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GC Labor Management Meeting notes

March 3, 2023 Labor/Management Meeting Notes

Agenda Items

  1. Payment issues
  2. Update on unallocated NYSHIP money
  3. Employee recognition event
  4. Savings plan memo (i.e. budget cuts)
  5. Information request for graduate student titles
  6. Emergency funding for science students

Preventative Measures for Overpayment Issues 

(first discussed in December 2022 Labor-Management Meeting: Student Overpayment by CUNY)

Labor: How can we stop students from being overpaid by CUNY, which causes them to owe CUNY debt and have to repay? David Boxill, head of HR, agreed to help with these cases but did nothing. It’s unfortunate that he is not here. We need to know where the overpayment mess-ups are coming from. Creation of catchall email address welcome but not a systematic solution, problem has only been addressed on backend. They seem related to miscommunications between the GC and campuses. 

Management: They have been working on this for a while. Email address verification helped the process of identifying mispayments. Portal email address has been extremely helpful, verified something that was deduced anecdotally – variety of causes of mispayments – underpayments are most concerning. Phyllis Schulz (HR) is in place and has expertise to determine the nature of the problem and connect with appropriate entity to resolve the problem.

The number of cases in the first semester was several dozen. This semester greatly reduced. This means there is a preventative effect. In nearly all cases, the issues were resolved quickly. So we have a way to resolve issues once they come to our attention. We are now able to identify patterns. The numbers are decreasing – they are diverse, there is no common problem that is amenable to a fix, a preventative fix – in a single location – potential causative factor is a faculty member with a grant and appointment is not made in a timely way – more complicated to solve. We are working with HR departments on various campuses to heightened awareness of the timeline – preventative effect. Exploring other options that might be more comprehensive. 

Centralized pot of money is  too complicated – working through ideas for what other solutions could look like- there are some solutions that can introduce more problems, which we need to be aware of. Any big enterprise, you can never get to zero issues but we want to get as close to zero as possible.

Labor: How are we sure that structures are in place to address the problem and we don’t just end up back at square one when there is employee turnover at different campuses?

Management: we don’t know the best solution, 4-5 ideas to work out – once you have an effective procedure, you can document it. This is a university-wide problem, it’s an issue appropriate to present to [contract] negotiation.

Labor: Timeline? 

Management: Not yet. We don’t know what it looks like yet. You have to know what you are trying to do. We are still brainstorming. 

Labor: The DGSC put together a resolution over a year ago, we have been bringing this forth for months now.

Management: People have agreed, implementing a global solution is not the way to go – not a written decision but there is consensus that obstacles are overwhelming. Putting a solution in CUNYfirst is too difficult. It’s not that nothing is happening. 

Labor: How often do you anticipate meeting with campuses about this?

Management: The conversations happen in variety of spaces.

Update on NYSHIP expansion of $700,000

Labor: In our last contract, 700,000 dollars was promised to expand access to NYSHIP among graduate students. It has been more than three years and management has yet to release the funds.

Management: There are no updates at this time. 

Labor: It has been three years and there was a commitment in our November meeting to have a timeline ready by January

Management: In this meeting I do not have a timeline.

Employee Recognition Event

Labor: At the Community Meeting, employees asked the GC to reinstate its annual Employee Recognition Event; this would be a gesture that would indicate management takes seriously the morale and overwork issues happening on campus. Can management commit to restarting the event, and if so, on what timeline?

Management: President Garrell says that this came up in her interview. Always values having the opportunity to have staff recognition. Episodically working on it, many conversations. Moved forward with preliminary scheduling. Waves of planning and being aborted. First there was Delta and then there was Omicron (2021). No new variants coming our way, we are working with a team, some preliminary dates. Not the same shape as before. Yes, there will be something this semester. Garrell doesn’t want to announce it here. Working with HR because need to have an idea of how many people they are targeting – inclusive event that may be spread over a couple of days. – after spring break, before commencement, virus-willing. Can’t say when.

Downstream effects of Savings Plan Memo, including hiring freeze impact on current searches and offers 

Labor: Where will the Savings Plan cuts be aimed? Will we see a reduction of NTA hours, as we have at SLU? Will student scholarships and fellowships be reduced? What offices at the GC will see the most cuts? Understaffing has been a continuous issue in certain offices, and the hiring freeze will make this worse. Does the GC have a plan to better support staff throughout the freeze? How will the hiring freeze impact ongoing job searches and offers? Our concern is the labor effects of these cuts. Will there be cuts of hours or positions? Cuts of hours that might affect health care coverage? What are the plans that would affect staff?

Management: “A very important question that weighs heavily on all of our minds” The first thing is the magnitude of the cuts, our budget is quite large.“ We’ll figure this out, we’ll do what we have to do, to thrive as best we can in lean times and emerge” stronger. CUNY’s been through difficult times before. Resources that were available to us in the past are less available to us now. An example is that we can’t make up for less state funds with other revenues because of Covid impact. We have a lock-box around our commitments to student funding, which won’t be touched by cuts. We have a commitment to students around multi-year funding and we are not going to touch that. Starting in 2023 this fiscal year 1.6 million dollars secured for contractual cost increases.

We have got to figure out how to get the work of the Graduate Center to do the work of the Graduate Center. To make it more efficient. Sometimes that is through technology, which can help us be more efficient during the hiring freeze. “We don’t have students who bring in tuition aside from a few masters programs” which we may be able to grow, and we also don’t have a lot of adjuncts, which makes us different from a lot of campuses. Protecting student-funding: we are going to try and achieve our targets [to sustain student funding] through revenues and not through cuts. We will be aggressively realistic.

Labor: To the extent that these necessary savings can’t be realized through revenues, where would the cuts come?

Management: Can’t say today. No information provided about where cuts would appear.

Labor: There is limited flexibility in terms of directives coming down to you but this is a political question, in terms of how much funding is coming from the state. What are you doing to get more state funding?

Management: The Chancellor has heard our pleas and got us the 1.6 million dollars. We are now part of the Chancellor’s Ask to the Governor. Included substantial increase for students – increased funding for faculty in science, for ASRC. Keeps making the point about funding for graduate students. Request for substantial funding for grad students included. It was disappointing that the governor gave 0 dollars to CUNY and close to a billion for SUNY. We had an hour and a half call with the governor’s chief of staff this morning and I highlighted the $10 million dollar budget increase for doctoral funding. Today a call with Manhattan campuses and politicians, they got to hear directly from them about particular needs – zoom in on 10 million dollars for doctoral students, not the only need – few molecules of water in the Niagara falls. We want to create a template letter so that you can write to your elected officials. 

Labor: will that preserve the same number of fellowships?

Management: It preserves the dollars

Labor: What is the allocation of the $10 million? In our last meeting you were unable to say if it would be raises for funded students or funding for tuition-only students.

Management: Can’t say, we are waiting to see if the request is fulfilled.

Labor: We understand that the multi-year funding offers students first get at the beginning of their PhDs is part of the “lockbox” that won’t suffer cuts, which is good news, but there are many students—tuition-only students, for example—who get GA positions later in their studies and rely on those to supplement income. Will those GA-ships be vulnerable to cuts?

Management: Those GA-ships are not in the lockbox.

Labor: Hiring freeze: How is that going to affect current job searches or job offers?

Management: Any offers that have been made and accepted are not touched. Offers that have been made are not touched. Any new searches, staff and other positions, must go through 2 hurdles. One: campus personnel

review committee (PARC). Two: Have to make a compelling case to the central office Vacancy Review Board. We will be denied if money is not there to make an appointment. Freeze in a sense, any campus running a deficit will have great difficulty hiring. We do not predict a deficit this year but we have a difficult target to meet.

Labor: Does the hiring freeze have an impact on staff reclassification requests?

Management: Reclassifications are reviewed by HEO committee – PARC looks at all positions – PARC is advisory to Garrell for making appointments – HEP committee make a determination on HEOS, it is advisory. PARC looks at who else in that unit — Is anyone being left behind? Will it create an inequity? Then Garrell works with HR to answer the questions that PARC raises. 

Information request for graduate students in PSC titles 

Labor: We would like a list of current graduate students enrolled in PSC titles at the GC, complete with the following information: (Full Name, including middle initial; Phd. D Program of Enrollment; Employee ID; PSC title). We have FOILed this information before, and this information has been provided voluntarily by management before. We would prefer to not have to FOIL but we will

Management: PSC Central can submit an information request to us through email. I don’t know if we have PSC titles, what titles do you mean?

Labor: Just job titles.

Management: OK, go ahead and file the request.

Labor: It would be easier if we didn’t have to file a FOIA request, but we will if you don’t just provide the information. How soon after you receive the request should we expect a response?

Management: The law requires that we respond within 5 working days of receiving the request and that we comply within 20 business days.

Working Group for emergency funding for the sciences

Labor: It was agreed in a previous Labor-Management meeting that a Working Group would be formed around seeking emergency funding for STEM students who are dismissed from labs. Zoe has checked in with Dean Brumberg, who said he would be interested in joining the group, and would like to see it as a joint effort with President Garrell involved. Can we finalize group participants now and a timeline? Further, there can be personality issues between students and PIs – older PIs make students’ lives difficult – taking a job outside of academia – losing healthcare, losing mental health coverage 

Management: President Garrell is very familiar as a bench scientist. In a situation where there is a disruption like faculty departure in the middle of a semester, is the appointment commitment sustained through that term?

Labor: Not necessarily if you are funded through their grant. Experimental physics students funded completely through external funding through the PI don’t have their appointments extended through the end of the semester if their PI leaves. 

Management: Dean Brumberg is the point person on this. Will get in touch with him and circle back. A couple of ways to manage it – some kind of bridge funding with provost, department, or campus – some revolving account that lives somewhere – modest number of campuses – localized problem in a smaller number of campuses. Garrell says she will circle back at the next meeting with him, and to ask her if there are no updates from Brumberg.

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