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December 15th SPS Labor-Management Meeting Notes

PSC Notes on SPS Labor Management Meeting, Dec. 15, 2017

 

Attendees:

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;  Luke Elliott-Negri, Chair of the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC; Anh Tran, Vice-Chair of the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC and Grievance Counselor; Marc Kagan, Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC; Stephanie Luce, Professor, Murphy Institute.

Agenda:

  1. Update on draft proposed governance plan
  2. Health and safety issues
  3. PSC “office hours”
  4. Use of Room 106
  5. SPS data

Update on draft proposed governance plan

Pete Zwiebach, the PSC’s Legal Director, led this portion of the meeting with input from other PSC attendees.  Management acknowledged having received a letter from Barbara Bowen, President of the PSC, detailing the PSC’s concerns with the current draft of the proposed governance plan, and requesting a meeting with SPS management. Management agreed to meet, and Pete promised to send possible dates.

The PSC listed concerns with the draft proposed governance plan, including:

  • The timing of the new plan, given that a grievance on SPS’s failure to follow the current governance plan is headed to arbitration in Spring 2018
  • The concentration of power in the Dean’s position makes structural protections  meaningless; and, this concentration of power may become problematic in the future when this position is occupied by someone else
  • A lack of clarity as to how faculty and their roles are defined, including terms such as “consortial faculty” and “academic community leader” (the latter term does not appear in  contractual language)
  • The limitation of adjunct representation in a school where over 90% of the faculty are adjuncts; only adjuncts with 3-year contracts (a small minority) are eligible to serve on the Governing Council, and adjuncts cannot vote for their own representatives (unlike other colleges in the CUNY system)

Management responded that the timing of the draft had nothing to do with the grievance; it was driven by faculty and staff. It was drafted by a committee, and has undergone a process of discussion and review by the SPS community and the University Faculty Senate. It will be revised again, and receive another period of review.

Regarding adjunct concerns, management pointed out that there had been an adjunct on the drafting committee. PSC pointed out that this faculty member actually has a full-time appointment at another CUNY college, and therefore is not the best representative of adjuncts. PSC further requested that an adjunct be added to the drafting committee. Management said it would bring this request to the committee.  

Management stated that it is not possible to write into a document safeguards against a bad President or Dean. PSC responded that colleges should have checks and balances built into their governance plans, so that senior management cannot override policy decisions made collectively.  

PSC remarked on the idea of having only adjuncts with 3-year contracts eligible to serve on the Governing Council; it was argued at one of the town hall meetings that a 3-year contract is an indication of an adjunct’s commitment. PSC pushed back against this idea, noting that there are adjuncts who have served at SPS for over a decade, despite having no formal mechanism for input into curricular decisions, witnessing closing of courses and certificate programs without their input, living with a lack of benefits and job security, and giving many hours of unpaid time beyond their job descriptions to support their program and students. PSC noted the irony of the argument that adjuncts should not have a role in governance because they are not “committed”, while they are working under a governance plan that provides no structure for them to be engaged in the decision-making processes in their programs or in the school as a whole.

Management responded that is does not think of commitment this way, and that adjunct comments would be reflected in the next draft. Management stated that the revision process will not be rushed, but the process must end at some point, predicting that changes would be made that the PSC will like, and that there will be others that the PSC will not like. Management stated that SPS was established to be different.

Health and safety issues

PSC asked about the status of repairs, after reports of discolored water in multiple locations in the building were made on Nov. 28, 2017. Staff who were affected provided photos.

Management responded that the building management is taking this seriously. Repairs have not been started, and it “might be problems down the block”.  Any recommended remediation would have to be reviewed by CUNY Central. Management has spoken to Howard Apsan (University Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management), who was reported as having minimized the need for testing at this time, calling it “pointless”.  PSC pointed out that because of a previous lack of transparency on water issues, a number of staff lack confidence in Mr. Apsan’s views, do not trust the safety of the water, and have said they will not go back to drinking it, even if repairs are made.

PSC expressed appreciation for management’s quick response to this latest water issue, and said that staff noted how quickly bottled water was provided this time around. Management responded that the planned drinking fountains and piped water coolers would not be connected to the building water system until they are assured that the water is safe. If management has to permanently provide bottled water, it will do so. Management also added that they don’t manage the lease on the building, and that CUNY Central may not agree that there is a risk from the building’s water.

PSC raised concerns about the door to the offices on the 7th floor of 101 West 31st.  Staff have reported that the sensor is overly sensitive and that the door opens when someone walks by on the inside, raising security concerns. Management responded that they are working with vendor to minimize this problem. PSC asked how soon this would be done. Management responded that it will not be until the new year.  

A discussion of the use of the ticket system to report facilities issues followed.  PSC pointed out that as per management’s request at the last labor-management meeting, we direct staff to use the ticket system for complaints. However, staff report to the PSC that they get emails back saying the problem will be looked into, and then weeks go by without any results; at that point they turn to the PSC for assistance.  Management acknowledged that the ticket system isn’t always responded to promptly, but will be more attentive in the future.

PSC “office hours”

PSC would like to continue holding drop-in office hours during Spring 2018 at 119 West 31st.  Management agreed to this, and requested that PSC continue to use the online room reservation process.

Use of Room 106

PSC reported that faculty who teach face-to-face have noted that room 106, which is the designated adjunct “touch down” space, is often in use by other members of the SPS community. This can make it difficult for faculty to access computers prior to their evening classes.  PSC asked if this was a permanent or temporary arrangement. Management responded that it was most likely temporary, but would check. PSC acknowledged that there may be a need for staff to use space in 106 (for example, if office renovations are going on), but it would be helpful for adjuncts to be informed of this in advance, so that they can plan their time before class accordingly.

SPS data

PSC requested updated reports on SPS employees and their titles, in order to create up-to-date data on the number of employees in each title.  Management agreed to provide this information by the following week. (This was provided.)


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