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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.)

Resolution on White Supremacists (approved)

Adopted 9/24/18

Whereas white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and fascists have no place in the PSC, or the labor movement more generally;

Whereas the PSC is an organization that fights for all members, regardless of race, and denounces racial chauvinism;

Be it resolved that the GC chapter calls on the PSC—through the Delegate Assembly—to amend the PSC Constitution to ban any member of a white nationalist, neo-Nazi, or fascist organization from holding office in the PSC, using similar language as our brothers and sisters of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO.*

 

*Language from the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO:

“No individual shall be eligible to serve as an Officer, member of The Executive Board or Committee, or other governing body, or any committee of, or as a delegate from, or as a representative, agent, or employee of this body who is a member of any Fascist or White Supremacist organization. Or who consistently pursues policies and/or activites [sic] directed toward the purposes of any Fascist or otherwise White Supremacist Ideology.”

https://sd.aflcio.org/sftrades/news/no-union-fascists-why-sioux-falls-afl-cio-banned-white-supremacists

Resolution on the Democratic Selection of Officers (amended and approved)

Adopted 9/24/18

WHEREAS positions on the Graduate Center (GC) Chapter Executive Committee (EC) of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) should be democratically elected by chapter members;

WHEREAS the PSC Election Rules (VI.C.5) state that vacant offices in the chapter, other than chapter chair, delegates, and alternate delegates, are filled by an election only by the chapter EC;

BE IT RESOLVED that the GC Chapter adopt the following as a “best practice” for filling such vacancies: whenever a position in the GC EC is made vacant between elections, a special ballot election will be held through digital ballot, in which any PSC member who works at a PSC-GC campus and the GC affiliated campuses, regardless of title, can vote, and the winner of said election will then be appointed by the GC EC in an election by the EC;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this special election will take place following a 15 day nomination period and a subsequent 30 day campaigning period;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all candidates will be profiled in an official communication from the GC Chapter sent to all members via email;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the usual rules pertaining to who can run in chapter elections apply to this special election;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution applies to all vacancies in the GC EC, effective September 1, 2018.

Resolution on Democratic Selection of Officers

WHEREAS positions on the Graduate Center (GC) Chapter Executive Committee (EC) of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) should be democratically elected by chapter members;

WHEREAS the PSC Election Rules (VI.C.5) state that vacant offices in the chapter, other than chapter chair, delegates, and alternate delegates, are filled by an election only by the chapter EC;

BE IT RESOLVED that the GC Chapter adopt the following as a “best practice” for filling such vacancies: whenever a position in the GC EC is made vacant between elections, a special ballot election will be held at a GC chapter meeting, in which all (and only) members of the GC chapter can vote, and the winner of said election will then be appointed by the GC EC in an election by the EC;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this special election will take place at the first chapter meeting following a 15 day nomination period and a subsequent 30 day campaigning period;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all candidates will be profiled in an official communication from the GC Chapter sent to all members via email;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the usual rules pertaining to who can run in chapter elections apply to this special election;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution applies to all vacancies in the GC EC, effective September 1, 2018.

Resolution on White Supremacists

Whereas white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and fascists have no place in the PSC, or the labor movement more generally;

Whereas the PSC is an organization that fights for all members, regardless of race, and denounces racial chauvinism;

Be it resolved that the GC chapter calls on the PSC—through the Delegate Assembly—to amend the PSC Constitution to ban any member of a white nationalist, neo-Nazi, or fascist organization from holding office in the PSC, using similar language as our brothers and sisters of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO.*

 

*Language from the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO:

“No individual shall be eligible to serve as an Officer, member of The Executive Board or Committee, or other governing body, or any committee of, or as a delegate from, or as a representative, agent, or employee of this body who is a member of any Fascist or White Supremacist organization. Or who consistently pursues policies and/or activites [sic] directed toward the purposes of any Fascist or otherwise White Supremacist Ideology.”

https://sd.aflcio.org/sftrades/news/no-union-fascists-why-sioux-falls-afl-cio-banned-white-supremacists

September at the GC Chapter

Welcome back (or to, if it’s your first semester)! September sees a couple of upcoming events to put in your calendar:

Remember that our chapter encompasses not on the Graduate Center, but the School of Labor and Urban Studies, the School of Professional Studies, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism, the School of Public Heath, and Macaulay Honors College. Get involved no matter your campus! Want to plan a campus-specific event? Let us know.

We hope to see everyone out for the chapter meeting on the 24th!

Your Union: Grad Assistants

May 22nd Labor-Management Meeting Notes

Elizabeth Newtown’s notes from the Graduate Center’s Labor-Management Meeting – 3/12/18

In attendance from Management: Chase Robinson (GC President), Jane Herbert (President’s Chief of Staff), Lynette Phillips (GC Labor Designee)

In attendance from Labor: Anh Tran (Vice Chapter Chair), Marc Kagan (Delegate), and a number of other PSC members (note: will update with exactly who was there)

Introduction

  • Robinson asks what happened to “protocol” to submit list of people in attendance on the PSC
  • Point raised about data gathering about which students who are funded
  • Marc asks what they’ll do with the list of demands; Robinson says they’ll read; Marc asks if they’ll respond
  • Robinson claims they’ve already responded to certain items by saying this isn’t the context in which to discuss
  • The issue is not the willingness to discuss the issues but the venue in which the issue is discussed
  • Jane says that these are indeed terms of employment
  • Dean Olan–Task Force– has apparently been in touch with Marc and Luke, Robinson claims sometime in the fall the committee will be set up
  • Marc raises the “respect issue” and consistency of honorifics among different people being referred to
  • Robinson: “you’ll recall that 2 or 3 weeks ago at that extraordinary meeting
  • Robinson: trying to find “where we can operate within the language”
  • Robinson: “it’s not just a matter of finding the appropriate venue, but of trying to make sure that all voices are heard” — “there are a diversity of student views, there are a diversity of faculty views”
  • Robinson: “I share your optimism”

Item 2 – ASRC/Communications Grievance

  • Ryan of the ASRC speaks to advocate on behalf of his reappointment; raised revenue through film shoots; received notice that he would not be reappointed due to “budget cuts”
    • Ryan and two others are in process of filing grievances that are presently before Lynette
    • Anh asks for further rationale about why these people would not be reappointed
    • Ryan was told it was about budget cuts, however Robinson won’t concede that “You’ve represented that the issue was budget cuts” Chase Robinson to Ryan
    • Lynette not comfortable speaking about personnel and personal grievances in a labor management/public discussion
    • Anh: we wanted Ryan to be here to show that there are real lives being affected, that people are job insecure and they want the community to know this
    • Robinson: “the process exists to establish the facts”
    • Issue is raised of relationship between an individual’s layoff and broader community issues
    • Anh: those three layoffs are a “symptom of a broader problem” which is that “workers feel intimidated in that department [communications]”
    • Robinson: “there are a set of representations to be confirmed”

Item 3 – Macauley

  • Anh: for #3 we will stick with the grievance process (the Macauley issue)

Item 4 – 5:1:1 issue

  • Marc: “many people in that room who are not yet done with their PhDs have now exhausted their time as a GA” / “it is not primarily about departments because departments can do what they want” but there are “GA opportunities that exist outside of the departments, such as this, that people are currently ineligible for”
  • Marc: what I wanted to followup on is that Joy Connolly said she would bring this issue (5-1-1) to the cluster meetings, and we wanted a report back on those cluster meetings
  • Robinson: “I can’t give you such a report because she doesn’t report to me” / “I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a report back from the provost on every report that she’s had on every matter, nor do I think it would be helpful to keep a running tally on every issue that’s been raised. That’s why i think it makes more sense for a task force to be constituted. You’re free to have that expectation, Mr. Kagan, but I won’t be able to fulfill it.”
  • Marc characterizes his expectation as “due diligence”
  • Robinson: ”my guess would be that you’ll be getting an update from Dean Olan from other members if you’ve elected to serve on that committee” Marc: “is this specifically to do with 5-1-1” / Robinson: “I think on matters to do with fellowships in addition to the 5-1-1 issue”
  • ”academic, non-employment matters” — I ask for clarification — Robinson refers to 11.2A of ____?___ document, which governs GAs: “
  • Robinson: “I would like to see that process take its course” / Robinson: “I would urge Mr. Kagan and others to put that item on the agenda”

Item 5 – On science fellows funding

  • Kate Burleson-Lesser, 6th year physics PhD student at City College: “something I’ve noticed is that as there are new students coming into the lab, senior students are having to train them, which is fairly labor-intensive, and we are essentially training someone who gets paid significantly more than us, and because this person is new, they also have significantly less work”  / “I think it would be a really wonderful thing to have all the science fellows paid at the same level. It’s difficult when you’re training someone who is getting paid a lot more than you for the same job” / “it’s been my experience, as with some of the science fellows i’ve spoken to, that we are asked to do [additional jobs], I know that in my case I perform a secretarial role and work on my advisor’s website. Those of us that are asked to do that are in a position where we don’t really feel that we can say no. Something else I’d like to bring up is more protections for science fellows.”
  • Zhuo Yin, physics student from China at City College: when you supposedly make more money for summer teaching jobs on top of 25k, they include the summer teaching money in the 25K, which he thinks is a violation of the PSC contract. Some of science students do one teaching job per semester, some of science students do five teaching jobs per semester. The teaching jobs eat a lot of time which are supposed to be used for research. He wants to propose that for science fellowships and also social science student, the payments are not unified by the GC because they are coming from individual campuses for science fellows.
  • Robinson: “you’ve just made the argument that the science fellowships are constructed very differently. That’s a source of frustration for you as students and I understand that.”
  • Robinson asks: “have you raised the issue at the campus?”
    • Marc clarifies: “what do you mean by the campus?” he talked to the chairman of the department at CCNY and received no response
  • Robinson: “the result of the report that I wrote [in 2014, they think], which is in the public domain, was a plan, although not specified in any detail, there was a clear wish in the report to increase stipend levels from $25000 to $30000; it didn’t specify the tiers, but [that was the intention], precisely because any reasonable person would agree that not just your time to degree but your progress is conditioned by..[something something]”
  • Anh: “we’d like you to use your position to make sure that everyone makes $30K”
  • Marc: “or perhaps we could broker a meeting with her”
  • Robinson: “the last extraordinary meeting” was, he believes showing that the Dean Olan Task Force is not only intended to support the 5-1-1 issue but also the science fellow issue. “There are at least two issues here overlapping,” said Robinson, “One is the introduction of higher stipends, and I can understand why you feel as strongly as you do, if I were in your shoes I’d feel the same way as you do, I understand that.” “The second issue, which you’ve spoken to very eloquently, is that we’re responsible for and can exercise oversight over the GC fellowships. We cannot exercise that oversight when it comes to the science center students on the 2nd thru 6th years on their fellowships. What I will do is I will write to Dean Olan and I will ask him to speak, I will confirm that this is the [purpose] of this task force, and ask him to speak to the matter to undertake some fresh thinking such that we in the Graduate Center could exercise more oversight than we currently do.” .. “I will say, by way of closing, that I’ve already raised these issues to ___?____ and she’s mindful that unevenness results in disadvantages” .. “if you read the report that I wrote, I think the final recommendation of the report is setting up of a committee which has broad representation from the campuses, … which does in fact discharge its responsibilities ensuring that the reforms that were proposed were monitored”
  • Someone: is that committee still setup?
    • Robinson: ”Yes, it meets once per term. It is a faculty and administrators committee”
    • Robinson: “I’m happy to write to Dean Olan to confirm that the problems that present themselves with regard to the science fellows will indeed be the subject of his task force. And I will encourage him, in the wake of your comments, and I value them very much, to be as creative and imaginative as he possibly can because even beyond, as it were, the difficult circumstances in which you find yourself in, even if that problem through time resolves itself, there will remain this problem of diversity of circumstances across the campuses”
    • Anh: re that committee: “we wonder if there can be a student audience to that committee”
    • Jane: “or even student representation on the committee”
    • Robinson: “I would urge you to read the report”

Item 6 – GA A and CUNY work outside that title

  • Anh: “is it within the realm of possibility that you could hold a GA and a separate adjunct lecturer title”
    • Lynette: “I hope you bring this up in the grievance”
    • Marc: “we wanted to bring this up here because in some ways we think this is different from the grievance itself.”
    • Marc: “I think the grievance is about the GAB title, and we’re inquiring about your contract on the GA title [??]”
    • Lynette: “what you’re asking is can the adjunct title be considered separate from the universe of GA work”

Item 7 – NYS legal changes

  • Marc: what kind of procedures do we need to have in place for the fall
  • Lynette: “you should ask Barbara Bowen, and your higher ups”
  • Marc: “I wanted to talk methodologically”

Item 8 – Constitution of 11.2(b) committee

  • Going to do a grievance

Kristina Huang’s Graduate Center Commencement Address

May 30th was the Graduate Center’s Commencement. Kristina Huang spoke at the event, and this speech is posted with permission.

 

Congratulations to the class of 2018 and to our loved ones who gather here today to celebrate our achievements as a community. It is an honor and privilege to be here.

My fellow graduates: We learned from stellar advisors and mentors. In working with each other, we created spaces and events that sustained conversations born from our seminar discussions. Above all, our education at The Graduate Center grounded our studies in the realities and vitality of public education. We became teacher-scholars.

Because so many of us taught while we pursued our doctoral studies, our work at The Graduate Center dialogued with the education of CUNY’s undergraduate student body. I want to highlight our doctoral studies’ relationship to working-class people of color at CUNY and, more specifically, connect our work to what poet-activist-teacher June Jordan called “the symbol, and the fact, of City College.”

I am from the composite undergraduate student body that makes up CUNY. Many are from families who are relatively new to this country. Many are from families who have been here for centuries yet continue to confront inequality and forms of un-freedom in a world that privileges profit over human life. “I can’t breathe” articulates the challenges set before us. You and I are learning to raise ourselves up in these times, and the history of CUNY reminds us: There is power in people transforming themselves in the face of violence and erasure.

Let me begin with my understanding of the promise of CUNY as an organic relationship: I was a lecturer at the same time and campus where one of my sisters was an undergraduate. We were at City College, where in 1969 Black and Puerto Rican students demanded that the college be a reflection of New York City’s public schools.  My younger sister saw me try to balance teaching with my doctoral studies. I saw her square work with school. Some of her friends were students in my classroom. At the same time, we read The Black Jacobins and heard from our peers about Palestinian struggles. Later on, I taught at Queens College, where my other younger sister attended as an undergraduate.

I am the first in my family to acquire a B.A. but I am hardly the first to struggle with the language and habits of an unfamiliar place. My mother immigrated, for instance, when she was eighteen and made Manhattan’s Chinatown her first home in the US. At eighteen I attended CUNY’S Hunter College, which was originally a women’s college for training teachers. I was naïve then to think that I was the first in my family to pursue a B.A.; I learned that one of my uncles briefly attended City College in the 80s. I didn’t know then that members of my family had been or would become students on the sister campuses of CUNY. Through my family and time teaching at City College, I learned that CUNY’s foundational promise to be free was not just a matter of money but also a commitment to communal wealth. To be free, to be liberated, stems from mutual recognition of our differences as we independently struggle to lift ourselves from the conditions that bind us[dropbox.com].

My fellow graduates: We benefited from and contributed to CUNY’s promise and power. Our Ph.D.s are part of this institution that spans five city boroughs, which are also homes to various communities who raise themselves on their own terms. Their lives are linked with our academic milestones. This is remarkable, and we must remain committed to that organic relationship. Through our teaching and learning with this city’s communities, we have dialogued with the hopes and desires of the people whom CUNY serves. This is our fortune and our reason to celebrate tonight and every day.

Rather than rehearse the familiar stories associated with the state of public higher education — all of which reflect the domestic and global wars waged against people and the environment we live in — I’ll conclude with an image that symbolizes the power in people behind CUNY.

The image: a red door, painted on it a black fist gripping a pencil. Many times I passed this door in the North Academic building at City College, usually running from my own coursework, or eagerly walking to meet my sister for a coffee break. The door was the entrance[leftvoice.org] to the Morales/ Shakur Student and Community Center. Named after two revolutionaries—the former fought for Puerto Rican independence, the latter fought for Black liberation—the center was created in 1989 by an occupation of students and community members fighting against tuition hikes. The space became a center for organizing, “know-your-rights” training, student advising, and it provided food and babysitting services to the communities surrounding the campus[nytimes.com]. That space was removed and replaced in 2013 with a Careers Center.[ccnycampus.org]

Years ago, I rushed past that door. I did not recognize that the Morales/Shakur Center was built on this conviction: We are learning to raise ourselves by writing our independence and future. But I am realizing that this image of the door has lodged itself in me. I share this image with you today because the ability to make a living, to have access to care, and to enjoy the right to well-being are indeed under attack. For many, our current political moment is a rude awakening; for many, these struggles have been long-standing.

When I taught a class at the College of Staten Island, only a handful of students knew that Eric Garner was murdered in their borough. Even our physical proximity to the struggles of others does not necessarily mean we will or are willing to recognize them. Unfinished, difficult work is here and ahead.

I was physically closer to the Morales/Shakur Center’s door years ago, but I am opening to this fact: that door at City College represented a defiant commitment to enacting change. To my mind the door now figures as the dream in concrete social transformation. As people who serve the people, we will, I hope, raise ourselves with the dreams enacted at CUNY— to resist private comfort and individual profit from these dreams, and to commit ourselves to the people we’ve encountered at CUNY, students and staff. The red door with the black fist calls for action that will write our future. It calls us to dream boldly through our demands and to materialize a world where we can all breathe independently together.

Thank you, fellow graduates, and to the people behind CUNY, those who patiently, anonymously, generously worked to insist that our shared education be accessible and collective liberation be possible. Good luck to us all.

International Student Workers: Know Your Rights!

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