News Uncategorized

October 25 SPS Labor-Management Notes


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.


  1. Preparation for Teaching Online course
  2. Update on Governance Plan
  3. Course caps
  4. Communication issues
  5. Health and safety issues
  6. SPS Data
  7. 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.

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