Gov. Cuomo appointed two new trustees to the CUNY Board yesterday. The news is mixed. First the good: Jeffery Wiesenfeld has been replaced. Wiesenfeld is best known for trying to deny an honorary degree to Tony Kushner. Unfortunately he wasn't replaced by Kushner as some suggested. However, his replacement has some positive aspects. Barry F. Schwartz is a business executive, who manages MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc., which is the financial vehicle for the wealth of Ronald O. Perelman, one of the richest men in America. Unlike, most other CUNY Trustees, however, Schwartz has a background in higher education. He serves as chairmen of the Board of Kenyon College, where he received his BA and is on the Board of Visitors at Georgetown Law School, where he received his JD. Interestingly, he’s also on the Board of Human Rights First, a major player in the human rights world. Schwartz’s connection to Culomo is probably that Cuomo’s former chief of staff is also an executive at MacAndrews and Forbes.
Less encouragingly, Pataki’s Staten Island’s appointee, Kathleen M. Pesile, a financial advisor and sometimes educator, was replaced by retiring Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro. Molinaro is a member of the Conservative Party and a Republican, who backed Cuomo in his election bid. This appears to be little more than a continuation of two troubling trends. The first is the use of political appointments based on patronage and political payback rather than any actual qualification to manage the University. The second is Cuomo’s penchant for appointing right wingers to important positions.
There are two more mayoral appointees with expired terms, who could be replaced by Mayor-elect de Blasio. This could be an opportunity for a more substantial remaking of the Board, including the choice of a new Board Chairman. Who do you think would make a good choice?