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Looking Back, Moving Forward
The transition from 2018 to 2019 has me feeling nostalgic. This spring marks the five-year anniversary of the revitalized Graduate Center PSC chapter. In 2013, the GC chapter did not exist, though HEO activists Andrea Vasquez (now PSC First Vice President) and Bob Nelson (now retired) maintained a PSC presence in the building. Sean Kennedy and Jennifer Chancellor (now graduated), and I set about to rebuild the chapter with a focus on Graduate Assistants (GAs).
However, we soon discovered that most GAs were not eligible to be members of the chapter. In 2013, GAs were only eligible to join the chapter where they worked, not where they were paid (which for most is the Graduate Center). For those on five-year funding packages, this meant that they had three campus “homes” over five years of funding – and hence there was no chapter where GAs could cohere their interests.
Sean, Jennifer and I engaged in meetings with PSC central, and finally moved a policy change through the Delegate Assembly in 2014. GAs could now affiliate either with the chapter where they worked or where they were paid (most typically, the GC). The change was pivotal for GAs, because it created a home for them in the PSC where they could develop as a constituency.
In the years since this small policy change, we have been able to do a great deal. Most foundationally, we have signed up a net of approximately 700 members in the past few years, nearly tripling our representation in the Delegate Assembly between 2014 and 2017. This involved the thankless dedicated work of many members, but especially Chloe Asselin, Rachel Chapman, Rebecca Salois, and Maya Harakawa, all of whom served as the campus “Part-time Liaison” for important stretches of time. Staff organizer Sam Lewis has also signed up untold numbers of members. And today, Harry Blain serves in the role of Part Time Liaison, building out the department rep structure that Maya was pivotal to creating.
The GC chapter has had two important “firsts” (or near-firsts) over the past several years. To my knowledge, the GC has the first-ever non-interim part-timer chapter chair in the union’s history (though if there is a bit of history I’m missing, please correct me!). It is also the standard throughout the union for the campus-level grievance counselor to be a full timer, and to deal exclusively with full time faculty issues. Adjuncts and HEOs must call PSC Central to deal with grievances. Our chapter has now had three incredibly talented grievance counselors, all of whom are part time – Marc Kagan, Anh Tran and now Ivana Durovic. These counselors have fought hard for part-timers, especially GAs, but it is important to note that they have also represented full time faculty in grievance hearings, a very important “first” that suggests the kind of solidarity that is possible in a large and diverse union like ours.
The GC chapter actually represents seven campuses, five of which are administratively distinct from the Graduate Center. While we have not done nearly all that we need to on these campuses, we have made significant inroads at the School of Professional Studies in recent years. Susan Fountain has been dogged in fighting for healthy drinking water in the building and other broadly felt issues. She has hosted labor-management meetings, and acted as a de facto chapter chair. Because of her diligence, she is now being compensated as a Part Time Liaison, which is very good for SPS and for the chapter (and it makes us the first chapter to have an additional PT liaison to reflect our unique structure). Just this year, we had the first labor management meeting at the new School of Labor and Urban Studies, and we hope to get similar work up and running at the School of Journalism, Macaulay Honors and the School of Public Health.
With respect to contract bargaining, GC activists and GAs especially played an integral role in fighting for retroactive pay in the last contract round. We also closed a health insurance “loophole” if/when GAs become adjuncts after depositing their dissertations, and earned a $750 signing bonus (whatever one may think of signing bonuses, more than a million dollars went into our pockets as a result). We fought successfully to get some of the same exemptions full timers earned, making more GAs eligible for the bonus. And, perhaps most importantly, we won a fight at the local level to prevent the Graduate Center from reducing GCF stipends in response to contractually negotiated wage increases.
But with respect to improving the contract, GAs are just getting started. This round we have put forward an ambitious plan to line up the contract with some of the better practices that have developed on the ground at the Graduate Center. We have also advanced a number of other demands that would meaningfully improve our pay and working conditions.
Perhaps most importantly, we won a fight this fall, using old fashioned, boots on the ground organizing. When GC management proposed to restructure WAC fellowship in ways that would be bad for all fifth year Grad Center Fellows and worse for those on international visas, the chapter pushed back. We ultimately won a 1/3rd workload reduction for all fifth years, the most notable restructuring of the WAC package since its inception in the 1990s.
Yet the biggest fight in PSC history lies before us – more than doubling the wage that CUNY pays its adjunct faculty. On a survey last fall in which hundreds of graduate employees participated, 7k for adjuncts was far and away the top issue. In part this is because of the issue’s political importance, because of grad employee solidarity with adjunct faculty. But of course, many – indeed, most – graduate employees also adjunct. This radical pay increase would benefit us materially.
This April 1st, 2019, when the state budget is settled, our Albany employers – the governor, the senate and the assembly – will decide whether CUNY will have the money it needs to pay its part time faculty adequately. As a start, please register to pay them a visit on February 12th. We should have more members than ever before in Albany that day – our numbers alone will send a message. But just one visit is not enough. In my view there is an open question: how do we get the hundreds of millions of dollars – really billions of dollars – more for CUNY that we need? We know there is a new State Senate, so there are opportunities that have, in essence, never existed in New York State. Will we take advantage of them and how? I urge you to reach out directly to me with your energy and your ideas. The next three months are pivotal not just for adjuncts, but for all PSC members and for CUNY as an institution.
Looking Back – Part 2
Shortly after I indulged my New Year-invoked feeling of nostalgia and wrote a reflection on five years of building the GC chapter (above), I started thinking of more names, more characters who have been integral to this work. In fact, you’ll see Gerry Martini’s name above this piece, because he manages our website. After the first chapter meeting that I chaired, Gerry (a HEO) came up to me and said “Hey, I’d be happy to build the chapter a digital presence.” Today we have well-traveled Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, in addition to the website.
Penny Lewis served as Vice Chair for our first term, and continues to chair our labor-management meetings. She is a key union leader at the School of Labor and Urban Studies and has done work at School of Professional Studies over the years. Michelle Fine, David Chapin and Michael Handis all served on the first EC, getting this whole project off the ground before stepping back. Steve Brier has served both terms, and committed real time to our chapter. Jean Grassman is our resident health and safety expert, and Ruth Milkman and Roxanne Shirazi have done great work as well. Travis Butt and Jeremey Sawyer were the first two GAs to commit to running for office on the new EC, and were active in the fight for retroactive pay in the last round of bargaining. Amelia Fortunato stepped up in our fight to fix the WAC fellowship, and was a pivotal leader in the outcome. Full-timers and part-timers alike have committed countless hours to build this chapter.
There are names I have not mentioned who I undoubtedly should (even as I write I’m thinking of Rosa, Travis, Isaac, Stephanie, Erin, Lynne, Zee, Jennifer, so many have done vital work in both formal and informal roles). Dozens and dozens of activists have engaged in the GC chapter to make it what it is. As we go forward, we have many goals, including 7k – but core among them is to turn the dozens in to hundreds, the hundreds in to thousands.
Maya Harakawa is a 5th year candidate in the Art History department at the GC. An underfunded student without a five year fellowship she is an elected delegate in the graduate center chapter executive committee. She co-founded the chapter’s steward program and ran internal organizing in the chapter for over two years. As chapter vice chair, she will continue to prioritize building internal power while supporting union-wide initiatives, such as 7K.
Travis Richard Sweatte (4th year Sociology PhD): I am running for the Vice-Chair position because I believe that the chapter leadership is currently preoccupied with pursuing a top-down, bureaucratic strategy that is harmful to members’ interests and detrimental to the long-term strength of the union. As Vice-Chair I would exert pressure for the current chair and delegates to fully support and advocate for the 7K or Strike resolution passed with overwhelming support by membership last semester, and to fight for our chapter to be led by the rank-and-file membership rather than representatives who claim to act on behalf of the membership.
This went out yesterday (November 7th) after PSC-CUNY bargaining regarding Graduate Assistants; we are reposting it here for those who missed the update.
Dear Graduate Center Colleagues,
At the collective bargaining session this morning, the PSC introduced an important new proposal concerning graduate employees. We are eager to share it with Graduate Assistants and Grad Center faculty, and we hope that it will have your strong support. As a member of the Graduate Center faculty myself, I know how important it is to sustain the best possible conditions for graduate employees, who represent the future of our profession.
The proposal the PSC submitted today is a substantial revision of the union’s proposals on graduate employees included in our original set of demands. It is the result of much internal discussion among the union bargaining team, the Graduate Center Chapter PSC leadership, and the PSC legal and contract enforcement staff. We believe that an update of the sections of the contract on graduate employees is long overdue. Some of the language is completely out of step with current practice and has not been changed since the PSC’s first contract, in 1972. We also believe that a realignment of the workload and compensation for graduate employees is urgently needed, as has been made clear in recent debates over the fifth-year Fellows.
The essence of our proposal is an alignment of the contractual provisions on payment, hours and other terms of employment for graduate employees with the current practice, which changed dramatically with the introduction of larger financial packages starting in 2011.
The proposal seeks to simplify the current range of Graduate Assistant titles and to move almost all graduate employees to the title Graduate Center Fellow. All Graduate Center Fellows, regardless of their year in the program, would have the same workload as current Graduate Assistants B. In addition, the proposal calls for the entire financial package currently provided to graduate assistants to be treated as salary, rather than as a combination of salary and stipend, as it is now for Grad B’s. We propose a new salary schedule for Graduate Center Fellows, with the lowest step at $26,062-the nearest existing salary step to the current starting financial package for Grad B’s. Consolidating graduate employees’ financial packages as salary reflects the original practice embedded in the contract of providing funding to graduate employees through salary.
Our aim is to provide consistent, reliable financial support for graduate employees, together with a workload that allows graduate employees to make progress toward completion of the Ph.D. We also aim to foster a community in which doctoral programs can continue to recruit extraordinary students and make major contributions to the production of new knowledge.
As you will see, the union’s proposals also address other areas, such as the need to include graduate employees’ history of CUNY employment when considering eligibility for certain contractual provisions available to adjuncts. Examples include eligibility to be considered for multi-year adjunct appointments and for paid adjunct professional hours. We also call for the revival of an existing University-PSC committee but with a new purpose: to consider ways to enhance opportunities for full-time CUNY faculty appointments for recipients of the Ph.D. from the Grad Center, especially for graduates from underrepresented groups. And we seek to ensure that graduate assistants who continue to work at CUNY after their fifth year will be granted a tuition waiver.
The first contract negotiated under our union leadership, in 2002, included matching funds to provide tuition waivers for graduate employees. That was the start of a transformation that has seen much wider provision of tuition waivers and a substantial increase in funding support. We believe that the revision of the contract we propose represents the next step.
I am pleased to say that the CUNY management team, which heard our proposal also for the first time today, expressed a willingness to continue the discussion. They took the position that some of our proposals fall outside of the realm of collective bargaining, but they were not closed to our major proposal and expressed interest in some of the other graduate employee demands.
The union bargaining team will create opportunities to discuss the proposal with graduate assistants and Grad Center faculty in the coming weeks. There is considerable detail in the proposal, and also several areas that need further discussion, such as the provisions for Science Fellows. We look forward to that discussion.
The bargaining team is grateful to the graduate employees who joined us as observers this morning and to all of you who have worked to make the Grad Center work. We made it clear to management that our proposals about graduate employees are a priority for the union. The future of academic research depends on graduate employees; there is a profound intellectual and ethical bond between union members who are studying to enter the academic profession and those who are already teaching. We welcome your comments on the proposal and hope that you will join your PSC colleagues in fighting for these provisions as part of a good contract.
Below you will find description of duties for the open chapter Executive Committee position of Vice Chair. In keeping with the passed resolution on Democratic Selection of Officers, we will take nominations for 15 days after the email announcing this vacancy goes out to all chapter members (that should happen today, November 8th, or tomorrow, November 9th). At that point anyone choosing to run will be able to provide a profile for this site + distribution by another email to all chapter members, and nominees will each be given a few minutes to speak at our next chapter meeting (if they so desire). If you wish to run and/or nominate someone else, please contact Anh.
Vice Chair Responsibilities
The vice chair is key to assuring the daily functionality of the Graduate Center chapter. Responsibilities are as follows: organizing chapter meetings and EC meetings (setting dates and time, coordinating agenda, booking rooms, overseeing promotion, chairing meetings, etc.); attending monthly chapter chair meetings; working with the chapter chair to coordinate chapter correspondence (with members, management, and the larger union). Aside from these administrative duties, the vice chair also plays a key role in chapter organizing. In particular, the vice chair works closely with the chapter’s part-time liaison to identify new leaders among rank and file members. The vice chair is not a delegate position (meaning it does come with voting rights in the PSC’s delegate assembly).
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.
PSC Notes on SPS Labor Management Meeting, Aug. 20, 2018
Management: John Mogulescu, Dean; George Otte, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs; K. Maynard, Director of Faculty and Staff Resources; Washington Hernandez, Interim Associate Dean of Administration and Finance; Tracy Meade, Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation; Pat Stein, Legal Counsel and Labor Designee for SPS
PSC: Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, PSC Delegate; Jennifer Lee, Associate Registrar, PSC Welfare Fund representative; Marc Kagan, Graduate Center Chapter of PSC.
- Union orientations for newly appointed and reappointed faculty and staff
- Update on water testing 119 W. 31st building
- Active shooter training
- List of adjuncts who received 3-year appointments in May 2018
- Update on proposed governance plan
PSC reminded management that in light of the changes to NYS Civil Service Law in April 2018, union orientations must be offered to all newly employed and re-employed faculty and staff. PSC is seeking access to lists of those employees, clarification on outreach to online faculty, and payment procedures.
Access to lists: Management said that CUNY Central will provide lists to the PSC. Management agreed to provide email addresses.
Orientations for online faculty: Management agreed that a special email outreach to online faculty is needed. Management also suggested creating an asynchronous online platform for orientations for online faculty. PSC stated its preference to use Zoom, so that real-time interaction can take place between the PSC and members. Orientations using Zoom will be offered at multiple times to take into account the schedules of online faculty.
Orientations for staff and face-to-face faculty: Management and PSC will work together to schedule room reservations; orientations will be offered both during day and evening times. Management will notify PSC when individual on-boardings for new staff are held.
Payment for attending orientations: Management agreed that payment for part-time faculty will require both a sign-in sheet and completion of a time sheet – management will provide time sheets, and PSC member leading orientation will sign.
Unresolved issues were:
- Whether adjuncts paid for professional hour should use it for union orientation (PSC argues no)
- Whether adjuncts will be paid at the full rate or the NTA rate (PSC argues for full rate)
- What to do if the orientation pushes a non-teaching adjunct over the 225 hour cap
Union information: PSC will provide OFSR with updated information.
Update on water testing in 119 W. 31st building
PSC asked why, since water testing was done in June, there has been no notification of results. Typically results are available within a few weeks.
Management responded that it was found that the sampling in June was not done appropriately, and needed to be repeated, causing the delay; the delay was not due to issues with the findings.
New testing was carried out on Aug. 15, 2018. Full results will be shared with PSC. Bottled water will be provided, and water fountains will not be turned on until results have been received. Management is pushing Howard Apsan (University Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management) for action on the water issues at SPS.
Active shooter training
PSC reminded management of the request from faculty and staff for active shooter training that was discussed in the April 30, 2018 labor management meeting. Management said that a link to a useful video would be sent to staff on Aug. 20, and that in-person training would be rolled out after the start of the Fall semester.
PSC asked about offering this training both during the day, when staff are more likely to attend, and in the evening when adjuncts who teach face-to-face are more likely to attend. Management responded that trainings will be done in the evening if necessary. PSC reminded management that both faculty and staff have raised concerns about safety procedures for specific building locations – these are best addressed through in-person training, rather than video training.
Adjunct 3-year appointments
The PSC’s list of adjuncts who received 3-year appointments was shared with management, and there was agreement that this list is accurate.
Update on proposed governance plan
Management indicated that a revised draft of the proposed governance plan would be available early in the Fall semester. Management has listened to the concerns of the PSC and the University Faculty Senate, and indicated that the PSC may like some of the forthcoming changes and not others. Once the revised plan is completed, it will be made available for comments by the SPS community, the PSC, and the UFS. It is hoped that the plan will be sent to the Governing Council by the end of 2018, to the CUNY Board of Trustees in early 2019, and adopted by Spring 2019.
- Management pointed out that the Murphy Institute is now known as the CUNY School for Labor and Urban Studies, and is no longer a part of SPS.
- PSC informed management that Ivana Durovic is the new grievance counselor for the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC.
PSC Notes on SPS Labor Management Meeting, April 30, 2018
Management: John Mogulescu, Dean; George Otte, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs; Rachel Levine, Senior Associate Dean for Administration and Finance.
PSC: Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, PSC Delegate; Jennifer Lee, Associate Registrar and PSC Welfare Fund representative; 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; Nelly Benavides, Academic Operations Manager, Murphy Institute.
- Update on water testing 119 W. 31st building
- Revision of governance plan
- Three-year contracts for adjuncts
- Active shooter training
- Union orientations in Fall 2018
Update on water testing 119 W. 31st building
PSC requested an update on the status of the newly-installed water fountains, and plans for water testing in the building. Management responded that water testing would be carried out, but that no date had been set for testing. Bottled water will continue to be supplied until test results are satisfactory. Testing will be done by H. A. Bader Consultants, the firm that has previously tested the water.
PSC asked about what repairs have been carried out. Management was not able to supply this information, but said that “enhancements” had been done to the plumbing at the building level.
PSC asked that water would be tested in Room 123 and other rooms which have had a history problems with the water. Management gave assurance that this would be done. PSC shared with management information from the US Environmental Protection Agency, stating that there are no safe levels of lead in water.
Revision of governance plan
PSC asked for an update on the revision of the governance plan, and when the next version would be available.
Management acknowledged that it had expected controversy over this, and then recapped:
- the Clarion article on the governance plan (Dec. 2017)
- the Feb. 7, 2018 forum on the plan, attended by a large number of SPS faculty and staff
- the letter to the editor of the Clarion from members of the drafting committee (March 2018).
Management further stated that the drafting committee was at work on a revised version, and that some momentum had been lost on this due to Brian Peterson and Rachel Levine leaving SPS, and the transition of the Murphy Institute to an independent school.
Management indicated that there would be some accommodations to concerns raised by the PSC, as well as things that the PSC may not like. The PSC asked what some of those changes might be, and management declined to be more specific. There will be another period of circulation of the revised plan to the SPS community for comments.
Three-year contracts for adjuncts
PSC asked how many adjuncts would be eligible for three-year contracts beginning in Fall 2018. Management was not able to provide that number, but indicated that because some programs are relatively new, it would not be a large number. Management agreed to get back to the PSC with this information. There was some lack of clarity about when letters for three-year appointments must go out. (This was later determined to be May 15.)
Active shooter training
PSC has received requests from adjuncts about the need for active shooter training at SPS, and asked management how we might get this. Management replied that videos have been used in the past, that these could be circulated again, and that they should be made available to staff as well.
PSC pointed out that videos can provide some types of information, but face-to-face training would allow faculty and staff to ask questions related to the specific locations in which they work.
Ways of addressing the need for training were brainstormed. It was agreed that:
- Management would speak to John Flaherty about this, and look into what was offered at the Murphy Institute
- PSC would check with the union’s Health and Safety Watchdogs about a consultant who provided training in March
Union orientations in Fall 2018
The newly passed changes to NYS Civil Service Law, requiring that all newly employed and re-employed personnel have the chance to attend a union orientation, were discussed. Management stated its willingness to fully comply with this law, and that guidance from CUNY Central should be forthcoming. Management agreed to provide rooms for orientations; how to handle orientations for adjuncts who teach online was less clear.
PSC reminded management that time must be given to full-time staff to attend these orientations during their work day, and that adjuncts should be paid for attendance. PSC also pointed out that as most adjuncts are reappointed each semester/year, they should be eligible to be paid to attend these orientations.
PSC Notes on SPS Labor Management Meeting, Dec. 15, 2017
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.
- Update on draft proposed governance plan
- Health and safety issues
- PSC “office hours”
- Use of Room 106
- 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.
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.)
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!