Dear Graduate Center Colleagues –
This semester the Graduate Center wrote checks to approximately a dozen graduate employees in the Math department for more than $1,000 each. This outcome was the product of several years of chapter building, and the hard work of many individuals.
At least once in the past, GC management has reduced the stipend portion of the graduate employee five-year funding packages in response to contractually negotiated raises and/or step increases – in effect recouping the money. To prevent this in the last contract round, PSC chapter and central leadership met with then-President Chase Robinson, who proceeded to communicate to graduate employees that this practice would not continue.
Around the same time, Maya Harakawa set out to build a union steward program, one which Harry Blain has continued to build. Our ultimate goal is to have a union representative for every ten members, so that we truly have a structure that makes the union alive to everyone. Getting to this point takes hours of thankless work that both Maya and Harry have engaged with cheer and energy.
Now, where the rubber hits the road: Chris Natoli has been the union shop steward in the Math department almost since the inception of the program. This semester, he discovered that for two years, grad employees in the Math department had their fifth-year stipends decreased in precisely the amount of the contractually negotiated raises – the very practice that management had committed not to do several years earlier. Chris brought the issue to the chapter EC, and the chapter brought it to management; management acknowledged the error, and quickly issued checks, also changing the practice going forward.
I write this email precisely because the work that Maya, Harry and Chris did to produce this outcome – putting thousands of dollars back in the hands of graduate employees – is generally not visible and is not always exciting in the day to day. Events like the WAC fight last year that resulted in a reduction in workload for all 5thyear GCFs certainly put the chapter on the map. But this patient work of finding leaders and formalizing their leadership, of paying attention to the details and enforcing both the contract and the commitments of management are an essential part of making a union what it is.
Long story short: reply to this email if you want to become a shop steward J
Solidarity & power,
Luke Elliott-Negri, PSC-GC Chapter Chair
Management: John Mogulescu, Dean; George Otte, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs; Washington Hernandez, Interim Associate Dean of Administration and Finance; Tracy Meade, Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation; Lia Kudless, Chief of Staff; Pat Stein, Legal Counsel and Labor Designee for SPS.
PSC: Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, PSC Delegate; Jennifer Lee, Associate Registrar, PSC Welfare Fund representative; Jean Grassman, Associate Professor, CUNY School of Public Health, and head of PSC Environmental Health and Safety Committee.
- Water issues
- Appointment letters
- Tableau display of course evaluations
- Next steps on governance plan
- Update on active shooter training
- Update on PSC orientations
- Water issues
Management stated that “We would never think of jeopardizing anyone’s health…We go by the University’s recommendations,” and said that Howard Apsan (University Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management) has stated that further testing is not necessary. Management also noted that the piping in the building has been changed in recent months, so that water in various locations on floors occupied by SPS is coming from a single main line.
The PSC responded that this change in the piping is of concern, since the latest water test results (from sampling done on Aug. 15, 2018) show the presence of lead in more rooms, and at higher levels, than in any previous testing. PSC stated that further testing is needed now that the filtration systems in office suites have been worked on, and that testing of the water fountains should also take place.
Management stated that they are not opposed to further testing if the University allows it. They would like to check with Howard Apsan, and said they would respond to the PSC in writing after doing so. (As of 1/11/19, the PSC had received no written response.)
The PSC presented a series of four emails from Rachel Levine, former Associate Dean of Administration and Finance, dated January and February 2018. In each email, a member of the PSC’s Environmental Health and Safety Committee asked Rachel Levine for specific assurance that water from the fountains in the hallways would be tested before being put into service. She responded affirmatively to each email. The PSC argued that assurance had been given, in these emails and in Labor-Management meetings held on 12/15/17 and 4/30/18, that the fountains would be tested before being put into service. Management countered that the emails from Rachel Levine only showed that she agreed to water testing, and not specifically to testing of the water fountains before they were put into service.
The PSC disagreed with this interpretation, and insisted that on the necessity of:
- Immediate signage on drinking fountains
- Testing of the drinking fountains
- Retesting of water in office suites after “refresh” of filtration systems
- Continued provision of bottled water in office suites
- Prompt release of any further water testing results to PSC
Members of the management team then turned to Jean Grassman, demanding to know if she had tested all drinking water sources at the School of Public Health. Dr. Grassman pointed out that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the water at SPS, not the School of Public Health. The PSC distributed a handout with quotes from the EPA’s website saying that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, and arguing that everyone who uses the building at 119 West 31st St. has the right to know what is in the water, and to make an informed decision about their own health. PSC requested that at a minimum, signs be posted at the water fountains in the hallways, informing students and other users that the safety of the water has not been determined. Management refused to post these signs. Given the stalemate over this issue, the meeting moved on to other agenda items.
- Appointment letters
The PSC noted that while in the past, adjunct letters of appointment included mention of the course name and number that the adjunct was appointed for, this is no longer the case. The PSC asked for information about the reason for the change. Management replied that that were unaware of the change, and that the question should be directed to OFSR. Pat Stein suggested that the change could have something to do with unemployment benefit claims.
- Tableau display of course evaluations
The PSC has received questions about how long course evaluation data has been publicly available on the SPS website. Management replied “Years”, and said that some CUNY schools publish these results in the student newspaper. It is seen as a response to student requests for this information, and as a measure of student satisfaction. PSC asked if faculty can opt out of having their data made public – it has been reported to the PSC that this is an option at at least one other CUNY college. Management stated that this is not an option at SPS, and doubted that it is an option elsewhere.
- Next steps on governance plan
PSC asked for a timeline for the draft proposed governance plan. Management said that the process has been a compromise, that they have listened to the concerns of the PSC and the University Faculty Senate, but “At some point, this is our school’s document.” PSC asked if any revisions to the governance plan had been made based on the PSC’s input at the 11/12/18 town hall meeting. Management responded, “No.” PSC asked again about the timeline for the plan. Management replied that it would be voted on by the SPS Governing Council on 12/6/18. It will then go to the Board of Trustees for a vote, likely in February 2019.
- Update on active shooter training
PSC asked for data on attendance. Management provided data showing that six sessions had been held with a total of 53 attendees. PSC expressed thanks to management for holding these trainings, and said that the feedback had been overwhelmingly positive. Attendees appreciated the flexibility of scheduling, the quality of information provided, the opportunity for hands-on practice, and the chance to ask questions. There was great appreciation for the willingness of Washington Hernandez and Brian Smith to follow up with staff in office suites on specific issues they could potentially face. PSC asked if additional training could be held in Spring 2019 for new faculty and staff. Management agreed to consider this.
- Update on PSC orientations
The PSC expressed appreciation to the OFSR staff, especially Ema Izquierdo and Alexis Rodriguez, for their cooperation in helping with the smooth roll-out of the PSC orientations for new hires. The PSC also expressed appreciation to Andrew Reynolds for assistance with room reservations for orientations, sometimes on short notice.
PSC pointed out that since most adjuncts are reappointed on a semester or yearly basis, they should be eligible for a paid orientation after not being on payroll in January or over the summer. Pat Stein countered that adjuncts should only be eligible for an orientation in the first semester that they are hired. This issue was left unresolved.
Management: John Mogulescu, Dean; George Otte, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs; Rachel Levine, Senior Associate Dean for Administration and Finance.
PSC: Pete Zwiebach, PSC Legal Director; Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, PSC Delegate; Jennifer Lee, Associate Registrar and PSC Welfare Fund representative; Marc Kagan, Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC; Nelly Benavides, Academic Operations Manager, Murphy Institute.
- Preparation for Teaching Online course
- Update on Governance Plan
- Course caps
- Communication issues
- Health and safety issues
- SPS Data
- PSC “office hours”
- Preparation for Teaching Online course
Pete Zweibach, PSC Legal Director, attended this meeting because of the PSC’s interest in any potential contractual issues pertaining to the “Preparation for Teaching Online” (PTO) course offered at SPS. He thanked management for their prompt response to the PSC’s request for the PTO syllabus and related materials.
Pete’s questions focused on whether the course was required, the amount of time and compensation involved, whether a faculty member must pass to be hired, and how the length of the course was determined.
Management responded that the course is required for all who teach online at SPS, and was started in 2010. It is offered nine times during the year. It involves 10 hours of fully online work, which are completed over a two-week period. Faculty taking the course are paid for the 10 hours at the Non-Teaching Adjunct (NTA) rate. The number of hours spent on the course is determined by the amount of time spent logged in, and faculty submit timesheets to get paid. Faculty members must pass the course in order to teach at SPS. The course has interactive elements – faculty share their syllabi and get peer feedback, and ask questions of each other. The course provides guidance on how to set up the course site on Blackboard. It has become a model for other CUNY schools.
PSC asked whether all the reading and online work can be completed in 10 hours. Management responded that there had been no complaints about this.
- Update on Governance Plan
PSC requested an update on the revisions to the Governance Plan. Management noted that it had been a lengthy process, but that it was nearing the end. Input from faculty, staff and the University Faculty Senate has been incorporated. The draft will be discussed at the meeting of Deans and Academic Directors next week. It is expected to be shared with the SPS community in November.
Management stressed that the work on the draft has been done by a committee of faculty and staff, consisting of four administrators, two academic program directors, and two consortial faculty. The committee will reflect on feedback from the SPS community, and seek additional feedback if major revisions are required. Legal review will also be carried out.
PSC asked how input will be given by the SPS community. Management responded that this is under discussion and could take place in writing, or in an online or public meeting. PSC also raised concern that there has been no adjunct voice in this process (pointing out that consortial faculty on the committee have full-time appointments elsewhere in CUNY). Management defended the role of consortial faculty as representing the views of adjuncts.
Management committed to sending the revised Governance Plan to the PSC for comment before presenting it for approval from the SPS Governing Council and the CUNY Board of Trustees.
- Course caps
PSC requested clarification on course caps. Management responded that courses close at 25, and will not run with less than five students; enrollment can exceed 25 only by permission of the instructor.
PSC pointed out that there seemed to have been a recent change in the cap on capstone courses, from 5 to 10. Management stated that programs are allowed to decide what the appropriate size is, but programs need to provide management with a rationale if enrollment is to be capped at 5; management prefers that the cap should be 10. However, there is some flexibility if a capstone has under 5 students, and students need it to graduate. In this case, a capstone can run with fewer than 5 students, but the instructor will be paid at 20% of their regular pay per student, as for an independent study. However, PSC pointed out that capstone courses are not independent studies, they are structured like a regular class; therefore, PSC challenged the 20% payment rate. This issue was not resolved at this meeting.
- Communication issues
This led to a discussion of a case reported to the PSC in which a program with a capstone cap of 5 went to 25 on CUNYFirst over the summer. This was a mistake that was corrected, but there were ultimately 6 students registered. The instructor was not informed about the change in the cap from 5 to 10, nor were the rest of the faculty in the program.
Management responded that Academic Directors should be communicating these changes to faculty. PSC countered that this did not happen, and that it was reported that this program does not have regular faculty meetings. PSC further pointed out that the SPS Governance Plan states that programs should have their own Curriculum Committees, where decisions like this could be made. But there are no actual program-level Curriculum or Personnel Committees at SPS, because the current governance plan says that only full-time and consortial faculty may be members of those committees. Most academic programs at SPS have neither full-time nor consortial faculty. These communication failures occur at SPS in part because of the structure of the school.
Management agreed to reach out to academic directors and inform them that they must make curricular decisions known to their faculty.
- Health and safety issues
PSC pointed out that there are reports of wildly divergent temperatures throughout the building. The practice of leaving office doors open so that the cubicles at 101 West 31st St. can stay warm was cited as an inadequate solution. The ticket system for reporting problems to facilities does not seem to result in a prompt response.
Management responded that the buildings are surveyed with infrared thermometers for temperature issues; they were unable to say how often this happens, but said they would look into this and report back to PSC. (NOTE: This report back did not happen.) Management was also unsure about whether there is a systemic remediation option.
PSC stated that faculty don’t know how to put in a ticket when there is a problem with room temperature, and that Guttman faculty who use the building also need to be informed about what to do. Management said they should call the Facilities Help Desk, and that this information would be provided to faculty. (NOTE: It is unclear as to whether this happened.)
- SPS Data
PSC requested a list of all full-time, consortial and part-time faculty, by program. Management agreed to provide this, and requested that PSC provide a spreadsheet with the types of data needed.
This led to a discussion of the distinction between “consortial faculty” and “academic community leaders”. Management said that “consortial faculty” are given two course releases a year to participate in curricular oversight and mentoring. “Academic community leaders” receive one course release to focus on a particular area in curricular oversight and observation. Management promised to send the official language on these two roles. (NOTE: This information was received on 10/25/17. The data requested was received in December 2017.)
- PSC “office hours”
PSC informed management that at the Graduate Center, regular PSC office hours are held in a designated room. PSC would also like to do this at SPS, but need a room that would provide privacy.
Management agreed to make a room available for this, and said that PSC should use the room reservations system. PSC asked to advertise office hours using the digital signboards, and management agreed.
Dear Graduate Center Colleagues –
On April 1st, Andrew Cuomo, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl Heastie will emerge from a backroom in Albany, and CUNY will have a budget for the next year. We have nine days left to intervene in this process.
The recent email from the top officers of the union admonishing some 7k or Strike activists was, in our view, a distraction from the task at hand. If a statement on 7KoS was necessary for legal reasons, the tone and timing of the email were not.
We cannot let the tone, timing, or our own frustrations divert our attention from what is most important at this critical juncture. Right now, we need to organize, organize, organize.There’s a Grade In at Cuomo’s office on March 29th, organized by rank and file activists from SUNY-UUP. This action complements other grade ins across our university, where adjuncts are making their unpaid and undervalued labor visible to the CUNY community. There’s a PSC-wide action on April 11thwhich will undoubtedly be both a response to the April 1st budget, and a push to legislators for more adjunct money before the legislative cycle ends in June. And, every single person reading this email can take 2 minutes to call Brad Hoylman (212-633-8052), the state senator whose district includes the Graduate Center: tell him about 7k, tell him how the decline in state funding for CUNY affects you and your students, and ask him to tell Andrea Stewart-Cousins that his constituents will be irate if she emerges on April 1st without full funding for our system.
In our chapter we have seen first-hand how the fight for 7k is galvanizing our members, transforming them into activists, and thereby making our union stronger. If you’re connected to the fight through the Committee for Adjuncts and Part-timers at PSC Central, through the GC Chapter, or through 7KoS, we want and welcome your power and energy. Because of the enormity of our collective struggle and the callous intransigence of our foes, the only way we will win is by supporting one another and by working together.
Solidarity and power,
Luke Elliott-Negri, PSC-GC Chapter Chair
Maya Harakawa, PSC-GC Chapter Vice-Chair
Looking Back, Moving Forward
The transition from 2018 to 2019 has me feeling nostalgic. This spring marks the five-year anniversary of the revitalized Graduate Center PSC chapter. In 2013, the GC chapter did not exist, though HEO activists Andrea Vasquez (now PSC First Vice President) and Bob Nelson (now retired) maintained a PSC presence in the building. Sean Kennedy and Jennifer Chancellor (now graduated), and I set about to rebuild the chapter with a focus on Graduate Assistants (GAs).
However, we soon discovered that most GAs were not eligible to be members of the chapter. In 2013, GAs were only eligible to join the chapter where they worked, not where they were paid (which for most is the Graduate Center). For those on five-year funding packages, this meant that they had three campus “homes” over five years of funding – and hence there was no chapter where GAs could cohere their interests.
Sean, Jennifer and I engaged in meetings with PSC central, and finally moved a policy change through the Delegate Assembly in 2014. GAs could now affiliate either with the chapter where they worked or where they were paid (most typically, the GC). The change was pivotal for GAs, because it created a home for them in the PSC where they could develop as a constituency.
In the years since this small policy change, we have been able to do a great deal. Most foundationally, we have signed up a net of approximately 700 members in the past few years, nearly tripling our representation in the Delegate Assembly between 2014 and 2017. This involved the thankless dedicated work of many members, but especially Chloe Asselin, Rachel Chapman, Rebecca Salois, and Maya Harakawa, all of whom served as the campus “Part-time Liaison” for important stretches of time. Staff organizer Sam Lewis has also signed up untold numbers of members. And today, Harry Blain serves in the role of Part Time Liaison, building out the department rep structure that Maya was pivotal to creating.
The GC chapter has had two important “firsts” (or near-firsts) over the past several years. To my knowledge, the GC has the first-ever non-interim part-timer chapter chair in the union’s history (though if there is a bit of history I’m missing, please correct me!). It is also the standard throughout the union for the campus-level grievance counselor to be a full timer, and to deal exclusively with full time faculty issues. Adjuncts and HEOs must call PSC Central to deal with grievances. Our chapter has now had three incredibly talented grievance counselors, all of whom are part time – Marc Kagan, Anh Tran and now Ivana Durovic. These counselors have fought hard for part-timers, especially GAs, but it is important to note that they have also represented full time faculty in grievance hearings, a very important “first” that suggests the kind of solidarity that is possible in a large and diverse union like ours.
The GC chapter actually represents seven campuses, five of which are administratively distinct from the Graduate Center. While we have not done nearly all that we need to on these campuses, we have made significant inroads at the School of Professional Studies in recent years. Susan Fountain has been dogged in fighting for healthy drinking water in the building and other broadly felt issues. She has hosted labor-management meetings, and acted as a de facto chapter chair. Because of her diligence, she is now being compensated as a Part Time Liaison, which is very good for SPS and for the chapter (and it makes us the first chapter to have an additional PT liaison to reflect our unique structure). Just this year, we had the first labor management meeting at the new School of Labor and Urban Studies, and we hope to get similar work up and running at the School of Journalism, Macaulay Honors and the School of Public Health.
With respect to contract bargaining, GC activists and GAs especially played an integral role in fighting for retroactive pay in the last contract round. We also closed a health insurance “loophole” if/when GAs become adjuncts after depositing their dissertations, and earned a $750 signing bonus (whatever one may think of signing bonuses, more than a million dollars went into our pockets as a result). We fought successfully to get some of the same exemptions full timers earned, making more GAs eligible for the bonus. And, perhaps most importantly, we won a fight at the local level to prevent the Graduate Center from reducing GCF stipends in response to contractually negotiated wage increases.
But with respect to improving the contract, GAs are just getting started. This round we have put forward an ambitious plan to line up the contract with some of the better practices that have developed on the ground at the Graduate Center. We have also advanced a number of other demands that would meaningfully improve our pay and working conditions.
Perhaps most importantly, we won a fight this fall, using old fashioned, boots on the ground organizing. When GC management proposed to restructure WAC fellowship in ways that would be bad for all fifth year Grad Center Fellows and worse for those on international visas, the chapter pushed back. We ultimately won a 1/3rd workload reduction for all fifth years, the most notable restructuring of the WAC package since its inception in the 1990s.
Yet the biggest fight in PSC history lies before us – more than doubling the wage that CUNY pays its adjunct faculty. On a survey last fall in which hundreds of graduate employees participated, 7k for adjuncts was far and away the top issue. In part this is because of the issue’s political importance, because of grad employee solidarity with adjunct faculty. But of course, many – indeed, most – graduate employees also adjunct. This radical pay increase would benefit us materially.
This April 1st, 2019, when the state budget is settled, our Albany employers – the governor, the senate and the assembly – will decide whether CUNY will have the money it needs to pay its part time faculty adequately. As a start, please register to pay them a visit on February 12th. We should have more members than ever before in Albany that day – our numbers alone will send a message. But just one visit is not enough. In my view there is an open question: how do we get the hundreds of millions of dollars – really billions of dollars – more for CUNY that we need? We know there is a new State Senate, so there are opportunities that have, in essence, never existed in New York State. Will we take advantage of them and how? I urge you to reach out directly to me with your energy and your ideas. The next three months are pivotal not just for adjuncts, but for all PSC members and for CUNY as an institution.
Looking Back – Part 2
Shortly after I indulged my New Year-invoked feeling of nostalgia and wrote a reflection on five years of building the GC chapter (above), I started thinking of more names, more characters who have been integral to this work. In fact, you’ll see Gerry Martini’s name above this piece, because he manages our website. After the first chapter meeting that I chaired, Gerry (a HEO) came up to me and said “Hey, I’d be happy to build the chapter a digital presence.” Today we have well-traveled Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, in addition to the website.
Penny Lewis served as Vice Chair for our first term, and continues to chair our labor-management meetings. She is a key union leader at the School of Labor and Urban Studies and has done work at School of Professional Studies over the years. Michelle Fine, David Chapin and Michael Handis all served on the first EC, getting this whole project off the ground before stepping back. Steve Brier has served both terms, and committed real time to our chapter. Jean Grassman is our resident health and safety expert, and Ruth Milkman and Roxanne Shirazi have done great work as well. Travis Butt and Jeremey Sawyer were the first two GAs to commit to running for office on the new EC, and were active in the fight for retroactive pay in the last round of bargaining. Amelia Fortunato stepped up in our fight to fix the WAC fellowship, and was a pivotal leader in the outcome. Full-timers and part-timers alike have committed countless hours to build this chapter.
There are names I have not mentioned who I undoubtedly should (even as I write I’m thinking of Rosa, Travis, Isaac, Stephanie, Erin, Lynne, Zee, Jennifer, so many have done vital work in both formal and informal roles). Dozens and dozens of activists have engaged in the GC chapter to make it what it is. As we go forward, we have many goals, including 7k – but core among them is to turn the dozens in to hundreds, the hundreds in to thousands.
Maya Harakawa is a 5th year candidate in the Art History department at the GC. An underfunded student without a five year fellowship she is an elected delegate in the graduate center chapter executive committee. She co-founded the chapter’s steward program and ran internal organizing in the chapter for over two years. As chapter vice chair, she will continue to prioritize building internal power while supporting union-wide initiatives, such as 7K.
Travis Richard Sweatte (4th year Sociology PhD): I am running for the Vice-Chair position because I believe that the chapter leadership is currently preoccupied with pursuing a top-down, bureaucratic strategy that is harmful to members’ interests and detrimental to the long-term strength of the union. As Vice-Chair I would exert pressure for the current chair and delegates to fully support and advocate for the 7K or Strike resolution passed with overwhelming support by membership last semester, and to fight for our chapter to be led by the rank-and-file membership rather than representatives who claim to act on behalf of the membership.
This went out yesterday (November 7th) after PSC-CUNY bargaining regarding Graduate Assistants; we are reposting it here for those who missed the update.
Dear Graduate Center Colleagues,
At the collective bargaining session this morning, the PSC introduced an important new proposal concerning graduate employees. We are eager to share it with Graduate Assistants and Grad Center faculty, and we hope that it will have your strong support. As a member of the Graduate Center faculty myself, I know how important it is to sustain the best possible conditions for graduate employees, who represent the future of our profession.
The proposal the PSC submitted today is a substantial revision of the union’s proposals on graduate employees included in our original set of demands. It is the result of much internal discussion among the union bargaining team, the Graduate Center Chapter PSC leadership, and the PSC legal and contract enforcement staff. We believe that an update of the sections of the contract on graduate employees is long overdue. Some of the language is completely out of step with current practice and has not been changed since the PSC’s first contract, in 1972. We also believe that a realignment of the workload and compensation for graduate employees is urgently needed, as has been made clear in recent debates over the fifth-year Fellows.
The essence of our proposal is an alignment of the contractual provisions on payment, hours and other terms of employment for graduate employees with the current practice, which changed dramatically with the introduction of larger financial packages starting in 2011.
The proposal seeks to simplify the current range of Graduate Assistant titles and to move almost all graduate employees to the title Graduate Center Fellow. All Graduate Center Fellows, regardless of their year in the program, would have the same workload as current Graduate Assistants B. In addition, the proposal calls for the entire financial package currently provided to graduate assistants to be treated as salary, rather than as a combination of salary and stipend, as it is now for Grad B’s. We propose a new salary schedule for Graduate Center Fellows, with the lowest step at $26,062-the nearest existing salary step to the current starting financial package for Grad B’s. Consolidating graduate employees’ financial packages as salary reflects the original practice embedded in the contract of providing funding to graduate employees through salary.
Our aim is to provide consistent, reliable financial support for graduate employees, together with a workload that allows graduate employees to make progress toward completion of the Ph.D. We also aim to foster a community in which doctoral programs can continue to recruit extraordinary students and make major contributions to the production of new knowledge.
As you will see, the union’s proposals also address other areas, such as the need to include graduate employees’ history of CUNY employment when considering eligibility for certain contractual provisions available to adjuncts. Examples include eligibility to be considered for multi-year adjunct appointments and for paid adjunct professional hours. We also call for the revival of an existing University-PSC committee but with a new purpose: to consider ways to enhance opportunities for full-time CUNY faculty appointments for recipients of the Ph.D. from the Grad Center, especially for graduates from underrepresented groups. And we seek to ensure that graduate assistants who continue to work at CUNY after their fifth year will be granted a tuition waiver.
The first contract negotiated under our union leadership, in 2002, included matching funds to provide tuition waivers for graduate employees. That was the start of a transformation that has seen much wider provision of tuition waivers and a substantial increase in funding support. We believe that the revision of the contract we propose represents the next step.
I am pleased to say that the CUNY management team, which heard our proposal also for the first time today, expressed a willingness to continue the discussion. They took the position that some of our proposals fall outside of the realm of collective bargaining, but they were not closed to our major proposal and expressed interest in some of the other graduate employee demands.
The union bargaining team will create opportunities to discuss the proposal with graduate assistants and Grad Center faculty in the coming weeks. There is considerable detail in the proposal, and also several areas that need further discussion, such as the provisions for Science Fellows. We look forward to that discussion.
The bargaining team is grateful to the graduate employees who joined us as observers this morning and to all of you who have worked to make the Grad Center work. We made it clear to management that our proposals about graduate employees are a priority for the union. The future of academic research depends on graduate employees; there is a profound intellectual and ethical bond between union members who are studying to enter the academic profession and those who are already teaching. We welcome your comments on the proposal and hope that you will join your PSC colleagues in fighting for these provisions as part of a good contract.
Below you will find description of duties for the open chapter Executive Committee position of Vice Chair. In keeping with the passed resolution on Democratic Selection of Officers, we will take nominations for 15 days after the email announcing this vacancy goes out to all chapter members (that should happen today, November 8th, or tomorrow, November 9th). At that point anyone choosing to run will be able to provide a profile for this site + distribution by another email to all chapter members, and nominees will each be given a few minutes to speak at our next chapter meeting (if they so desire). If you wish to run and/or nominate someone else, please contact Anh.
Vice Chair Responsibilities
The vice chair is key to assuring the daily functionality of the Graduate Center chapter. Responsibilities are as follows: organizing chapter meetings and EC meetings (setting dates and time, coordinating agenda, booking rooms, overseeing promotion, chairing meetings, etc.); attending monthly chapter chair meetings; working with the chapter chair to coordinate chapter correspondence (with members, management, and the larger union). Aside from these administrative duties, the vice chair also plays a key role in chapter organizing. In particular, the vice chair works closely with the chapter’s part-time liaison to identify new leaders among rank and file members. The vice chair is not a delegate position (meaning it does come with voting rights in the PSC’s delegate assembly).
The Provost’s Office is threatening the livelihood of WAC (Writing Across the Curriculum) fifth year Ph.D. students at the Graduate Center. As we fight for these members, a timeline of what has happened so far:
2013: The Graduate Center Fellowship (GCF) replaced the Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellowship, helpfully lowering the workload in the first four years, but introducing the bizarre and counter-productive situation in which fifth year students would work as WAC Fellows for twice the number of hours as in their previous four years, despite the need to focus on dissertating during their critical last year of funding.
2014: Thanks to a grassroots initiative, our union chapter reactivated and reorganized.
2017: WAC Fellows approached our union, noting that the contract only allows an average of 7.5 hours/week worth of work under the Grad B title (the line of work associated with the GCF), yet WAC Fellows are required to work an average of 15 hours/week. Our union filed a grievance on their behalf, per the the proper process for resolving contractual workload issues.
2017-2018: In response to the grievance, the GC administration threatened to appoint WAC fellows as Grad As, which allows for an average of 15 hours/week at a higher wage, but GC threatened to slash the stipend part of the fellowship so that in the end, the total compensation remains the same. Even worse, Grad As would be barred from working anywhere else in CUNY, meaning students could not take on additional adjunct positions to supplement their meager income, or maintain continuity on their teaching campuses. This situation would produce outsized harm for international students, whose visas only permit them to work inside CUNY. Recognizing the negative impact, our union signed a stipulation agreeing not to grieve the payments to the 2018-19 WAC cohort in exchange for maintaining them as Grad Bs, with the understanding that both parties would take the year to cooperate in politically resolving the workload question.
June 2018: Having unofficially threatened to change the WAC Fellows’ work title, the GC Labor Relations designee wrote a Step 1 grievance decision meant to be used as a cudgel to that effect. The decision professed that the GC could use the stipend part of the fellowship to pay for work (despite the stipend serving as a recruitment tool and never being attached to work in the previous four years of the fellowship). The designee also falsely asserted that our union wanted to change the title to GAA (when, in fact, we actually asked that the WAC workload be reduced to 7.5 hour, as mandated by the contract) and “awarded” us a “remedy” which worsens WAC work conditions.
Sept 2018: Without engaging in any political conversation, and contrary to the spirit of the stipulation, GC communicated to 2018-2019 WACs that they will be appointed as Grad As and forbidden from working elsewhere in the system.
Oct 2018: After a union-led pressure campaign, the GC management agreed to meet with union chapter leaders. Abandoning what seemed to be productive meetings, union leaders found out through word of mouth that management refused to sign a stipulation to protect next year’s WAC follows while the deeper structural question is addressed.
To date, the GC has opted for the most retaliatory path toward “compliance” with the contract, when the simpler and fairer way to comply would have been to reduce WAC Fellows’ hours to 7.5 hours/week.
Fortunately, there is a way out of this situation in the short run. The PSC has asked to extend the stipulation not to grieve the payments to the WAC cohort for another year in exchange for maintaining them as Grad Bs, with the understanding that both parties would take the year to cooperate in politically resolving the workload question.