December 8, 2022 GC Labor Management Meeting notes

  1. Follow up on contract Article 11.2 c: the University will make available up to $700,000 in incremental amounts to enable tuition-only doctoral students in their first 5 years of enrollment who were not previously enrolled in the NYS Health Insurance Program to receive health insurance.

Labor: Section 11.2c of the contract, tuition fellows who are doing PSC work. In the last LM meeting, management stated that modeling needs to be done. What is the status update, and can we hear some concrete sign posts?

Management: Wish could report more progress, working with CUNY Central, sharper timeline in January, pulled in many directions because of remote work.

Labor: Is it a matter of delay in modeling?

Management: Hasn’t found the space to work on this. Will bring a concrete update to our next meeting.

Labor: PSC has been asking about this for some time, line item budget request from GC for $10 million–will it be used to address the funding structure? This issue is tied to the two-tiered funding structure. The percent of unfunded students has stayed the same over time; any of that money going to fully fund more students?

Management: Doesn’t have an idea yet of how this will shake out. Worked closely with the Chancellor, he knows the needs. Budget is more general, many conversations and work in Albany, can’t give any more particulars than that.

2. Students Overpaid by CUNY

Labor: Currently working with several GAs who were overpaid through admin error. They are told they have to immediately reimburse the overpayment. In at least one of the cases, the GA is asked to return overpayment as a cashier’s check. This person flagged the overpayment on multiple occasions, had immediate questions and wanted a reasonable repayment plan, as well as to also take into account deductions (e.g. taxes). There are likely more people who this is affecting; we need a report from payroll. Who can they communicate with? We need a system and a point person in place.

Management: David Boxill (in attendance) agrees to be the point person. Will speculate that it may be possible to develop a repayment plan and appropriate payment mechanism. Once we look at these cases and determine what happened – until we know what happened in this case, there is no way to run a global report. Didn’t want this to happen to a lot of people. Will try to resolve as quickly as can.

Labor: Will the point person answer questions about deductions? Can we get a report on how many people may have been overpaid?

Management: We will not give a report right now as individuals who this happened to may not be  members of the PSC. We do not give tax advice (but did acknowledge they will try to help members understand what tax effects these overpayments may have).

Labor: Can there be a different method of repayment other than a cashier’s check?

Management: We don’t set the parameters. Will explore.

Labor: What is the timeline?

Management: It depends on how quickly students contact us.

3. Faculty Hiring

Labor: There have been delays in hiring lecturer and faculty positions for years. When are we going to be approving all the open faculty positions that have been identified as critical needs? Where has there been faculty input on allocating faculty lines across programs? Which committees? And where does faculty governance fit in? Budget committee members have not been asked to weigh in as far as cost/benefit analysis of lines. How is faculty workload analyzed, particularly in chronically understaffed programs? What is an acceptable supervisory load for faculty? Is there a suitable ratio to meet international caliber?

Management: The provost will have more details. This is not how the GC budget works, it is dollars not faculty lines. Provost has been working to map history of staffing over a dozen years: how many faculty in each program, number of students, to get a sense of size and shape of program. Among consideration in determining priority in hiring – rate of hiring contingent on available funds – we didn’t have a full annual budget when the President’s term began, only month by month so we could not commit to hiring faculty. Got restored to more normal annualized budget allocation and we transitioned to permanent provost. He has worked closely with all our programs to gather info, their priorities on most critical faculty needs. In the process of doing that, we received 28 requests and we don’t have the funding anywhere near. Remarkably cobbling together funding including Central funds. We don’t have Lecturers here, most of our faculty brought in for over $100,000 down payment. Ongoing searches in various stages, total number is 8, based on input from programs and also where possible to bring in one person might fit the needs of two programs. Opportunities in some cases were moved up higher on the priority list if they could do two programs on one. These are academic, programmatic decisions, in consultation with EOs and they engaged executive committees. The budget advisory committee was chartered by BoT late last year, they are engaging in fostering a shared understanding of the budget, they are advisory. We have not utilized them for making program decisions, they do not get involved in the hiring of faculty. Faculty workloads: no easy qualitative way. We wanted to staff up the programs so that we are better aligning the size/shape of faculty with the student body. There are many talented faculty across CUNY.

Labor: What is considered a threshold for an unreasonable workload?

Management: That is a question the provost would best address.

Labor: Would it be possible to address this the next time we meet?

Management: Some faculty mentor more students than others. They have a reduced teaching load because of that, it’s not so formulaic. Not sure I understand your question.

Labor: Up to 5 students is considered equivalent to 1 class, faculty don’t get more credit for advising more. There is no standard for MA vs PhD supervision. Faculty get credit up to 5 but not more than that: how much would be unacceptable overload? One cannot possibly supervise that many students and provide world class education. It is unclear to all of us what our thresholds are. It would help with student understanding in finding an advisor to work with if it was made clear.

Management: The President will speak to the Provost. This formula and some of the unrecognized pieces like MA mentoring did come up as issues in the conversation in the Graduate Education Task Force. This is an interest and will follow up. Rather than give you an answer that reifies the status quo… how should we be thinking of this? If you only recognize a grad student for the first 3 years, after that they stop counting? I don’t fully understand yet – colleagues who have research groups with 30 or 2 students, that’s how they choose to do their research. I have hesitancy to think about strict counting system – calculus varies a lot by field.

Labor: Goals are 1) assure that faculty are being reasonably supported to provide quality education 2) recognize the work that they are doing that maybe they do get credit for but there is poor messaging or their EO doesn’t know (simple communication things?)

4. Science Fellows Payment Delays and Potential Contingency Fund

Labor: This is a follow-up from last meeting: President Garrell mentioned that having a contingency fund for dismissed science fellows was a productive idea. What are the next steps? Assemble a committee?

Management: We can approach different ways: form a small workgroup to figure out how it could/would work and map out that things that we have to figure out with moderately short timeframe so it becomes a specific proposal depending on how it’s designed and determine where the funding would come from (e.g. based on each campus? Central pot?). Circle back with Brumberg to set up this task force

5. Business Office Issues

Labor: In our last LM meeting we spoke about issues in the Business Office. We heard that no further instruction was given to fund managers? When will we receive complete instructions from management on spending issues?

Management: Did not understand, what issues?

Labor: For example, we were told there were Procurement cards we could inquire about, but are unsure how to access them–where are the instructions on how one would get those items?

Management: There was a message sent out about purchasing cards, who gets them and how to get them. [Note: as far as labor is aware, only one message has been sent to the GC and it was sent on October 19, 2022 before our prior L-M meeting in November 2022, in which we were promised more and clearer instructions were coming.] Limited number of cards are available in certain areas, not everyone can have one. There are other ways to engage in purchasing without purchasing cards. Ken Tirino would be the person to contact about that.

Labor: In our last meeting, President Garrell had said that there was no need for new training for workers who use CUNYFirst but also further training than what we previously had was coming from within the GC rather than from CUNY Central. If there is to be more training held for CUNYFirst, will that come in advance of the spending deadline (which has not yet been set but usually comes in March)?

Management: Not sure what you said in your first sentence is what we said. President Garrell was at council of presidents yesterday. Hector Bastista indicated additional training for CUNYBuy, a new procurement system. It will save programs a lot of money because it has good purchasing agreements with the vendors, and the list of vendors is growing. Recognize that additional training for that is needed and announcement will be coming shortly.

Labor: Since Accounts Payable has shifted to CUNY Central, CUNY Central has told us that they will not process reimbursement on receipts until the start of subscription (e.g. library subscription could only be submitted for payment on the first day the subscription is live). This could result in a lapse in access for many items, including library databases and is a significant shift from prior practice. No other CUNY school has this requirement. What will you do to ensure that these changes in policy and procedure at CUNY Central do not have disastrous effects for our researchers?

Management: Accounts Payable and payment policies are separate. But concerned about issue- send a note or set up a call of Brian Peterson and copy Chief Librarian Maura Smale and he will resolve it; I see the problem.

6. International Student Payment Issues

Labor: There are stipend payment delays. At the community meeting senior admin spoke of addressing this through student payment email system. We have students who have never received their stipend at all while at CUNY. What do you know about payment delays? Some way we prevent this other than putting individuals in touch with students?

Management: We have a memo coming addressing gaps in how we onboard international students and making sure they have info on how to become settled in the US, e.g. banking. Students are helping us to design onboarding processes that will work better. David, Robin, and Lynette wrote to Schultz to clarify the problem. The email address is for any student who has issue with payment (not just international). We have moved away from students having to go to 17 places. We created the support last spring, since that time we learned a lot to prevent other cases, but the evidence is that we have many few cases come forward through the portal. Some people don’t know about the portal.

Non-payment for different reasons:

  • some couldn’t get their SSN in a timely manner. We can’t expedite that but what we have done and continue to do is communicate with students as early as possible as a prevention piece. GC offered emergency loans to students who got those delays.
  • Another problem is that checks were lost in the mail – have to reissue checks and that adds to the delay, encouraged people to sign up for direct deposit, best chance of avoiding the problem.
  • Third cause is non-residents have to pay taxes on their fellowships and that can’t be done through CUNYFirst – limitation with CUNYFirst – that is on our radar to deal with when CUNYFirst gets replaced with the next system – the funds have to be added in NYS Pacer in the next cycle and it creates delays, it’s complicated. To get around this general problem, set up financial aid registration deadline to start the process as soon as possible. We can’t request funds from the state until the students register and then the state takes 2-4+ weeks, a complicated process, we can’t control it.
  • Locally what we are doing to lessen the burden is offering interest-free emergency loans. Some hesitant to take loans but they are designed to bridge the gap. On fellowship and financial aid website, that info is there, EOs and APOs have it and they get it every semester. There are things students can do so we don’t miss steps. For these particular students who haven’t been paid in a long time – forward their names to Phyllis Schultz or ask them to write to Phyllis and copy David Boxill (he has heard you!) – we will do everything we can

Labor: making sure people are aware of what they need to do as soon as they are admitted is appreciated – as much as EOs and APOs it’s also the officers payroll, bursar, who know everything outstanding, they should contact students what is missing; emergency loans – does everyone who asks for it get one? Possibility of not getting?

Management: an application process, on website. I don’t know whether anyone turned away? Ask Schultz

Labor: before start of semester, inform students; emergency loans – are people being told that they are loans not grants? In the past people were surprised they weren’t grants.

Management: will make sure the language is clear

Labor: delays in assistantship payments – how does it happen that someone’s biweekly payment just stops?

Management: in the sciences?

Labor: in anthro? Just one student. Is this student pay email designed to accommodate assistantship payment too?

Management: Yes. If the student is getting paid off the grant and the faculty member doesn’t submit the timesheet – missed paycheck – we are trying to bolster awareness and find ways to remind people that they need to take care of that –

Labor: it’s a labor issue rather than a student finance issue.

Management: different flavors of money. Phyllis is the point person on these emails and engages others to resolve problem and knows how it works

Labor: NYSHIP question: multiple students whose deductions were not passed on to the state. Some hit with $3000 of missed premium payments – or put into the file incorrectly – admin error – what is the recourse?

Management: Wasn’t aware of that. We will look into it to see what happened. Surprise. Repayment plan? I don’t know.