NEW YORK—Former head of the CIA David Petraeus has been at the center of controversy before, but this is different. Petraeus is at the center of a controversy over a newly minted deal with City University of New York (CUNY) to join it as a guest lecturer. The teaching appointment is for one weekly, three-hour course during one semester at the Macaulay Honors College in Flushing, New York City. He would be paid $150,000 for the job and would have 15-20 students.
New York City Public Advocate Bill De Blasio is among the public figures who have spoken out against paying the fee Petraeus has been promised. In a letter to William P. Kelly, interim chancellor at CUNY, De Blasio explained his concerns over the direction the school, and higher education in general, are taking.
“The salary offered to Gen. Petraeus is dramatically out-of-step with CUNY professors in similar arrangements,” stated De Blasio’s letter, which is available on his website. “According to the American Association of University Professors, many adjunct CUNY professors would earn approximately $3,000 to instruct a similarly-structured three-hour course during a semester.”
De Blasio, who recently proposed that $150 million of New York City tax subsidy money be rerouted toward investments in CUNY programs, said in his letter, “Public universities should never put headlines ahead of affordable education.”
“General Petraeus’ salary of $150,000 could sponsor full tuition for 26 students,” stated De Blasio in his letter. “Similarly, $150,000 could fund needed books and supplies, estimated at $1,248 per year per student, for 120 students.”
Others were on the same page with De Blasio about whether the appointment was appropriate. Kieran Michael Lalor, a Republican who represents the 105th District in the New York state Assembly, had a lively series of comments on his Twitter feed about the situation.
“When a conservative assemblyman & the liberal NYC public advocate are on the same page, you can be sure CUNY and Petraeus are wasting money,” said one of Lalor’s tweets.
For its part, the college is remaining mum on the subject, listing only a brief announcement on its website that says it’s “a major forward step” in its ongoing mission to “educate global citizens by connecting Macaulay students to the top leaders of NYC and the world.” Applications to participate in the course will open next week.