puerto Rican Student Coalition of City College held a series of protests that shut down the school for two weeks.  Their main demand was that the student body of the college should reflect the racial composition of New York City’s high schools.  On July 9, 1969, with the recommendation of the faculty, the NYC Board of Higher Education created open admissions, a system that guaranteed all high school graduates in New York City a place at a CUNY school.  The freshman class of the next year was larger by more than 24,000 students than that of 1969. 

However, Open Admissions was adopted as an unfunded mandate without adequate planning or resources, arousing some faculty resistance. Similarly, colleges, ordered to create Black Studies Departments on all campuses, were not given adequate funds.  CUNY colleges began to grow rapidly without adequate faculty and staffing.   


1973 – Despite understaffing, CUNY Chancellor Robert Kibbee proposed a 50% tenure quota, increasing distress.  

1974 – The Board of Higher Education rescinded the quota resolutions after months of pressure and criticism from the PSC, the University Faculty Senate, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Mayor Abraham Beame called for reductions in city support to the senior colleges.  This triggered a matching rollback of state funding. 

1975 - 77 – The New York City Fiscal Crisis and threat of bankruptcy provoked massive cuts in budgets of all city services. Federal Government refused assistance (President Gerald Ford told NYC to "drop dead"). City Hall imposed three rounds of budget cuts on CUNY with accompanying cuts in part-time staff and a hiring freeze.  

Mayor Beame cut $32 million from CUNY's budget. This prompted reductions in staff (primarily part-time, non-tenured and non-certificated faculty), freezes on the hiring of full-time personnel and fewer library resources. 

The President of CCNY, other administrators and some faculty at CUNY Senior Colleges called for the closing of five CUNY campuses: York, John Jay, Richmond, Hostos, and Medgar Evers. Alternatively, it was recommended that York and Medgar Evers be converted into two-year colleges. Splits developed between faculties at older and newer campuses over priorities. 

Spring 1976 – Demonstrations by faculty and students saved threatened colleges from closing. Chancellor Kibbee's resolution restricted York to professional programs, such as Health and Education, and cut back Liberal Arts programs.  John Jay was restricted to Police Science; Richmond was merged with Staten Island Community College, eliminating its experimental and inter-disciplinary programs. Medgar Evers and Hostos were converted into two-year colleges.   

CUNY Chancellor Kibbee announced plans to fire 1,500 CUNY employees, including tenured faculty. The City refused to meet payroll.  When faculty refused to work without pay, the university closed for two weeks in June 1976.  

1977 – The Board of Higher Education authorized retrenchment.  The Chancellor proposed firing 2,000 employees, including tenured faculty, and 1,100 were let go. This mass layoff destroyed all progress toward affirmative action. Some College Presidents used the firing to punish union and other faculty activists. The University Faculty Senate appealed to the AAUP, which censured CUNY.  

Mayor Beame called for the end of free tuition. Chancellor Kibbee proposed ending open admissions. The Board of Higher Education ended free tuition, but promised there would be no exclusion and CUNY would remain free for poor and working class students who would be given full funding—not loans—through NY State TAP and Federal Pell scholarships. However, the imposition of tuition led to the loss of about 70,000 students. Student enrollment dropped from 250,000 after establishment of Open Admissions to 180,000.  

1979 – The NY State Legislature rewrote the statutes on CUNY, restructuring the University and its financing.  A Board of Trustees was created to replace the Board of Higher Education, with 10 trustees appointed by the governor and five by the mayor, with one voting representative of the Student Senate and one non-voting representative of the Faculty Senate. Senior colleges were placed on the State budget and community colleges on the City budget.  


The damage done to CUNY was never fully repaired.  The promises of a free education and full scholarship for disadvantaged students were not kept. Although enrollment would slowly rebuild, the faculty lines and other resources needed to educate these students were never fully restored. CUNY suffered a lost generation of faculty and permanent understaffing.  College faculty and professional staff were traumatized by these events and the fears of being fired. 

Lilia Melani won a lawsuit against CUNY for discrimination against women in appointments, promotion, and tenure. Chancellor Joseph Murphy established affirmative action guidelines. 

1980 – Governor Hugh Carey proposed cutting 600 positions at CUNY in 1980. Carey proposed dramatic budget cuts for CUNY but the legislature restored some funding. The Governor vetoed the measure in an attempt to force the cuts on CUNY but the legislature overrode the veto. Chancellor Murphy negotiated retrenchment guidelines with PSC and UFS to prevent arbitrary firings.  

1990-97 – As Chancellor, Ann Reynolds established the College Preparatory Initiative, raising admissions criteria by requiring more college prep courses for students entering CUNY. She adopted punitive measures towards student demonstrators and created a new force of CUNY  "Peace Officers."  Disputes arose over whether campus administrations had authority over this force, and whether they could be armed. Reynolds advocated the 1993 Leon Goldstein report to centralize CUNY, which eliminated some Liberal Arts programs and forced students and perhaps faculty to move between campuses for some classes. This introduced the goal of specializing and tiering among the colleges.   

1990-93 – State aid to senior colleges dropped by 21% and state and city aid to community colleges by 28%. 

1991 – NY State, under Governor Mario Cuomo, imposed a payroll lag of five days on the senior colleges. The court threw out a second attempt in following years. 

1992 – In the face of Albany budget cuts, CUNY declared a financial emergency and imposed some retrenchment. Faculty and students struggled to restore CUNY's budget. 

The state also refused to pay for associate-degree programs at John Jay and New York City Technical College. 

CUNY management cut funding for PSC-CUNY research awards in half. 

1994 – Governor George Pataki, claiming to be filling hidden budget deficits from the Cuomo administration, imposed a mass cut in state funding.  Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proposed a cut in city funding of the community colleges. 

Chancellor Ann Reynolds declared a financial emergency. CUNY's budget crisis would be resolved twice by retrenchment and raising tuition. Students protested, occupying campuses and demonstrating in Albany and at City Hall, closing the Brooklyn Bridge. 

1995 – A lawsuit by the PSC and the UFS won partial restoration of the Pataki cuts, but the Board of Trustees declared a financial emergency for the senior colleges and proceeded with retrenchment. The BOT passed 37 policy resolutions to reorganize CUNY for fiscal purposes. The PSC and UFS went to court to challenge some of the proposals, which attempted to change admissions and curriculum.   

1998-99 – Mayor Giuliani launched an attack on Open Admissions and remediation with a media barrage, charging CUNY with being "a glorified high school" with low standards. In a State of the City address, he said he would like to "blow CUNY up". The proposal to end remediation was widely criticized by the faculty. But despite vigorous criticism by the UFS and demonstrations organized by students and the New Caucus, the Board of Trustees, mostly appointed by and working in concert with a Republican Governor and Mayor, voted to eliminate all remedial classes from the senior colleges by September 2001. 

1999 – The Mayor's Advisory Task force on CUNY, headed by Benno Schmidt, CEO of Edison Schools, issued its proposals for restructuring CUNY. They included: restricting admissions based on standardized national tests, restricting remediation to the community colleges, privatizing remediation through outsourcing and vouchers, increased privatization in funding of CUNY, removal of power from faculty governance to central administration, further "mission differentiation" (specialization) among colleges and the redirection of resources to a top tier of colleges.  Schmidt was appointed Vice Chair of the CUNY BOT.  

2000 – Over PSC and UFS objections and with little consultation, the Board of Regents approved the Master Plan, which did not call for significant funding increases. Instead, it proposed focusing resources on "cluster hiring" for a few "flagship programs," some of which were intended to promote development of for-profit "incubator companies." 

The PSC launched a campaign for a budget and a contract to restore CUNY.