Thursday, October 15, 2015

Coverage of Today's Press Conference

By Conor Skelding
3:21 p.m. | Oct. 15, 2015
 
The Brooklyn College chapter of CUNY's faculty and staff union, the Professional Staff Congress, rallied outside the college gates on Thursday afternoon for a new contract without tuition increases.
"We're hoping that they move the message in Albany closer to the governor's office so that the chancellor, the governor, and the mayor will find the political will to sit down at the bargaining table," said James Davis, an English professor at Brooklyn College for 12 years.
The PSC has been working without a contract for five years. Agreement on a new contract requires the buy-in of not just the union and university, but city and state as well.
CUNY has also raised tuition $300 per year for the past five years under a plan approved by the state Legislature in 2011. Tuition is now $6,330 per year at CUNY's senior colleges.
"The PSC is strongly against additional tuition increases because we see it, fundamentally, as a tax on working-class people," Davis said. "Raising tuition on them, while asking nothing from the taxpayers — nothing more from the taxpayers — is in effect a tax increase."
Chancellor James Milliken told the City Council in July that he expected to have to use revenue from the most-recent increase to fund a collective bargaining agreement. He also said then that he expects the university to request further tuition increases.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 15th Austerity Press Conference

Press Release

Brooklyn College Faculty, Staff and Students launch #RespectCUNY Postcard Drive

Thursday, October 15th

12:30-1:30 PM

Bedford Ave. gates to Brooklyn College near Campus Road

Contact: Alex S. Vitale, 917-293-4862, avitale@brooklyn.cuny.edu

A coalition of Brooklyn College faculty, students, and staff officially launched a postcard drive today calling for State elected officials to fully support Brooklyn College and CUNY without relying on additional tuition increases. Tuition has gone up every year for the last 5 years, but state funding has not kept pace with growing enrollments. This year state failed to fund $51 million in mandatory cost increases CUNY wide. This has caused significant budget shortfall at Brooklyn College, leading to larger class sizes, fewer available classes, and diminished student services. Employees at the college from maintenance workers to painters to professors have been without a contract for over 5 years and most employees have not had raises during that time.  Anselma Rodriguez a Higher Education Officer (“HEO”) said that “every year expenses in New York are going up, especially for housing, but our pay has stagnated. It’s time the state made resources available to CUNY to pay for decent raises.”

The decline in public support is a national problem, so the Ethyl Wolfe institute for the Humanities is hosting a day-long event today entitled “Austerity and Its Discontents: The Fight to Reclaim Public Higher Education.” Speakers from across the country will be discussing the reasons for the cut backs and strategies for reversing this troubling trend. Speakers attending the press conference include Rudy Fichtenbaum, President of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and Eleni Schirmer and Michael Billeaux from the University of Wisconsin.

The postcard being launched today is being distributed to thousands of students, employees, alumni, and community supporters. It calls on local elected officials to “work in Albany for full funding for CUNY, including its employee contracts, and to increase financial aid without burdening students with higher tuition.” A printed version of the card is addressed to local Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, and an on-line version is addressed to both her and State Senator Kevin Parker. The online version can be found at here.

The postcard also uses the hashtag #RespectCUNY, which is linked to a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the need for better funding for CUNY. We are using the Twitter handle @psccunybc.

During the event students and faculty will be circulating postcards for students to sign during the lunch break between classes.



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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

April 2015 Address to the Stated Meeting of the Faculty

Stated Meeting

Alex S. Vitale

April 30, 2015

I want to thank you all for wearing your union t shorts today. And I apologize if you were not able to get one. Over the next few weeks I hope you will wear them in class and initiate conversations with students about the need for a fully funded contract. There will be a CUNY wide t-shirt day on Tuesday, May12th, but there is no need to wait until then. It is important that we begin explaining to students that failure to provide adequate salaries and decent working conditions for faculty and professional staff undermines their education. Our students deserve the best and the cutting of our salaries relative to inflation undermines hiring and moral. We deserve more and our students deserve more.

So far CUNY has been unable to put forward a financial offer, lacking authorization from Gov. Cuomo in particular. The Gov. has indicated that any raises that do end up being authorized are likely to come out of CUNY operating budgets, which would be a major problem. The PSC has been working hard in Albany to get the legislature to put aside money to pay for raises, but more work needs to be done. CUNY, for the first time, seems to be on the same page with us on this.

Unfortunately, CUNY has not been able to produce results. Further, CUNY has been slow to act on a number of non-economic issues such as intellectual property rights for faculty developing on line materials, promotional opportunities for HEO’s, and enhanced job security for adjuncts, as well as lower cost items like annual leave for librarians.

As a result, we are asking you to do two additional things. First, we need to strengthen our political operation in Albany. Members of the chapter’s Executive Committee are handing out VOTE COPE cards for you to fill out. These optional funds give us resources to lobby more effectively in Albany and at City Hall. As a public sector union we have to be active in this arena, regardless of any distaste we may have for electoral politics. Please consider pledging $5-10 a pay period and returning the forms to one of us after the meeting.


Second, at our next chapter meeting we will be discussing the possibility of extraordinary tactics in our fight to win a decent contract. We will hear from union leaders about the legal and political implications of striking and undertaking direct actions. We have invited leaders from the TWU and the national Lawyers Guild to share their expertise and experience with us. We will also explore actions we can take through faculty governance, as well as any ideas you may have about how to put pressure on CUNY, the Governor, and the State Legislature.  That meeting will be Thursday, May 14th at 12:30 in 222 Whitehead. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

PSC Address to Stated Meeting of the Faculty October 2014

Address to the Stated Meeting of the Faculty
October 23, 2014

Alex S. Vitale
Chair
Brooklyn College Chapter
PSC-CUNY

We remain concerned about developments in the School of Business. In their drive to accreditation, the administration seems to have adopted an approach that consistently attempts to go around faculty. Unelected Department Chairs are being brought in, departments are being reconfigured with little or no faculty input, faculty are being told what and how to teach and what journals and conferences are acceptable, and the school appears to be increasingly walling itself off from the rest of the college. The administration seems to be pursuing a very narrow vision of how accreditation can be achieved that distances the school from the rest of the college, rather than embracing a broader liberal arts approach that would build on the college’s many strengths in this area in a way that would enhance the overall education our business students receive. We will be meeting with Business School faculty over the coming weeks to get a clearer picture of the situation and will continue to update you on the blog and at the Spring Stated Meeting.

Once again the faculty has rejected a call from the administration to embrace Pathways. At the October meeting of Faculty Council a motion to authorize participation in CUNY wide Pathways course review committees was defeated by a huge margin. It is clear that the faculty at BC and throughout CUNY continue to view Pathways as a failed policy. Here at BC the faculty is working hard on our own vision of General Education, which may or may not comport with Pathways. At our last meeting, this body voted almost unanimously to support that faculty driven effort and called on the President and Chancellor to support us. That support has not been forthcoming. Instead the administration continues to try to pressure faculty to accept a curriculum that we believe to be flawed --, one that is a disservice to students and a blatant attack on the central role of the faculty in developing curriculum. We expect the President to work vigorously with the new Chancellor to make sure that he and the Board of Trustees accept our General Education proposal, which we hope to see completed this spring.

As you know, contract bargaining is well underway. CUNY and the PSC continue to bargain over a variety of non-economic issues but are stymied by the lack of a reasonable financial offer from the City and the State. It is imperative that the Governor and the Mayor put real resources on the table. After 4 years without a raise, CUNY is losing out on hiring faculty and staff because of our uncompetitive salaries. One of our greatest concerns is that Gov. Cuomo may authorize some minimal salary increases and then force CUNY to pay for those increases out of existing diminished resources. This would be yet another attack on CUNY and its core mission of educating our students and a clear attempt to divide the faculty, students, staff, and administration. We call on the Governor to add new resources to CUNY, not take them away. We expect the President to convey this to the Chancellor and Board but we also need to communicate directly with the Governor and Mayor. So, today we will begin distributing postcards to be sent to them, demanding a real non-concessionary financial offer so that bargaining can be completed.  Please fill them out and return them to us so that we can keep track of the total number and deliver them as a group at time that is strategically beneficial.

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Open Letter to President Gould Regarding Contract Negotiations

Dear President Gould:

We write to ask for your help – your vigorous advocacy in support of the Brooklyn College community.

As of Monday, October 20, CUNY faculty and professional staff have been without a new contract for four years. Our work at the University shows our commitment to quality public education: in fact, it is our academic work that makes the University run. We deserve fair remuneration for the jobs we do; we have been denied that for four long years.

Enrollment at CUNY is at an all-time high, yet we, who are daily in the classroom, are expected to work without reasonable raises and just benefits. Faculty and staff wellbeing is put at risk as we have faced the rising cost of living. We are full-time faculty, CLTs and HEOs struggling to pay rent; we are adjuncts forced to work at multiple institutions just to buy groceries. Our diminished living conditions have a direct impact on our students’ learning conditions.

Exhausted, anxious faculty and staff cannot give 100% to their students when their minds are on their own survival.  This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that CUNY is having a difficult time hiring new faculty and retaining recent hires, putting more pressure on the limited and overworked resources we already have.  Not only has the lack of a contract affected the hiring and retention of faculty, it has also been a blow to the morale of current faculty. The lack of a contract is, therefore, endangering the growth of CUNY, the University’s future aspirations, and the quality of CUNY public higher education. It is both irrational and unconscionable that we still do not have a contract. 

The PSC is eager to settle the contract and has been negotiating with CUNY in good faith. But CUNY has still not presented us with an economic offer, which is the essential foundation for any detailed bargaining.  Without an economic offer, we cannot begin to bargain about salary increases, much less retroactive pay. Nor can we truly address the Chancellor’s stated goal of lowering the CUNY teaching load. CUNY trustees and administrators must make it their first priority to get an economic offer on the table so that bargaining in earnest can begin.

President Gould, we call on you to do what you can to impress upon the Chancellor and Trustees that we need an economic offer now. We ask that you speak up for the faculty, professional staff, and the students we serve at Brooklyn College by urging the Chancellery to immediately make an offer and thus open serious contract negotiations. We urge you to publicly advocate for justice for the Brooklyn College community, for CUNY faculty and staff, and for public higher education.

Sincerely,

Executive Committee

Brooklyn College Chapter, PSC CUNY

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Molinaro Nomination to CUNY Board on Hold

As you may recall, last Spring Governor Cuomo continued the tradition of appointing political hacks to the CUNY Board of Trustees. In this case it was James Molinaro to represent Staten Island. The former Borough President is a member of the Conservative and Republican Parties and was chosen because he crossed party lines to endorse Cuomo for governor. The PSC raised objections with this appointment, which also irritated many Democratic members of the State Senate, who must confirm such nominations.  Women’s rights groups also criticized the nomination after Molinaro called singer Lady Gaga a “slut.” He has also spoken out against programs to reduce teenage pregnancy and a wide variety of social welfare programs that CUNY students directly benefit from.  He also opposes gay rights and access to abortions.

Ironically, CUNY Board Chair Beno Schmidt, chief purveyor of lower standards and champion of greater power for boards of trustees, argues in a new book that trustees need to be educational visionaries to fulfill their new expanded roles as educational innovators. Molinaro has no experience in higher education and lacks even a BA degree.


As a result of concerted opposition,  no action was taken on Molinaro’s nomination in the last legislative session and it remains unclear whether the governor intends to put him up formally or rescind the nomination.  If the nomination reappears we may decide to launch a campaign targeting Senate Democrats to oppose it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Contract Rally Sept. 29th

Dear Colleague: 

We have waited long enough for the CUNY Board of Trustees to put an economic offer on the table. It is time for us to demonstrate to the Board and the University administration that we need a good contract now.  The quality of education at CUNY—as well as our own economic stability—is at stake.  

On Monday, September 29, the union will organize a mass demonstration to deliver a simple message to the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Milliken: CUNY Needs a Raise!  If a good contract is important to you, then you should be there. Click here to confirm that you will join us. This time, we need everyone.  

We will assemble at 3:30 on Monday, September 29, at Baruch College, where the CUNY Board meets. After a spirited demonstration and picket outside the meeting, we will take our demand inside, to the college presidents, CUNY administration and trustees. We will call on the trustees and Chairperson Benno Schmidt to take responsibility for the university with which they are entrusted and get an economic offer on the table. The faculty and staff work our hearts out for CUNY: we deserve fair compensation.  

The union will need a mass presence to create momentum for a good economic offer. A handful of activists will not be enough. I am asking you to make the demonstration a priority: make time in your schedule, reorganize your day, do what you have to do to be there on Monday, September 29, from 3:30 to 5:30. (If you can’t come for the whole time, come for as much time as you can. If you need to ask for annual leave to attend during work hours, please ask now.) 

September 29:  3:30pm - 5:30pm
Baruch College Vertical Campus
55 Lexington Avenue (corner of 24th Street), NYC
 

The union leadership has met with Chancellor Milliken about the need for an economic offer, and we believe he is working seriously to resolve the issue. But time is critical: after four years of rising costs, and with other union contracts in the city being settled, PSC members feel the urgency of settling now. A strong presence on September 29, five weeks before the gubernatorial election, will also help to send a public message about the importance of CUNY to the state as a whole.    

The PSC bargaining team continues to hold negotiating sessions with CUNY management and to make progress in discussions. Without an economic offer, however, we cannot move to a settlement. The bargaining team presents our demands forcefully, with extensive research, comparable contracts, salary comparisons, testimony from individual members and more. But our real power is you, the union members. And sometimes we need to make that power visible.  

That’s why we need every member to make September 29th a priority. I hope to see you there.
In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY