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August 20th SPS Labor-Management Notes

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.


  1. Union orientations for newly appointed and reappointed faculty and staff
  2. Update on water testing 119 W. 31st building
  3. Active shooter training
  4. List of adjuncts who received 3-year appointments in May 2018
  5. Update on proposed governance plan

Union orientations

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.

Other business:

  • 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.

April 30th SPS Labor-Management Notes

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.


  1. Update on water testing 119 W. 31st building
  2. Revision of governance plan
  3. Three-year contracts for adjuncts
  4. Active shooter training
  5. 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.

December 15th SPS Labor-Management Meeting Notes

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.


  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.)

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)


  • 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!

March 1st EC Meeting Minutes

Minutes from chapter’s Executive Committee Meeting – 3/1/2018

  • Debrief on other recent chapter events, leadership changes & next steps – 15 min
    • Travis: Evenings don’t work for events – gendered violence had a low turn out, similar for the chapter meeting. Lunch meetings four times the size.
      • Maya: pushback was from Grad students was that lunchtime wasn’t good
      • Sam: there were new grad student faces, but downtick in HEOs
      • Anh: expected a large turn out for gendered violence, really tiny. Atmosphere of chapter meeting was slightly odd.
      • Ruth: 90% was announcements, needed more interaction, need to keep them short
      • Sam: it seemed like a flat menu of options, maybe need to emphasize certain campaigns/issues (e.g. GA grievances)
      • Anh: Previous meetings were more structured, didn’t have an agenda with timings for this one, which  detracted from the flow of it. Will be taken into consideration.
    • Upcoming leadership changes: filled alt delegate positions, and chair is leaving (at 5th year of GC funding)
      • Luke: How to best structure upcoming shifts? Who has years of funding left?
      • Maya: Have to find people earlier on. 1st years tend to fall off in the 2nd year with the uptick in teaching responsibilities. 2nd year might be the best.
      • Anh: Should look out for people who might be potential leaders
      • Luke: Should aim to recruit your own replacement
  • Strategies for other campuses – 25 min
    • Focus on SPS
    • How do we “break in” to MacCaulay? JSchool? SPH?
      • Anh: MacCaulay – dealing with a grievance with someone who is interested in organizing, only HEOs have managed to organize (almost all HEOs on that campus).
    • Could prioritize SPH? Met a potential organizer at the chapter meeting. What do meetings there look like?
      • Sam: there is a delegate there, used to be multiple campuses (Jean, Frank). Meetings mostly full time faculty. Don’t know student make-up. Mainly adjuncts, not well organized.
    • Luke: SPS started labor management meetings there, could get one person to get it started at SPH
    • Travis: Could bring Susan to SPH to give a model for the adjuncts? Highlight what works, give tactics
    • Marc: Frank and Jean and new person should request a labor management meeting and make them the delegation, figure out their agenda
    • Luke: could do both – adjunct and full-time would be combined by doing both.
    • Sam: Accidentally cancelled full time health insurance when they merged, seem to be multiple potential issues
    • Anh: what should be the first step at SPH? Pre-labor management meeting to figure out common issues. Needs to be a bridge between adjunct and general.
      • Chloe: Time of meeting to get most of the adjuncts? Lots of them are in the field? Need a schedule of classes
      • Maya: general meeting but tailored for timing of adjuncts
      • Sam: meeting with breakouts
      • Anh: set up labor management meeting at SPH going through Frank, with week ahead of time doing a general meeting with breakouts
      • Unclear whether the part timers know the presence of the union
      • Marc: should e-mail intro Frank and Jean to the new GA interested in union
      • Luke: Frank is away this semester
      • Ruth: Shouldn’t start with a crummy labor meeting, should be worthwhile from the start, can be a turn off to new visitors
      • Sam: schedule labor management after the meeting
      • Chloe: staff are aware of things that the students are not, might not get the language of come to a labor management meeting, should think about how to advertise
      • Maya: Start basic and then do break outs, GAs and adjuncts one group and staff in another to tailor the conversation
      • Chloe: can do cross title solidarity here because there’s been organizing in each, not necessarily going to work at SPH – GAs/adjuncts might not have figured out their needs yet
      • Anh: Start with contact and go from there
    • Sam: MacCaulay GAs there, lots are fee payers
      • Chloe: Some members show up in department lists here
      • Sam: Probably don’t need a meeting here
      • Chloe: is there one location?
        • Gerry: Mainly on one campus, students aren’t usually there though, usually at satellite locations
      • Maya: difficult to find the GAs at MacCaulay
        • Chloe: Point of MacCaulay is to only offer full time faculty, not sure of how it’s structured, will discuss with MacCaulay students and GAs to figure it out
      • Sam and Andrea: There are HEOs who are part of GC chapter, but who work all around
      • Anh: HEOs already organizing fairly well at MacCaualay
    • Table SPS until Susan can be here
    • What’s the take on JSchool?
      • Sam: Only a HEO meeting there last semester, no adjunct
      • Andrea: invited everyone, one adjunct came, rest were HEOs, few months ago
      • Maya: most adjuncts work part time, so won’t come to a meeting, need to try to find them
      • Ruth: Are full timers signed up?
      • Sam: Still fee payers in the full timers
        • Andrea: Many said they were journalists and so they couldn’t join
      • Anh: So JSchool requires a walk around strategy and SPH a meeting strategy
    • Maya: In addition to other campuses, some Phd programs are at other schools (Business and Criminal Justice, John Jay), haven’t made an effort to sign up GAs
      • Gerry: Criminal Justice prob more GAs than Business
      • Sam: around 20 in Business, all fee payers, but Criminal Justice is potentially sympathetic
  • Membership work – 30 min
    • GC Total: 1688 Members.  2434 Total. 69% Membership.
      • FT Faculty: 221 Members. 289 Total. 76% Membership.
      • HEO: 322 Members. 347 Total. 93% Membership.
      • GA: 862 Members. 1221 Total. 71% Membership.
      • Adjunct: 152 Members. 367 Total. 41% Membership.  
      • NTA + Other Part time: 124 Members. 210 Total. 59% Membership.
    • Review union density by departments, titles, campuses & identify trouble areas
    • Set priorities & a plan for reaching the remaining fee payers
    • Gerry: Need to focus on adjuncts (41%), when we say adjuncts what does that mean? Grad students? Hired from other schools?
    • Sam: 360 mostly SPS but also SVH and Journalism. SPS mostly online and difficult to recruit
    • Luke: 152 members, at least 100 of fee payers are SPS online fee payers and they are just difficult to convince, and also phone numbers are often wrong/missing.
    • Gerry: Full time and GAs should then be the priority? How was the GC walkaround
      • Luke: It was great, Chloe and I found lots of people. Fee payer full time faculty in cluster of 5th floor called ITS, theoretical physicists. One signed union cards and can find others later. Lots of money spent on unmarked offices.
      • Sam: full time is very low
      • Ruth: But a lot were fake when I reached out – people who had already moved on, number might look worse than it is
      • Andrea: should do more mapping in the building, call APOs to figure out when scientists etc are around
      • Sam: Going to get data for new people and cleaned up department info by next Wednesday
      • Luke: found schedules of Math and Ed Psych full time faculty
        • Ruth: I’m happy to try them
      • Maya: Sam and I went to APOs and found GA fee payers, left cards and contact info
    • Marc: ASRC – Pam at City College has found contractual violations for post-docs in ASRC – teaching without pay/tiny pay off the books. Why is ASRC ours? Give to City College? An organizing issue: people in that building teach CCNY undergrads
      • Gerry: Because GC wants to be able to say that that new lab space is for GC PhD students
        • Marc: But PSC doesn’t have to organize how the GC does
          • Gerry: What do you say to science fellows then? They work at the ASRC
      • Ruth: This is Chase’s pet project, should look into it
        • Andrea: Wasn’t initially under the GC, then it went under GC and got new science faculty lines. There is a strong grievance councilor at CCNY
        • Ruth: Are there GAs who teach up there?
      • Maya: Difficult to access that ASRC building.
      • Sam: In our chapter because payroll changed to GC, just this semester.
      • Marc: can revisit this next month?
      • Luke: can get someone who is up there to organize
    • Anh: Beyond signing up fee payers, the walkarounds should be listening tours where we hear issues and also activate people around the building. Effective to do this in pairs. Should we make this regular? One day a week?
      • Gerry: Yes and different days
      • Luke: Agreed. And APO conversations where they wanted the contract to get moving. Should make this regular. Could leave large visualizations of percentages in the lobby and show increases to create a sense of urgency.
      • Isaac: And days without a contract count
        • Anh: use bulletin board by cafeteria
        • Andrea: Have to be careful in conversations with new members, spoke to a HEO who was very suspicious and had a bad first impression
        • Anh and Gerry and Marc: volunteer to work on Bulletin board
      • Anh: How to regularize walkarounds?
        • Gerry: HEO walkarounds can mainly be about issues at the GC
        • Travis: should be planned around events/activities that we can then suggest to them, e.g. GAs before the March 9th meeting, HEOs to understand promotion issues
        • Isaac: Yes, went around with Harry and spoke to PhD students to recruit for the March 9th meeting as well as recommitment cards, can identify potential new activists. Could channel stewards towards it.
        • Maya: can break stewards out of department mold, to focus on the larger GC picture
        • Anh: can create pairs who then go out
        • Maya: could be one hour, not always two
        • Isaac: timing? Find timings or select dates? It was nice to have a fixed lunch. Can see what works.
        • Anh: Secret Santa pairing for the walkarounds
  • Review L-M items & requests from chapter meeting – 10 min
    • Marc: governance plans for the MA programs
    • “Trespassing” issue of someone who got fired and has been escorted off campus repeatedly
    • Master’s tuition increase issue
      • Gerry: MA students are not in the chapter and way to get MA people on board – MA tuition increase has been sold as money will go back to the programs, budget increases
      • Travis: rejection of fees unanimously passed
    • GAs assigned to MacCaulay, John Jay and Business, ask about that?
      • Sam: Yes, say that we have FOILed for data, but just want list of name of grad students and their programs.
    • Luke: WAC grievance – depends on how this progresses, might/not be on agenda.
    • Marc: Uneven workloads across campuses, success with Hunter issue, not beyond that. Should this be raised? Will look if there’s a concrete thing and decide.
    • Isaac: Chapter meeting discussion of labor management meeting as part of week of action
      • Travis: no one volunteered to actually head this up
      • Isaac: invite more chapter members to labor management meeting? People liked the idea, will further plan
        • Roxanne: Qs of who is allowed to go?
        • Marc: It’s a pedestrian list of issues though, maybe too dry to begin with
        • Luke: Maybe should save this idea until the issues are more exciting
        • Sam: Better used for the WAC grievance?
        • Isaac: People were still enthused about it
        • Anh: Will raise issues on Sunday. Might happen with support.
        • Luke: Should do it for one acute well-organized issue, e.g. WAC

February 28th Chapter Meeting Notes

Notes from GC Chapter Meeting – 2/28/18

  • Announcements
    • Tati presented a brief history of International Women’s Strike & mobilized us to attend on March 8th
      • West Virginia striking teachers paving the way forward despite no-strike laws
      • One-hour work stoppage starting at 4:00 + march stopping by various key locations
    • Lynne informed us of two-tiered funding for doctoral students & mobilized us to attend meeting to organize around this on March 6th
    • Conor updated us on the adjunct & Free CUNY organizing which has involved solidarity across CUNY organizations, including the union, student’s groups, Free CUNY
      • Another issue that requires organizing is the GC’s efforts to de-democratize governance over Masters programs and raise tuition & fees for Masters students
    • Marisa updated us about being fired from CUNY TV in retaliation for her union organizing efforts there, without a disciplinary process
      • Currently, we are waiting for the PERB hearing scheduled in April
      • CUNY, HR & CUNY TV have postponed the hearing date several times
      • We should organize a street action or flyering the GC in early April
    • West Virginia teachers settled just yesterday which won them a raise as well as 3% raises for the rest of West Virginia’s public sector workers
    • Columbia Grad Workers unionized but Columbia admin (illegally) refuses to recognized their union
      • Organizing strike authorization vote to force the admin to bargain with them
    • Jane updated us on UK university defending their pension → can we do statement of solidarity?
      • Take a solidarity picture
    • Demali announced MA emergency town hall to organize against the fee increase for incoming MALS students
      • Chase has tried to drive a wedge between MA from PhD students in the past by saying the DSC only advocates for the latter
    • Marc reported back from his lobbying efforts with the PSC in Albany, where they distributed literature on $7,000/course for adjuncts & PSC members from across titles advocated for adjunct equity
  • Chapter elections for 2 vacant alt-delegate positions: Anh nominated Roxanne Shirazi & Lynne Turner; there were no other nominations via email or at the chapter meeting → members present at the chapter meeting voted unanimously in favor
  • Items for Labor Management
    • Justice for Marisa Holmes: Marisa should be able to enter GC without being escorted out for trespassing; ask President Robinson to take a stance to pressure CUNY Central to not back out of the upcoming PERB hearing
    • Governance plan for MA programs is being de-democratized
    • Check in on our FoiL request to get demographics of students who receive full funding, those who don’t, and what the outcomes are
    • Get a line-item budget for the GC
    • Uneven workloads across campuses, currently with no contractual solutions
      • Members should come to share their stories
    • MALS tuition/fee increases
  • Adjunct visibility week (March 12-16) → we need to figure out what to do at the GC!
    • Cross-campus planning going on to mobilize for BoT Public Hearing on 3/12
    • Labor management meeting will launch off March 12 → mobilize a contingent of people
      1. Get a long list of sign-ups of people to come holding signs advocating for their various issues
    • Social media blitz → get a photo booth set up for adjunct story-telling on Instagram or take a picture with a hand-written signs
      1. Maggie, Jane
    • Speak-out at GC to kick off the entire week, marching to labor management meeting
    • Undergrads are organizing around next BoT on 3/12 → should show up to help them
    • Fill out “course evaluation” for Chase → how to make this go beyond symbolic?
    • Should each day have a different theme like the #BLM week of action?  
    • Button-up for the entire week
    • Grad students teach 7,700 courses w/ enrollment of 200,000 CUNY students every year
    • Phone & email blitz to GC President & Provost focused on a different theme each day
  • We all took a solidarity picture to send to striking teachers in the UK
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