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Open Letter to CUNY Union Pres. Barbara Bowen

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We are still actively receiving and inviting signatories to this open letter, but it has moved here. Please click the preceding hyperlink and leave a comment with your name and academic affiliation (if you have one). All are welcome in this effort to hold the union leadership accountable at the largest university by enrollment in the U.S.! Real democracy now!

Dear Barbara—

I write as a union member and CUNY contingent faculty member to express my great dismay at your statement of May 9th praising Mayor De Blasio for his CUNY budget and singling out “full-time faculty and student support staff” as needing “investments” while entirely omitting mention of adjuncts and graduate student workers.

In addition to the questionable negotiating strategy of such mayoral sycophancy—and your bizarre contention that CUNY is the “solution” to “inequality,” when CUNY reproduces, and contributes to, the inequality of New York City at large—I don’t understand how you could ignore the needs of adjuncts and graduate student workers, who teach the vast majority of classes at CUNY and are the majority of union members and agency-fee payers. Furthermore, I don’t understand how full-time faculty need “investments” more than adjuncts and graduate student workers, who make a pittance compared to full-time faculty, work under worse conditions, and lack job security. What kind of message does this send at negotiating time?

Indeed, it seems to me that any “investments” in faculty the union wins from the city should go to adjuncts and graduate student workers and not to full-time faculty, given the extreme inequality between contingent faculty and full-time—inequality that has occurred in large part because of the priority full-time faculty have received by union leadership since the beginning of the Professional Staff Congress and which, quite evidently, continues under your leadership.

I wish I could say your out-of-touch statement is an aberration, but unfortunately it conforms to the sense so many of us adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY have about the union’s neglect of us and our issues. It’s certainly been clear to me in my tenure this academic year as an Adjunct Project coordinator, in which you and your leadership team have either ignored or outright stymied our efforts for greater union representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our issues.

Union leadership has been unable to respond to or move forward our simple request from December that adjuncts and graduate student workers have a choice of which chapter to affiliate with; our demands for the bargaining agenda were sat on by you, also since December, until a meeting with my colleagues on April 10th, and we’ve received no follow-up from you, including on your promise to include adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings; and our newly reconstituted Graduate Center chapter—an initiative the Adjunct Project proposed at its October 2013 organizing meeting—contains only two student workers on its slate of 12.

Meanwhile, the UFT deal, which will set a precedent for the rest of the city’s bargaining units, including our own, has been heavily critiqued by the Movement for Rank and File Educators caucus, which is waging a struggle against an entrenched, monopolistic party much like the New Caucus, which commands every (or nearly every) chapter of the PSC. At the moment, I feel more allegiance to MORE than I do to our union, given your De Blasio statement and inaction on the above issues.

I am hoping you will find this letter jarring enough to immediately redress these issues, at least the ones you have full control over: namely, the addition of our demands to the bargaining agenda, the inclusion of adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings, and the change in chapter-affiliation policy.

Furthermore, to enable the participation of CUNY adjuncts and graduate student workers in this summer’s COCAL conference, which is being organized by the PSC and taking place at CUNY’s John Jay College, I ask that the union cover the $250 registration fee for 30 adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY.

I look forward to your response, Barbara. If you don’t respond, however, I will not write again, as it shouldn’t be my job to convince you of the merits, ethics, and fairness of genuine union democracy and the concomitant representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our needs.

Very sincerely,

Sean M. Kennedy, Graduate Center, CUNY

Elizabeth Sibilia, Graduate Center, CUNY

Wendy Tronrud, Graduate Center, CUNY

Dadland Maye, Graduate Center, CUNY

Öykü Tekten, Graduate Center, CUNY

Erica Kaufman, Institute for Writing & Thinking, Bard College

R. Josh Scannell, Graduate Center, CUNY

Preeti Sampat, Graduate Center, CUNY

Peter Matt, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Margaret Hanzimanolis, City College of San Francisco, De Anza College, Cañada College, California Part-Time Faculty Association

Debangshu Roychoudhury, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jack Longmate, Olympic College

Monique Whitaker, Hunter College, CUNY

Anna Spiro, retired CUNY adjunct

Rafael A. Mutis, Hostos Community College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Jennifer Prince, Graduate Center, CUNY

Esther Bernstein, Graduate Center, CUNY

Héctor Agredano, City College, Bronx Community College, and Graduate Center, CUNY

Collette Sosnowy, JustPublics@365, Graduate Center, CUNY

Megan Paslawski, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kristen Hackett, Graduate Center, CUNY

Fang Xu, Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Christina Nadler, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kristin Moriah, Graduate Center, CUNY

James Anthony Phillips, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Ana M. Fores Tamayo, Adjunct Justice

Tristan K. Husby, City College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Erin Michaels, Graduate Center, CUNY

Cameron Pearson, Queens College, CUNY

David Tillyer, City College, CUNY

Amy Martin, Graduate Center, CUNY

Colin P. Ashley, Doctoral Students’ Council Co-Chair for Business, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ian Foster, Graduate Center, CUNY

Derrick Gentry, alumnus, Graduate Center, CUNY

Melissa Phruksachart, Graduate Center, CUNY

Maureen E. Fadem, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Alec Magnet, Graduate Center, CUNY

Erin M. Andersen, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ashna Ali, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jerry Levinsky, Member UALE, COCAL Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor

Michael A. Rumore, Graduate Center, CUNY

Makeba Lavan, Graduate Center, CUNY

Conor Tomás Reed, Medgar Evers College and Graduate Center, CUNY; Free University-NYC

Kathryn Moss, Graduate Center, CUNY

David Spataro, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kenneth H. Ryesky, Queens College, CUNY

Betsy Smith, Cape Cod Community College; member of MCCC, MTA, and NEA

Isabel Cuervo, alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jennifer Chancellor, Graduate Center, CUNY

Luke Elliott, Graduate Center, CUNY

CUNY Adjunct Project

Alan Trevithick, La Guardia Community College, CUNY

Ann Kottner, York College, CUNY

Vanessa Vaile, Precarious Faculty Network

Mary Carroll, Lehman College, CUNY

Linda Neiberg, Baruch College, CUNY

Brian Unger, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ian Green, Graduate Center, CUNY

Eric Lott, Graduate Center, CUNY

John Sorrentino, John Jay College, CUNY

Hulya Sakarya, Mercy College

Allison E. Brown, Graduate Center, CUNY

Rayya El Zein, Medgar Evers College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Melissa K. Marturano, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Ross Borden, SUNY–Cortland

Frank Reiser, Nassau Community College

Dominique Nisperos, Graduate Center, CUNY

Amanda Matles, Graduate Center, CUNY

Lavelle Porter, City Tech and Graduate Center, CUNY

Lauren Tenley, College of Staten Island and alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY

Mary N. Taylor, Graduate Center, CUNY

Edwin Mayorga, Graduate Center, CUNY

Charlotte Thurston, Graduate Center, CUNY

Robin Hizme, Queens College, CUNY

Sue Clark-Wittenberg, Director, International Campaign to Ban Electroshock

Wilson Sherwin, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

James D. Hoff, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Mark Drury, Graduate Center, CUNY

Anton Borst, Hunter College, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jason Schulman, Lehman College, CUNY

Wilma Borelli, Lehman College, CUNY

Daniel Nieves, City College and Lehman College, CUNY

Elizabeth Bidwell Goetz, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Maria L. Plochocki, Baruch and College Now, CUNY

Sara Jane Stoner, Graduate Center, CUNY

Anna Gjika, Graduate Center, CUNY

Alicia Andrzejewski, Graduate Center, CUNY

Paul Hebert, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Patrick Reilly, Baruch College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Kara Van Cleaf, Graduate Center, CUNY

Harry T. Cason, College of Staten Island, CUNY

Kylah Torre, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kate O’Donoghue, Queens College, CUNY

Keith Hoeller, editor, Equality for Contingent Faculty; co-founder, Washington Part-Time Faculty Association

Karen Gregory, City College and Center for Worker Education, CUNY

Michael Friedman, Queens College, CUNY

Heather Heim, Lehman College, CUNY

Marnie Weigle, San Diego City College

Austin Bailey, Hunter College, CUNY

Leigh Somerville, Queens College, CUNY

Lindsey Freer, Macaulay Honors College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Graduate Center, CUNY

Nathaniel Sheets, CUNY Graduate Center, Hunter College

Brianne Bolin, Columbia College Chicago

Sean Collins, trustee, Troy Area Labor Council

Meyer A. Rothberg, alumnus (1958), City College, CUNY

John Martin, chair, California Part-time Faculty Association

Jonathan R. Davis, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Marga Ryersbach, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Andrew Akinmoladun, Bronx Community College, CUNY

Thomas Smith, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Tyler T. Schmidt, Lehman College, CUNY

Sarah Davis, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Reid Friedson, Adjunct Faculty Union

Emily Nell, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jack Henning

Vakhtang Gomelauri, Global Center for Advanced Studies

Brenden Beck, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Brandon Kreitler, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Alex Kudera, author, Fight for Your Long Day, Clemson University

Aysenur Ataman, College of Staten Island and Graduate Center, CUNY

Anthony Galluzzo, Queens College, CUNY

Jenna Gibbs, Florida International University

Ryan Daley, former NYCCT adjunct; Red Hook Initiative

David Parsons, Baruch College

Rebecca Schuman, all-purpose higher-ed loudmouth

Daniel Levine, alumnus (2013), Baruch College; writer

Stanley W. Rogouski

Kelly Eckenrode, Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Danny Sanchez, Queens College, CUNY; member, Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee

Michelle Chen, Graduate Center, CUNY

Carol Lipton

Michael Pollak

Aaron Botwick, Graduate Center, CUNY

Naja Berg Hougaard, Graduate Center, CUNY

Gerhard Joseph, Lehman College, CUNY

Catherine Liu, alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY; University of California–Irvine

Emma Myers, Borough of Manhattan Community College and City Tech, CUNY

Marimer Berberena, Hostos Community College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Seth Sanders, Trinity College

Evgeniya Koroleva, Graduate Center, CUNY

Johannes Burgers, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Angelina Tallaj-Garcia, Graduate Center, CUNY

Alexander Chee

Sansanee Sermprungsuk

Lisa Regula Meyer, Kent State University

Sonia Maldonado, Hostos Community College, CUNY

Natalie Yasmin Soto, alumna (‘09) Hunter College, former adjunct, Medgar Evers College, CUNY; NYC public high school teacher

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46 thoughts on “Open Letter to CUNY Union Pres. Barbara Bowen

  1. Joshua Wilner says:

    I have signed the position as a full-time faculty member (City College and The Graduate Center) who wishes to express solidarity with my adjunct colleagues and to protest the exploitative terms of their employment. I don’t subscribe, however, to the demand that “Any proposed contract that does not include [the 5K per course minimum for adjunct faculty] should be rejected out of hand” by the union. I will try to explain why with some back of the envelope arithmetic. At my home institution, City College, between 11 and 12 million dollars is currently spent per year compensating adjunct faculty (so let’s say 11,500.000). It is hard to know how many courses that corresponds to, but if one stipulates an average salary of around $3500 per course (I know that’s undoubtedly high, but I’m trying to use conservative assumptions), we’re talking about roughly 3300 courses at City College alone. The cost of increasing salaries by $1500 for those 3300 courses, would be around $5 million dollars. If one extrapolates those numbers to the university as a whole – with some institutions considerably larger than City, such as BMCC or Hunter, with others around the same size or smaller – one is looking at a cost of $100 million dollars, which is 3.3% of CUNY 3 billion dollar budget. I believe this is a conservative estimate and the real cost would be higher. There is no reason to expect an increase in higher State or City funding for CUNY, though one knows tuition will continue to increase. So, if my calculations have any plausibility, the question is where that $100 million plus would come from. I don’t see how it happens without freezing full-time hiring of faculty, staff and administrators and also letting people go – both full-time and adjunct. Like many public institutions nation-wide, the university survives by shifting the responsibility for instruction from full-time to adjunct faculty whose conditions of employment are exploitative. This structural arrangement has been evolving for a long time; it will not easily be reversed without a change in the political climate. Like Sean, I was surprised by the glaring omission of any reference to adjunct faculty in Barbara Bowen’s statement of May 9th, although I think overall she has been a tough and effective union president. The time to fight back is indeed long overdue, but none of the choices the union faces – whether led by the New Caucus, or another group – are good ones.

  2. Clint Benjamin says:

    Please add my name to the list as well!

    Clint Benjamin, Duquesne University/Community College of Allegheny County.

  3. Sonia Maldonado says:

    I support this initiative 100%- kindly add my name.

  4. Lisa RM says:

    Well-articulated and very pointed letter. Good luck getting some action from the union president.

    Please add my name in support: Lisa Regula Meyer, adjunct, Kent State University.

  5. […] at CUNY have written an open letter to the President of the Professional Staff Congress, concerned at adjunct and graduate TAs being overlooked in their union response to the CUNY […]

  6. Sansanee Sermprungsuk says:

    Please add me.

  7. Angelina Tallaj-Garcia says:

    Please add me to the list!
    Angelina Tallaj-Garcia (PhD student, Graduate Center)

  8. Johannes Burgers says:

    Johannes Burgers, Assistant Professor, Queensborough CC, CUNY

    I feel that there is full time faculty support for this as well.

  9. Evgeniya Koroleva says:

    Please add my name to the list:
    Evgeniya Koroleva, Graduate Center CUNY

  10. Seth Sanders says:

    Seth Sanders, Associate Prof of Religion,
    Trinity College, Hartford CT

  11. Marimer Berberena says:

    Please add my name too

    Marimer Berberena, Hostos Community College and Graduate Center

  12. Emma Myers says:

    Emma Myers. Adjunct lecturer BMCC and NYCCT

  13. Catherine Liu says:

    CUNY Graduate Center alumna, Professor at UC Irvine

  14. Michael Pollak says:

    If you are allowing non-academics who support this petition simply on principle to sign, please add my signature to this eloquent petition.

  15. Michelle Chen says:

    Please add my name to the list of signatories.

    Michelle Chen, PhD Candidate in History, CUNY Graduate Center.

    Thanks.

  16. Stanley W. Rogouski says:

    When I was an undergraduate, the teachers who had the most positive influence on me were TAs and assistant professors. They deserve your support.

  17. Daniel Levine says:

    Add my name. Baruch College Graduate, 2013, writer

  18. Rebecca Schuman says:

    Rebecca Schuman, all-purpose higher-ed loudmouth

  19. David Parsons says:

    David Parsons, Baruch College

  20. Ryan Daley says:

    Ryan Daley, Former NYCCT Adjunct, Red Hook Initiative. Not sure if I qualify to sign, since I’m not a current union member, but please consider adding mine to the list.

  21. Jenna Gibbs says:

    Please add my signature to the list. Treating faculty with such disrespect is not only injurious to them; such disregard for faculty also undermines a sense of academic community, which in turn impinges upon the students’ experience.

  22. Anthony Galluzzo says:

    Anthony Galluzzo, Queens College

  23. Anthony Galluzzo says:

    I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at QC CUNY. I have spent the last two years teaching at various CUNY schools, where my (and several other adjunct instructors’) classes were cancelled a day before the start date (last summer at York College); where I wasn’t paid for two months, alongside 400 other adjunct instructors (this fall at QC); where administrators’ are continuing to contest my unemployment benefits, despite the state having ruled in my favor against CUNY twice now. In all of these instances, PSC CUNY has been worse than useless: the union leadership actively colludes with the administration in managing the adjunct workforce that powers the CUNY edu-maquiladora. This union needs a drastic change. Or adjuncts need to form a union that represents our interests as opposed to those of management.

  24. Aysenur Ataman says:

    Aysenur Ataman, The Graduate Center and The College of Staten Island

  25. Alex Kudera says:

    Please add my name to this list. Thank you, Sean.

    Alex Kudera, author of Fight for Your Long Day, Clemson University

  26. Brandon Kreitler says:

    Brandon Kreitler, Borough of Manhattan Community College

  27. Brenden Beck says:

    Brenden Beck, Graduate Center and Hunter College, CUNY

  28. Vakhtang Gomelauri, Global Center for Advanced Studies

  29. Jack Henning says:

    Please add my name to this very important letter.

  30. Emily Nell says:

    Emily Nell, Graduate Center, CUNY

  31. Reid Friedson says:

    Please add:

    Reid Friedson, Adjunct Faculty Union (AFU).

    Thanks.

    Reid

  32. Sarah Davis says:

    Sarah Davis, Graduate Center, Hunter College, CUNY

  33. Tyler says:

    Tyler T. Schmidt, Lehman College, CUNY

  34. Thomas Smith says:

    Please add my name to the list of signatories. I am an adjunct assistant professor in the Social Science Dept at BMCC

  35. Add my name to this list.
    Thanks

  36. Marga Ryersbach says:

    Please add my name.
    Marga Ryersbach, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

  37. Nathaniel Sheets says:

    Nathaniel Sheets, CUNY Graduate Center, Hunter College

  38. Austin Bailey says:

    Please add my name. Austin Bailey, adjunct Hunter College.

  39. Karen Gregory says:

    Karen Gregory, City College, Center for Worker Education

  40. Please add my name: Kara Van Cleaf, Graduate Center

  41. Elizabeth Bidwell Goetz says:

    Please add my name to this list as well!

    Elizabeth Bidwell Goetz, CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College

    Thanks!

  42. Daniel Nieves says:

    Please add me,

    Daniel Nieves, City College and Lehman College

  43. Wilma Borrelli says:

    Bravo Sean, your letter to Barbara is perfection and with all due respect to Andrea your response to her is spot on as well. Thank you for so brilliantly initiating this vital campaign!

  44. Paula Maggio says:

    Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions.

  45. John Sorrentino says:

    Please add my name to this list! Thank you Sean!

    John Sorrentino, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Comments are closed.

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