II. Classification (HEO Guidelines)


The State of New York mandates classification responsibility of each separate public employer. CUNY is deemed such a separate employer in the New York State Education Law (Section 6207) and, as such, is subject to the New York State Civil Service Laws.

The HEO series was created by resolution of the Board of Higher Education (the precursor of the Board of Trustees) on September 26, 19662, as part of the instructional staff, i.e., as unclassified civil service titles consistent with Article 35 of the New York State Civil Service Law3. The New York State Education Law requires the Board of Trustees to "determine to what extent examinations are practicable to ascertain merit and fitness for each of the positions within the educational units covered and administered by it and, in so far as examinations are deemed practicable [to] determine to what extent it is practicable that such examinations be competitive4. In June 1967, the Board of Higher Education approved a document entitled Appointment Procedures and Practicability of Competitive Examinations for Higher Education Officer Series Titles 5. This document concluded that formal examinations for positions in the Higher Education Officer series were impracticable for determining merit and fitness and recommended that HEOs be appointed through an "unassembled examination" adapted from the practice used for the selection of faculty. The recruitment and HEO screening process, therefore, is the method adopted by the Board of Trustees to determine merit and fitness in lieu of formal civil service examinations.

The responsibility for ensuring proper classification is assigned by New York State law to the CUNY Civil Service Commission and to the Board of Trustees. Both of these entities have, in turn, directed that the Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Staff Relations manage the day-to-day administration of classification. OFSR determines whether a position proposed by a college belongs in the classified service or the unclassified, that is instructional, service; it also determines the proper title.

Proper classification of a particular position with a particular set of duties requires careful analysis. Certain positions are unambiguously in the unclassified service, including full- and part- time teaching, research, administration of student personnel functions, academic administration, and laboratory administration in academic departments. Other administrative positions often are amalgams of duties that create less certainty in classification and may require careful distinctions between classified and unclassified tasks. In determining the proper classification, OFSR will weigh the degree to which the tasks in question constitute the core functions of the job.

Other positions, such as those enumerated in Bylaw Section 14.1 (managerial, clerical, secretarial, professional, semi-professional, and maintenance and operation of physical facilities), are clearly intended for the classified service. For the most part, detailed job specifications for all such positions have been established by the CUNY Civil Service Commission and positions performing the duties as outlined shall be classified accordingly.

To assist the colleges in allocating positions to the proper class - classified or unclassified (i.e., instructional) - and within the instructional service to the proper title (e.g., Higher Education Officer or Higher Education Associate), OFSR provides a classification matrix of sample, prototypical positions to be used by the colleges in proposing classifications to the University Classification Director. This matrix should enable the colleges to anticipate classification issues better and resolve allocation problems.

The University Personnel Office does not review classifications for Research Foundation positions or positions of other separately incorporated employers affiliated with the colleges.


  • Position Classification is the allocation of positions to established job titles based on such factors as: (1) scope and complexity of job duties, (2) supervisory responsibilities, (3) necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities required to perform the job, (4) competencies necessary for successful performance, (5) reporting relationships, and (6) extent of preparation needed to perform the job.
  • University Director of Classification is the person in the University Personnel Office responsible for: (1) reviewing and approving the allocations by the colleges of new or reclassified positions to established job titles based on classification factors; (2) preserving equity among colleges in the classification system; (3) assisting the colleges in conforming classification requests to University policy, Board Bylaws, collective bargaining agreements, and CUNY Civil Service Commission Rules; (4) resolving out-of-title classification issues; (5) providing staff support to the Vice Chancellor's Advisory Committee in reviewing unresolved classification matters; and (6) conducting studies and formulating recommendations for amending the classification system.
  • Job Families are the groupings of job titles into clusters of related activities, typically providing for progressively more responsible and skilled work, such as from apprentice to managerial. The purpose of such arrangements is to provide a method for comparatively benchmarking positions and setting pay in a range of job responsibilities; job families may also be useful in designing promotional opportunities, career development plans, training programs, etc.
  • A Vacancy, for purposes of this document, is a full-time position, which the college has the financial ability and intent to fill, that occurs when
  • a line is created for a new position
  • an incumbent resigns
  • an incumbent is terminated
  • an incumbent dies
  • an incumbent takes Travia Leave/retires
  • an incumbent vacates one position for another
  • A Position Vacancy Notice (PVN) is the public announcement made by a college for the recruitment to fill a position in an approved classification. (For specifics, see Section III.D.)
  • Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities (SKAs) are standard classification terms for the attributes needed to perform successfully in a position. SKAs may be measured by certain qualification requirements of candidates (e.g., education, work experience or professional accomplishments). For classification purposes, the identification of needed SKAs assists in determining the scope and complexity of the position.
  • Competencies are similar to SKAs but usually with more specific performance measures, i.e., the demonstrable ability to perform at prescribed levels of proficiency. In classifying positions, competency levels will vary from a trainee, with an ability to learn the skill in a specific amount of time, to a master of the skill, who sets the standards for the entire profession.
  • A Matrix of Benchmarked Positions is a sample of prototypical positions identifying primary responsibility, SKAs, competencies, or other distinguishing factors that may be used to allocate positions among titles. A position may not exhibit all of the factors of a benchmarked position. The process of interpolating the appropriate classification among benchmarked positions is complex. The matrix is intended to provide greater objectivity and consistency in the classification review and to make available to the college the standards utilized by the University Director of Classification.
  • A Substitute Appointment is a temporary appointment for a period not to exceed six months. The purpose of a substitute appointment is to fill, temporarily, a position of a person on leave, or to fill a position requiring immediate occupancy due to an emergency. A substitute appointment may not become a regular appointment, unless a search is completed and the incumbent substitute is the successful candidate.
  • Essential Job Duties are those tasks that everyone serving in such a position must be able to perform. The distinction between essential and non-essential duties is important for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, by ensuring that performance issues regarding non-essential tasks are not used to preclude applicants from selection.
  • Reclassification is a change in the position classification owing to the accretion or assignment of additional duties that significantly affect the scope and level of responsibility of the job so as to render the current title inappropriate.
  • Reorganization is a management-directed redesign of work and reporting relationships that significantly alters and affects the processing and flow of work in the unit(s) and that may result in reclassification of existing classification levels. A reorganization may also result in the creation of new vacant positions, which must be filled through established search procedures.
  • A Reassignment is a significant change in duties or responsibilities resulting in a new functional title but no change in HEO classification.
  • The College HEO Committee is the group of senior administrators at the college appointed by the President to review and recommend for approval all position classifications, appointments, reclassifications, and salary step awards in the HEO service.
  • The Vice Chancellor's Advisory Committee is the group of senior staff in OFSR, who are designated by the Vice Chancellor to review, along with the University Director of Classification, all proposed reorganizations resulting in reclassifications and all HEO classifications and reclassifications that have been referred by the University Personnel Director. The committee's recommendations are discussed with the college and, upon request by the college, reviewed by the Vice Chancellor prior to a final decision and notification to the college. The Advisory Committee may periodically provide the Vice Chancellor with evaluations of the HEO process and recommend amendments to the HEO Guidelines.


Each time the college establishes a new position and each time an existing position is vacated, the classification of the position should be reviewed by the College Director of Human Resources and discussed with the head of the College HEO Committee. For new positions, the matrix of benchmarked positions will provide guidance in slotting positions to the proper level. Unique job assignments and mixtures of duties from several classifications can usually be accommodated by making reasonable interpolations from the benchmarked positions matrix. A college may at any time request the University Personnel Office to review a classification and provide preliminary assistance in reaching a determination. In highly unusual situations, a college may request the University Director of Classification to conduct a classification study prior to the college completing the assignment of the position to a title.

After identifying the proposed classification, the college will electronically submit a draft PVN to the University Director of Classification. The Director will handle this request following University procedures (see Section III.D. below). All PVNs to fill new or vacant positions, including those for which the College Affirmative Action Officer has authorized a college-limited search, require prior approval of the University Director of Classification before recruitment may begin.


The criterion for reclassification approval is that the preponderance of duties and job requirements currently fall appropriately in the higher HEO title being sought by the college. This change in classification may be merited because of an accretion of duties, a reorganization of functions, a legal mandate changing the nature of the work, or some other significant alteration in the duties previously assigned. In general, the same procedures govern the reclassification process as are applicable to the classification process.

HEO positions may not be reclassified into the Executive Compensation Plan (ECP), nor are reclassifications into the classified service permissible. If, in the opinion of the college, a change in job duties renders an existing HEO position more appropriate to either the ECP or to the classified service, removal of those duties from the HEO position is an option. The college may also wish to consider establishing a new position to encompass the duties in question.

College Actions in Reclassifying Currently Occupied Positions

The College Director of Human Resources will review with the requesting department the position duty changes that are believed to warrant a reclassification of the title. In most cases, the employee will be the incumbent in the position in question, although, in certain cases, such as prospective reclassifications, more than one employee may be qualified to perform the assigned work. The approval of the process by the College Affirmative Action Officer is required, assuring that all similarly situated and equally qualified candidates are given an opportunity to be considered.

When the College Director of Human Resources is satisfied that the new job description is consistent with the requirements of the higher title in the HEO series, the request will be presented first to the College HEO Committee, and upon its approval to the University Director of Classification.

Once the position reclassification approval has been received from the University, the college is responsible for determining that the candidate selected meets the qualification requirements and that the new salary of the position is consistent with the salary schedule. Early movement of the appointed employee to either the five-year or the seven-year step of the salary schedule requires prior OFSR approval. Employees retain the same annual increment date in the higher title, unless a different date is required by University policy.6

Appointments to reclassified titles will be effective on the first of the month following the Board meeting at which they are approved. In rare circumstances, the college may request a retroactive appointment to a reclassified position, but no earlier than 60 days before the Board's approval. In no case may the appointment be reflected on payroll prior to Board action.

University Actions

Once the college has completed its internal process of review and approval and has submitted the reclassification request to the University, the University Director of Classification will review the following documents:

  • pre- and post-job descriptions for the position(s) affected by the request, and pre- and post-organization charts, indicating all functional titles, all payroll titles, and all employee names in the unit; and
  • in the case of a prospective reclassification request, a statement/form signed by the College Affirmative Action Officer indicating that in filling the position selected for reclassification, the process will include consideration of all available candidates in the unit who would be qualified to perform the duties of the newly classified position.


Reorganization Procedures

When reorganization occurs, movement of HEOs into different titles within the series may become necessary. To facilitate these title changes, requests for reorganizational title changes will be considered as a package. Requests should be sent by the College Director of Human Resources to the University Personnel Office after review and approval by the College HEO Committee and must include:

  • a transmittal letter from the appropriate College Dean or Vice President summarizing the total number of title changes requested pursuant to the proposed reorganization;
  • a narrative outlining the rationale for the restructuring, which includes a description of all facets of the reorganization;
  • pre- and post- organization charts;
  • pre- and post- job descriptions for all positions in which duties will change, with an indication as to how each position will be filled, i.e., through search, reclassification, reassignment, etc.; and
  • a written attestation by the College Affirmative Action Officer that the University's Affirmative Action Policy has been followed in connection with the reorganization.

All reorganization requests will be reviewed by the Vice Chancellor's Advisory Committee. A representative of the college may be invited to make a presentation to the committee.

Reorganizations that include functional changes but not classification changes should be submitted to the University Personnel Office so that current job titles and descriptions are on file.

The College Affirmative Action Officer must periodically conduct an adverse impact analysis, along with other statistical reviews, to assess if salary or title changes resulting from reclassifications or reorganizations are impacting negatively on any protected group. This information should be discussed with the President, the College HEO Committee and other college committees as appropriate.


Reassignments are the prerogative of the college ( see Article 13 of the CUNY/PSC Agreement ); however, a person may only be reassigned to perform duties appropriate to his/her title. Changes of this nature must be sent to the University Director of Classification with:

  • pre- and post- job descriptions of the person being reassigned, and
  • pre- and post- organization charts.


Proposals from the college to classify positions in the instructional staff that perform duties that may overlap job specifications in the classified civil service pose special problems. Guidelines for determining such classifications follow, but given the unique nature of jobs, a case-by-case review is mandatory.

The areas most frequently impacted by overlapping job specifications are:

  • clerical, secretarial, and administrative assistant
  • accounting
  • purchasing
  • reprographics and graphic design
  • radio and television technical support
  • media services
  • engineering, architecture, and interior design
  • project management (buildings)
  • administrative computing and telecommunications
  • administration of buildings and grounds
  • administration of public safety operations
  • health services for staff and/or students
  • special services for staff and/or students with disabilities.

Previous classification approvals for the position and earlier classification approvals of similar positions do not necessarily ensure approval of the position in question. Moderate changes in duty assignments, changes in the weight given to certain responsibilities, the results of new collective bargaining agreements or settlements of classification challenges, and the revisions made periodically to job specifications may all impact and possibly alter the standards for weighing the appropriate classification of a particular position.

Colleges should support the requested classification by providing comparable classifications and by indicating the specific functions performed in the job that render it suitable to the unclassified service. In doing so, the following parameters should be considered.

General Guidelines for Placing Positions with Overlapping Duties in the Instructional Staff

Positions meeting the criteria in one of the categories below and performing predominantly instructional staff duties7 (i.e., exceeding one-half of total effort) are to be classified in the instructional staff. Those meeting the criteria in one of the categories below and performing substantial instructional staff duties (i.e., exceeding one-third of total effort) should be reviewed and described carefully; these positions may be candidates for classification in the instructional staff, depending on a variety of factors. Positions performing ancillary instructional staff duties (i.e., less than one-third of total effort) are uncertain candidates for classification in the instructional staff, even when they meet the below criteria. Certain exceptions may exist; the colleges may wish to discuss special cases with the University Personnel Director before proposing a classification.

Positions in Academic Departments, Including Libraries:

  • Academic/professional support positions in academic departments, working directly with faculty and students in a role related to teaching or the supervision of teaching, not merely technical in nature; and
  • Certain high-level professional positions (e.g., academic/professional program administration and educational computing) that may include administrative tasks in the support of sponsored programs, teaching, or the supervision of teaching.

Positions in Academic and Administrative Computing Departments:

  • Positions in a separate Academic Computing Center or in a separate Academic Computing Division of a Computer Center (other than those entry level positions of a strictly technical nature); typically these positions will involve assisting faculty and/or students with instructional design, instructional delivery, research, grants, distance learning, etc.;
  • Positions in Administrative Computing Centers (or in Computing Centers with joint academic/administrative responsibility), performing instructional staff duties similar to those that may also be performed in an Academic Department that are not of a strictly routine, clerical, or technical nature, and comprising a predominant part of the total tasks of the position;
  • Positions, other than those of a strictly routine, clerical, or technical nature, predominantly devoted to major academic computing systems (e.g., library systems, registration systems, research systems, and distance learning systems) and with substantial policy involvement with faculty (NOTE: does not include major administrative systems for budgeting, accounting, human resources, payroll, student records, etc.);
  • Senior managerial positions in an Administrative Computing Center (e.g., Computing Center Director, Deputy Director, and, depending on the duties performed, Associate Director); the duties/level of responsibility in these positions should be significantly different from the job specifications of the CUNY managerial service titles in the classified service.

Positions in Administrative Departments Other Than Computing:

  • Positions directly supporting the delivery of instruction, research, instructional design, consultation with faculty or students (directly related to academic matters), grants, academic and community programs, etc.;
  • Other managerial/professional positions, other than those for which classified service position specifications are established (including, but not limited to, facility management, public safety, architecture, engineering, accounting, purchasing, and administrative computing).

2 Minutes of the Board of Higher Education, September 26, 1966, Cal. No. 2(b).

3 Section 35 of the New York State Civil Service Law specifies that certain positions within the Board of Higher Education are removed from the classified civil service. By reference to the New York State Education Law, it also provides other standards for determining which positions at CUNY shall be deemed to be unclassified.

4 New York State Education Law Section 6212.6 (McKinney's, 1985).

5 Minutes of the Board of Higher Education, June 19, 1967, Cal. No. 26, pp. 323-324.

6 The increment date of an individual in a HEO series title will change from January 1 to July 1, or vice versa, if all of the following circumstances are present: 1) the individual was reclassified or otherwise appointed to a higher title in the series; and 2) the individual had been on a step in the lower title for longer than 11 months (e.g., on the last one-year step or on the five-year step; and 3) the other increment date is closer in time to the new appointment than the individual's current increment date. Example: Jane Doe, a Higher Education Associate who has a July 1 increment date, has been on the last one-year step for three years. Her position is reclassified to a Higher Education Officer position, effective September 1, and she has been placed in the middle of the Higher Education Officer salary schedule. Because she has served over 11 months at the last one-year step on the Higher Education Associate salary schedule, she will be eligible for an increment on the following January 1 on the Higher Education Officer schedule.

7 See the previous discussion of Bylaw definitions of the duties performed by instructional staff and of New York State Education Law.

I. Introduction Table of Contents III. Recruitment Procedures

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Last Updated: 9/10/02

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