Mellon awards CUNY $10 million for COVID-19, racial justice efforts

Mellon awards CUNY $10 million for COVID-19, racial justice efforts

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced a $10 million commitment to the City University of New York in support of COVID-19 relief efforts and initiatives aimed at advancing racial and social justice.

The largest grant ever awarded by the foundation to the public university system includes $3 million over three years in support of the system's plan to expand and enhance its academic offerings in Black, race, and ethnic studies; bolster faculty hiring; and create additional opportunities for faculty research. To that end, the funding will support a process led by a commission of internal and external experts to assess current CUNY program offerings and recommend innovations that can build on them.

The foundation also awarded $2.5 million to the Chancellor's Emergency Relief Fund, the largest single contribution to the fund since its inception in April. The fund, which has raised $8 million to date, has awarded grants of $500 to help enable six thousand students across CUNY's twenty-five campuses who have experienced job loss and other financial setbacks due to COVID-19 to finish their degree programs. 

The commitment also includes $2 million over four years to expand the CUNY Cultural Corps, a program that provides students with paid internships at New York City arts and cultural organizations, and $2 million over three years to launch the Transformative Learning in the Humanities program, an initiative focused on helping humanities faculty make their classes more participatory and capitalize on the diversity and talent of CUNY students, with the goal of preparing them for a world in which collaboration, communication, analytical reading, and cross-cultural thinking are paramount. The remaining $500,000, which will be matched with $500,000 from CUNY, will be used to increase the number of humanities course offerings this fall and maximize re-hirings of previously non-reappointed faculty. 

"This extraordinarily generous gift will help drive change across our twenty-five campuses in ways that could not be more relevant at this most challenging moment in time," said CUNY chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. "The foundation's donation to the Chancellor's Emergency Relief Grant Program directly addresses the economic crisis set off by Covid-19. Other parts of the grant will help greater numbers of our students and faculty shape the conversations about race relations and racial inequity demanded by ongoing national demands. It will also allow CUNY to support New York City's cultural institutions at a time of incredible fiscal stress by providing paid student interns to support their staffing needs. Mellon's vital assistance will help CUNY continue to fulfill its core mission of promoting educational equity and serving as the country's unparalleled engine for upward social mobility."

(Photo credit: City University of New York)

"CUNY receives $10 million to expand pandemic and racial justice initiatives." Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and City University of New York press release 08/13/2020.