The Confusion that Followed President Raab’s Sudden Departure

On December 5, 2022, President Jennifer Raab announced that she will be stepping down from her role as Hunter College’s President at the end of the spring semester in June 2023. The news, which seemed to be overshadowed by last semester’s finals season, left students unsure of Hunter’s future.

Students studying on Hunter’s new fifth-floor library, one of President Raab’s successful renovations of Hunter’s infrastructure and amenities.

“I wasn’t really aware of the president’s resignation due to being distracted by finals, I didn’t find out until my friends told me a couple of weeks after,” said Cassey Pantazi, a senior studying biochemistry.

With what seemed to be a subtle announcement, Raab’s decision to resign was sent out to all student and faculty Outlook inboxes at the same time, with her official statement quietly posted on the Hunter website. The statement celebrates students’ successes as her own, with strong promises to “express her appreciation to each student personally.” These promises were left vague, with no concrete initiatives mentioned.

Despite her boasts about the successes she had in elevating Hunter to its “Crown Jewel of CUNY” status, her sudden resignation leaves many students confused and worried about the college’s future, and even more unaware of her departure – a common stance held towards major events at Hunter due to the commuter culture.

Students weren’t the only ones unaware of her departure; a higher-up faculty member, who wishes to be unnamed, confirmed that they were only informed of Raab’s resignation via the outlook announcement sent out on December 5th.

To truly grasp the unusualness of her departure, a better understanding of President Jennifer Raab’s time here at Hunter is required. Raab was appointed President of Hunter College by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani in June 2001, amidst controversy from the CUNY board due to their worries over her credibility. A common trend that would follow her throughout her CUNY career. Carrying out Giuliani’s mission to move CUNY away from a remedial institution, Raab served as a large contributor to Hunter’s transition from an open admissions university to one of the city’s most highly selective public colleges.

Since then, Raab has dedicated her energy to bringing in millions of dollars in fundraising for Hunter College – no matter the means – with the most recent example being seen through the renovation of the 5th floor in the Leon & Toby Cooperman Library. Speaking with students on the fifth floor, many echoed the confusion Pantazi shared, while also expressing their concern for the future of Hunter.

“I am mainly worried about the future of Hunter, and hope the new president can foster a community where people bond over liking Hunter and not just hating it,” said Avi Mikhaylov, a junior studying anthropology. 

Yet, even with all the confusion, one thing remains certain: President Raab’s long, successful rap sheet cannot cover up Hunter’s fragility post her unforeseen resignation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Described as one of Hunter’s most successful presidents, Raab’s administration has strengthened the institution due to her successes in both student and infrastructure growth. But, her term will not come to an end without stains that have reached national media —despite the administration not addressing them with the general student body. 

Some speculate that her most recent scandal contributed to President Raab’s sudden stepping down. Around the same time that President Raab resigned, Hunter had been slammed with a $200k fine, due to the federal court case against Jeffrey T. Parsons-Hietikko, a former psychology professor at Hunter who had been accused of misusing grant money to find his personal travel. President Raab had signed off on his illegal use of the funds, seemingly as a reward for his ability to bring in consistent funding due to his HIV/AIDs research. No news of the large fine Hunter received was made aware to students or shared on the Hunter College Spotlight or ‘In the Headlines’ page.  

The President’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Raab’s sudden departure. 

In response to the overwhelming student confusion, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) put out a survey, which asked club leaders to share what they want the presidential search committee to focus on in potential candidates. The survey, which was also sent out by the CUNY Chancellor, gave students the chance to share with the search committee the qualities they are looking for in Hunter’s next president. 

With the college’s future undetermined, Hunter students can only hope that they won’t be left behind in the college’s transition into new leadership. 

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