1. Business Practices and Payment Delays
- A) Payment on personal credit cards
Labor: A collective letter was recently sent to President Garrell, Provost Everett and Senior VP Peterson to share extreme anguish over budgeting and spending procedures. It was signed by 107 members of the Graduate Center community. Workers throughout the Graduate Center are not feeling supported. Spending has become an extreme administrative burden with purchasing workload shared across titles. Delays in payments are damaging our relationships with vendors and students, destroying our reputation and our ability to provide graduate education for the public good. We’ve heard that purchases will slow given recent changes in the business office; training sessions some of us have attended have been extremely chaotic. Promises for speedy turnaround on payments and reimbursements have not happened. We feel that there is a significant lack of support for this type of work at the Graduate Center.
First, staff are being asked to use personal credit cards. Asking staff to provide the university with significant interest-free loans places an undue and inequitable burden on people. When will the GC issue new credit cards and to whom? Will those be accessible by people who manage GC Foundation and Research Foundation funds? We need clarity on when the cards will be provided, who will receive them, and who will have access to them. We also need a firm answer on how quickly we can expect outstanding debts that CUNY owes workers to be reimbursed. The 3-day turnaround time that we were told is a fiction.
Management: No one should use their personal credit cards. There is a limited number of cards ”around” and you can find one. There is a commitment to a 5-day turnaround for repayment of workers’ loans/purchases that were put on workers’ personal credit cards. Solution is to email Ken Torino. Labor should send a list of names of people who have not been reimbursed. There are a variety of different causes for this happening, such as those seeking reimbursememt not having an assigned approver in CUNYfirst. (No response to the letter.)
- B) Vacancies and workload creep
Labor: With the changes in the shifting Accounts Payable to CUNY Central, can you explain which positions moved to CUNY Central and what positions you are currently hiring for that work on procurement or accounts payable? What other positions are you planning to hire for in the Business Office? What is the plan to account for people going on leave in the business office in the future? (cross-training, hiring temporary help, etc.)
Management: Did not have this data, could not effectively summarize what had happened or is happening other than that Accounts Payable went to CUNY Central. And in process of backfilling vacancies at the Business Office, though would not say which.
Labor: We have seen an 11% decrease in full time classified staff positions and a staggering 35% decrease in part time classified staff across CUNY from 2017 to 2021. We have been experiencing workload creep with procurement since CUNYfirst arrived. Now we are being told that there are changing requirements for payments alongside the clearly increasing expectations for our time. Why are GC workers across all titles being re-trained in payment procedures following the move of Accounts Payable to CUNY Central?
Management: Said that GC hasn’t lost classified staff at this level. There is no change or need for new training due to Accounts Payable going to CUNY Central. Said the previous trainings were not what they hoped they would be and that the GC Business Office will be doing their own trainings in the future. Reiterated that at the GC, there has not been much shrinkage in staff.
Labor: There is a lot of wasted labor and time spent emailing people repeatedly for updates. Repeated emails are not a system. What are the plans to implement better modern business practices that do not require simply emailing people repeatedly? I want to emphasize that all of these issues are systemic and not a matter of individual people.
Management:: We are working on providing access – reporting functions move often.
Suggested labor meet with Ken and Brian and offer suggestions to solve these issues in a “conversation group” – time invested in providing those ideas will save time down the road. Can’t promise that we will say yes but we will engage in dialogue.
Labor: Pushed back on the idea that anyone outside of these titles are responsible to solve these issues. Suggested President’s Office hire 2-3 HEOs to work between programs and purchasing
2. Misinterpretation of contract regarding workload limits
Labor: Incorrect interpretation of the contract language, incorrect workload limits on NTAs. Incorrect equivalencies between NTA and teaching hours. Request for clarify as more people are going for the non-teaching options, and especially crucial issue for international students.
Management: This issue is hard to grasp. Said to work with Anne Ellis (person who has the incorrect contract interpretation, according to Labor), and this warrants an FAQ. Issues come up against balance of hours in contract, this is managed by Central and can’t get resolved at our level. You can grieve inappropriate work but if there is not enough flexibility, take it to the negotiating team.
Labor: Reiterates that the issue is misinterpretation of the contract. The correct language is there, meant to solve this problem
Management: It is nuanced, this contract is unique and complicated. Agreed to a further meeting on this issue.
3. Unfair dismissals in the sciences
Labor: Principal Investigators in the bench sciences have almost complete discretion over firing/academic dismissals of their lab assistants; firing can happen with no notice, probation, or due process, and science fellows are then left without lab placements. This impacts their health insurance, income and ability to complete the degree. We have met with Josh Brumberg and he says that what the sciences need most is a contingency fund that can pay for new lab placements when cases like these happen, and more oversight for academic dismissals so that they are not purely at the PI’s discretion.
Management: Not a workplace issue. Academic dismissal is exclusively academic, not employment. More problematic in the sciences, where grants are production oriented. Based on contractual language, it is beyond the purview of this body to discuss. Grant comes with responsibilities. PIs have discretion over dismissals, set performance expectations. Adding reviews or checks on the dismissal process would not be acceptable to certain funding agencies. Dean Brumberg suggested one way to address this challenge is… could a college provide some kind of alternative, or teaching appt? No contingency funds right now but heard it discussed as a good idea.. Can’t commit to a timeline but it has been discussed.
Labor: Emphasizes the importance of contingency fund given our crumbling infrastructure and PI misconduct.
4. STATUS of health insurance fund
Labor: Contract 11.2 c grants 700,000 USD for non-NYSHIP enrolled in students health insurance; What’s the status? How much has been disbursed? What are the plans to make those eligible aware of this program?
Management: There has been no progress in the last few months. Interested in moving forward. It’s a bandwidth issue. Other things kept leaping ahead of this one. At CUNY Central and here. Next steps are confirming a mechanism can be developed that is feasible and sustainable. Once that is done, Central brings the plan back to the PSC. Modeling done a year ago, need to re-model. Will circle back. Has been actively discussed with faculty leaders. Other options could be in play. We need to understand what people are interested in and what is feasible and what levels of approval are needed?
Labor: Different proposals and ideas thrown around. Including about the status of tuition only fellow. Do we have data on fellowship breakdown?
Management: Prelim plan this year was to go ahead with status quo GCF/TF. EOs have asked admin to consider other options (mix of funding packages, etc). We want to understand what programs want (and how this varies between programs). Some changes require BoT signoff, others within GC admin discretion. Some amount of TFs will continue next year, haven’t determined what it will be
Labor: What did health modeling show?
Management: What is the population we can support and at what level. Grad D front and center. As a hypothetical, if funds don’t allow us to support all 6 or 7th years, but there are those who already has health insurance from a partner, does that free up dollars for other students… those are some of the complexities. We don’t want to overcommit based on optimistic numbers. We’ll circle back at the beginning of the year. We will return to the modeling effort at the beginning of the year.
5. Business Office vacancies
Labor: What is the status of business office vacancies?
Management: vacancies will be in job postings and are public record. Vacancies and hiring are within managerial purview.
Labor: Is this filling positions on leave?
Management: We are facing a $4m deficit, we are not doing full vacancy hiring. Does not comment on the detailed staffing of business office.
6. Email migration
Labor: Complaints that mid-semester email migration caused lost emails for workers.
Management: Faculty, staff will migrate in Feb, not familiar with student email migration. Email
Jeff Barnes and copy Matt Shungut
7. Furniture Shortage
Labor: New workers are not provided will basic furniture like chairs and desks.
Management: We have plenty of furniture. Hiring team works with facilities. People should talk to their supervisor.
Labor: People hear from their supervisors that there is no furniture available.
Management: Contact Julie Vanegas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Labor: Julie is the one who told people there was no office furniture.
Management: We’ll do a check-in from our office as well.
8. GA Committee
Labor: What is the status of the GA committee that is mentioned in the contract and is supposed to meet between LM meetings to discuss GA issues.
Management: It’s an antiquated clause – we have other ways of getting it done now