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WAC Timeline

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.

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