While the university has a single president it has two provosts, one for each of its main campuses (Ithaca, New York and New York City). The duties and responsibilities of these provosts are described in the institution's bylaws:
- The Provost shall be the President's first deputy officer and shall exercise the duties and powers of the President during the absence of the President or during such period of disability of the President as the Board of Trustees may determine.
- Under the President, the Provost shall be the chief educational officer with responsibility for oversight of all academic programs, and the chief operating officer with responsibility for providing general supervision of all units of the University, other than those reporting to the Provost for Medical Affairs.
- Under the President, the Provost for Medical Affairs shall be the chief educational officer with responsibility for oversight of all academic programs, and the chief operating officer with responsibility for providing general supervision of the Medical College and the Graduate School of Medical Sciences.
- The Provosts shall have such other duties as may be assigned from time to time by the President.
The deans of the Ithaca campus colleges, schools, and faculties report directly to the provost, as do several vice provosts, associate provosts, and vice presidents. The provost works to improve the institution's educational programs and academic quality and makes final decisions in the granting of indefinite tenure to faculty. The provost also chairs the Executive Budget Group, which is the committee assigned the responsibility to develop the Ithaca campus operating plan. In this role the provost presents the Ithaca campus operating plan to the Board of Trustees for review and approval and reports on that budget periodically.