Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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Over the last several months this blog has become an essential tool for communicating with PSC members and supporters across CUNY and more broadly within academia. We want to encourage you to stay connected to our work by subscribing to the blog by entering your email in the box provided on the right of this screen. This will allow you to get an email notice whenever we post a new story. We promise not to overwhelm you with stories. We typically only put out 1-3 a week.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Contract Rights Upheld in Pathways Grievance

CUNY management was defeated in its attempt to block consideration of a union grievance on the way the University implemented Pathways, and has been told in no uncertain terms that faculty’s curricular duties are terms and conditions of employment covered by the PSC’s contract. The ruling was issued on Friday by an independent arbitrator of a grievance filed by the PSC. CUNY had petitioned for the grievance to be dismissed, arguing that issues of governance are not covered by the PSC contract and cannot be challenged by the PSC. The petition to dismiss was an attempt to narrow scope of the contract, and was soundly rejected by the arbitrator.
The grievance, filed by the PSC in 2012, alleges that in its implementation of Pathways CUNY failed to act in accordance with University Bylaws and college governance plans established for the development and execution of curriculum changes. The grievance also alleges that the implementation of Pathways was a violation of academic freedom and that CUNY retaliated against members of the faculty for acting in opposition to Pathways.
The arbitrator ruled that the grievance was subject to arbitration, or “arbitrable,” in its entirety and ruled against CUNY on every point. The arbitrator held that the ability to maintain some degree of control over curriculum was an integral part of faculty members’ terms and conditions of employment and was therefore subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure in the PSC-CUNY collective bargaining agreement. The PSC will now be permitted to present evidence to establish the violation of Bylaws and college governance plans that have occurred in CUNY’s headlong rush to implement its deeply flawed Pathways Initiative.
The grievance should not be confused with the two lawsuits filed by the PSC against Pathways, which are still moving slowly through the courts. The grievance is limited to violations of the PSC-CUNY contract and is an entirely separate proceeding. The grievance challenges only the implementation of Pathways, not the adoption of Pathways.

Friday, December 13, 2013

On MOOCs, E-Permits, and Centralized Control of the Curriculum

Last month CUNY Vice-Chancellor Alexandra Logue wrote an essay for Inside Higher Education in which she called for expanding the use of MOOCs. Logue seems to have missed the latest research. This week’s New York Times outlines the latest research affirming the very limited effectiveness of MOOCs (see below and also see this).  Given that students in MOOCs have an almost infinitesimal completion rate, and given that few students are willing to pay for what MOOCs offer, why are the Chancellery and Board of Trustees so keen on them?  Are they simply the latest victims of the agenda of the K-12 plutocratic reformers and technocrats?

The answer may be that MOOCs represent yet another way to degrade public education in the name of lowering costs.

Today we learned that as part of CUNY’s ongoing effort to streamline and centralize the curriculum that the Board of Trustees passed a measure that eliminates local controls over the issuing of e-permits. Students now no longer need permission from their home campus or major to take classes for equivalent credit at another CUNY school that offers a similarly labeled class. As a result, even essential courses within a major can be taken for credit at another campus so long as the student meets the basic residency requirement for the major. This change is consistent with CUNY’s effort to standardize intro courses and electives in the largest majors and to flatten out CUNY into one single, large institution run by administrators who have little or no contact with faculty, let alone students.

Once again the Chancellery and Board of Trustees have asserted centralized control over local faculty decision making about the curriculum—moving from gen. ed. in the form of Pathways to increasing standardization of majors. Do we really want CUNY administrators creating a one size fits all curriculum? And once CUNY has control of this process what will stop them from further reducing standards to accelerate graduation rates, regardless of academic achievement, in the name of demonstrating their ability to do more with less?

Departments should look closely at these policies and consider taking steps to maintain faculty control over the curriculum and to encourage a diversity of approaches to both general education and specific majors. It is out of that diversity and local expertise that innovation and best practices will flourish. 

The New York Times

December 10, 2013

After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought

Two years after a Stanford professor drew 160,000 students from around the globe to a free online course on artificial intelligence, starting what was widely viewed as a revolution in higher education, early results for such large-scale courses are disappointing, forcing a rethinking of how college instruction can best use the Internet.
A study of a million users of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, released this month by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education found that, on average, only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.
Much of the hope — and hype — surrounding MOOCs has focused on the promise of courses for students in poor countries with little access to higher education. But a separate survey from the University of Pennsylvania released last month found that about 80 percent of those taking the university’s MOOCs had already earned a degree of some kind.
And perhaps the most publicized MOOC experiment, at San Jose State University, has turned into a flop. It was a partnership announced with great fanfare at a January news conference featuring Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a strong backer of online education. San Jose State and Udacity, a Silicon Valley company co-founded by a Stanford artificial-intelligence professor, Sebastian Thrun, would work together to offer three low-cost online introductory courses for college credit.
Mr. Thrun, who had been unhappy with the low completion rates in free MOOCs, hoped to increase them by hiring online mentors to help students stick with the classes. And the university, in the heart of Silicon Valley, hoped to show its leadership in online learning, and to reach more students.
But the pilot classes, of about 100 people each, failed. Despite access to the Udacity mentors, the online students last spring — including many from a charter high school in Oakland — did worse than those who took the classes on campus. In the algebra class, fewer than a quarter of the students — and only 12 percent of the high school students — earned a passing grade.
The program was suspended in July, and it is unclear when, if or how the program will resume. Neither the provost nor the president of San Jose State returned calls, and spokesmen said the university had no comment.
Whatever happens at San Jose, even the loudest critics of MOOCs do not expect them to fade away. More likely, they will morph into many different shapes: Already, San Jose State is getting good results using videos from edX, a nonprofit MOOC venture, to supplement some classroom sessions, and edX is producing videos to use in some high school Advanced Placement classes. And Coursera, the largest MOOC company, is experimenting with using its courses, along with a facilitator, in small discussion classes at some United States consulates.
Some MOOC pioneers are working with a different model, so-called connectivist MOOCs, which are more about the connections and communication among students than about the content delivered by a professor.
“It’s like, ‘The MOOC is dead, long live the MOOC,’ ” said Jonathan Rees, a Colorado State University-Pueblo professor who has expressed fears that the online courses would displace professors and be an excuse for cuts in funding. “At the beginning everybody talked about MOOCs being entirely online, but now we’re seeing lots of things that fall in the middle, and even I see the appeal of that.”
The intense publicity about MOOCs has nudged almost every university toward developing an Internet strategy.
Given that the wave of publicity about MOOCs began with Mr. Thrun’s artificial-intelligence course, it is fitting that he has become emblematic of a reset in the thinking about MOOCs, after a profile in Fast Company magazine that described him as moving away from college classes in favor of vocational training in partnerships with corporations that would pay a fee.
Many educators saw the move as an admission of defeat for the idea that online courses would democratize higher education — and confirmation that, at its core, Udacity, a company funded with venture capital, was more interested in profits than in helping to educate underserved students.
“Sebastian Thrun put himself out there as a little bit of a lightning rod,” said George Siemens, a MOOC pioneer who got funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research on MOOCs, and last week convened the researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington to discuss their early results. “Whether he intended it or not, that article marks a substantial turning point in the conversation around MOOCs.”
The profile quoted Mr. Thrun as saying the Udacity MOOCs were “a lousy product” and “not a good fit” for disadvantaged students, unleashing a torrent of commentary in the higher-education blogosphere.
Mr. Thrun took issue with the article, and said he had never concluded that MOOCs could not work for any particular group of students.
“I care about education for everyone, not just the elite,” he said in an interview. “We want to bring high-quality education to everyone, and set up everyone for success. My commitment is unchanged.”
While he said he was “super-excited” about working with corporations to improve job skills, Mr. Thrun said he was working with San Jose State to revamp the software so that future students could have more time to work through the courses.
“To all those people who declared our experiment a failure, you have to understand how innovation works,” he wrote on his blog. “Few ideas work on the first try. Iteration is key to innovation. We are seeing significant improvement in learning outcomes and student engagement. ”
Some draw an analogy to mobile phones, which took several generations to progress from clunky and unreliable to indispensable.
Mr. Thrun stressed that results from the second round of the San Jose experiment over the summer were much improved, with the online algebra and statistics students doing better than their on-campus counterparts. Comparisons are murky, though, since the summer classes were open to all, and half the students already had degrees.
Some San Jose professors said they found the MOOC material useful and were disappointed that the pilot was halted.
“We had great results in the summer, so I’m surprised that it’s not going forward,” said Julie Sliva, who taught the college algebra course. “I’m still using the Udacity videos to support another course, because they’re very helpful.”
Mr. Siemens said what was happening was part of a natural process. “We’re moving from the hype to the implementation,” he said. “It’s exciting to see universities saying, ‘Fine, you woke us up,’ and beginning to grapple with how the Internet can change the university, how it doesn’t have to be all about teaching 25 people in a room.
“Now that we have the technology to teach 100,000 students online,” he said, “the next challenge will be scaling creativity, and finding a way that even in a class of 100,000, adaptive learning can give each student a personal experience.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BC Faculty Council calls for Withdrawal of CUNY "Expressive Conduct" Proposal

On Tuesday Brooklyn College’s Faculty Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing CUNY’s draft policy on “expressive conduct” (see below). The draft policy has been heavily criticized by faculty and students and the PSC Delegates Assembly also called for the withdrawal of the policy at its last meeting.  Today the New York Times reported on the issue, quoting PSC President Barbara Bowen saying, “if CUNY is to be an intellectually vibrant university, it must recognize that ‘expressive activity’ is a vital part of campus life, not a danger to be confined to narrow limits.” CUNY senior vice chancellor Frederick P. Schaffer, claims that it was faculty who requested the creation of a unified policy. While it may be true that one or two of the 15,000 faculty may have mentioned something to him along these lines, that does not mean that this point of view is representative of faculty opinion broadly. Now that CUNY has heard from the PSC’s Delegate Assembly, elected by the entire faculty, as well as campus based faculty governance bodies, it’s time for CUNY to drop this misguided endeavor and to stop hiding behind unnamed or hand-picked faculty to justify their policies of increasing centralized control over the university.  

Resolution on Draft CUNY Policy on Expressive Conduct

Whereas, the CUNY Central Administration has circulated at least two drafts policies on “expressive activity” in an effort to centralize control over college protest policies; and

Whereas, there has been an increase in excessive administrative action against protests at CUNY in the last 2 years including arrests and injury of students at City College, Baruch, and Brooklyn College; and

Whereas, no effort has been made to consult with either the Professional Staff Congress or elected campus governance bodies representing faculty, staff, or students; and

Whereas, the new policy would create restrictive protest zones, limit locations for distribution of flyers, enhance potential penalties against protestors, encourages cooperation with the police in controlling protests, and signals a general intolerance of protest; and

Whereas, existing educational laws and CUNY policies already set legal standards for protests at CUNY; therefore be it

Resolved, that as a university founded as the result of dissent, CUNY should uphold the highest standards for freedom of speech and assembly; and

Resolved that the Brooklyn College Faculty Council calls on the University Administration to withdraw from any future consideration by the Board of Trustees the proposed “Policy on Expressive Conduct” and any successor drafts that may be issued.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cuomo Appoints Two New Trustees.

Gov. Cuomo appointed two new trustees to the CUNY Board yesterday. The news is mixed. First the good: Jeffery Wiesenfeld has been replaced. Wiesenfeld is best known for trying to deny an honorary degree to Tony Kushner. Unfortunately he wasn't replaced by Kushner as some suggested. However, his replacement has some positive aspects. Barry F. Schwartz is a business executive, who manages MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc., which is the financial vehicle for the wealth of Ronald O. Perelman, one of the richest men in America. Unlike, most other CUNY Trustees, however, Schwartz has a background in higher education. He serves as chairmen of the Board of Kenyon College, where he received his BA and is on the Board of Visitors at Georgetown Law School, where he received his JD. Interestingly, he’s also on the Board of Human Rights First, a major player in the human rights world. Schwartz’s connection to Culomo is probably that Cuomo’s former chief of staff is also an executive at MacAndrews and Forbes.

Less encouragingly, Pataki’s Staten Island’s appointee, Kathleen M. Pesile, a financial advisor and sometimes educator, was replaced by retiring Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro. Molinaro is a member of the Conservative Party and a Republican, who backed Cuomo in his election bid.  This appears to be little more than a continuation of two troubling trends. The first is the use of political appointments based on patronage and political payback rather than any actual qualification to manage the University. The second is Cuomo’s penchant for appointing right wingers to important positions.

There are two more mayoral appointees with expired terms, who could be replaced by Mayor-elect de Blasio.  This could be an opportunity for a more substantial remaking of the Board, including the choice of a new Board Chairman. Who do you think would make a good choice? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

BC Faculty Council Condemns Violations of College Governance

Last semester the provost unilaterally ended the college’s language and speech requirements over the express objections of Faculty Council. On November 12th the Brooklyn College Faculty Council protested this decision by voting 80-3 in favor of a Special Resolution on Faculty Governance. The resolution asserts that the Provost violated the college's governance plan by changing the College Bulletin to comply with Pathways .  The College’s governance plan makes clear that only Faculty Council, not the Provost, the Board of Trustees, or any other administrator, has the authority to make changes to the College Bulletin.

The resolution raises a fundamental question. Will the CUNY administration abide by its own governing documents? The Board of Trustees asserts that it has total and unquestioned authority to make any educational changes it wants. The PSC, the University Faculty Senate, and numerous campus governing bodies have challenged their contempt for faculty governance through lawsuits and resolutions.

The Chancellery and Board of Trustees seem to believe that faculty governance is merely advisory. They are happy to have us do the busy work of approving courses and granting degrees; but when they want to impose changes to the curriculum, or cut back programs in the name of “efficiency” or “austerity,” we must simply do what we are told. And when we try to put forward a vision of educational excellence that responds appropriately to our students’ real needs, our efforts are ignored, or worse, denigrated.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the leadership of CUNY holds much of the faculty in disdain. They have come to rely on an ever shrinking number of hand-picked faculty to give the patina of faculty support for their initiatives, while actively disempowering elected faculty representatives. But if their initiatives are so important and so positive for the University and its students, why are they unable to convince the faculty? Instead of revisiting their ideas in the face of near universal faculty opposition, they attempt to isolate and demean us.

One of the consequences of this strategy is a broad drop in the morale of the faculty. We hear constantly from our members that they feel that the university is hell bent of series of counterproductive “reforms” that seem designed to cut costs and reduce standards and to give more control and authority to top management at the expense of faculty and students. This is the same kind of demoralization and deprofessionalization being experienced among K-12 teachers, who have been battered by these same “reforms” for much longer.

To see what is coming our way, one need only look at a recent essay by Vice Chancellor Alexandra “Lexa” Logue, key architect of Pathways, in which she sets a framework for on-line courses, MOOCs, life experience credits, and a heavy regime of outcomes assessment measurement systems. The essay also makes clear that if faculty stand in the way of such initiatives that it may be necessary for the university  “to change many of their labor and governance policies.”  In other words, prepare yourself for another raft of cost cutting measures backed up by repressive management techniques. We strongly encourage you to read this for yourself so that you can see first-hand what the CUNY administration has in mind for the future.

We urge our colleagues here at Brooklyn College and around the university to speak out against the changes being initiated by the Board of Trustees and the Chancellery. Top down management practices, fake educational reforms, and the deprofessionalization of faculty and professional staff are moving the university in fundamentally the wrong direction.  Pathways, CUNY First, HEO and CLT timesheets are just the opening salvos. If we don’t stop these efforts now, the alternatives will be more centralized standardization, high stakes testing, and top down control of our professional and intellectual lives—none of which is in the best interests of our students. If the administration’s ideas are so good and necessary then they should make the effort to sit down with the faculty and convince us. If they can’t or won’t, then maybe their ideas aren’t so good after all. 

Update on HEO and CLT Timesheets

At our Chapter Meeting on Thursday we had a good discussion of the problems with HEO and CLT times sheets. This will be a major topic of discussion in our "Labor-Management" meeting next month. We will be calling on the administration to sign off on time sheets that acurately reflect the time worked by HEO's and CLT's even if extra hours haven't been preauthorized. 

Union members in HEO, CLT and Research series titles are organizing a university-wide petition campaign pressing CUNY to negotiate with the PSC on the implementation of the new time-sheet system. The drive started in early November at BMCC and City Tech and was launched CUNY-wide at a joint meeting of the HEO and CLT chapters held last week at the PSC Union Hall. The petition calls on CUNY to negotiate about the timesheets and demands that any new time-sheet system for HEOs and CLTs reflect the complexity of our jobs and the variability of our schedules. To volunteer for the workplace petition drive, HEOs and CLTs can contact PSC organizing Director Deirdre Brill at dbrill@pscmail.org

Faculty can click here to support the campaign by signing the online solidarity petition.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Student Guest Post: Fighting for the right to fight for our rights

Momentum is building against the efforts by the CUNY central administration to restrict protest. Last Thursday the PSC Delegate Assembly passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of CUNY's new draft policy on Expressive Activity arguing that it is unnecessary in the face of existing policies and is designed to continue CUNY's long history of attempting to stifling protest (text of the resolution to follow soon). In the latest instance of this, the administration of CCNY continues to harshly punish 2 of their students involved in protesting the closure of the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center. The two students have been suspended without a hearing, denied access to Spring registration, and turned over to local police for criminal prosecution, for their participation in non-violent protest activities at the college. 

Below is a response to CUNY's attempt to limit student protest from BC Political Science major and student government representative Paolo Cremidis.

            CUNY’s student body and nascent student movement is being assaulted by the forces of standardization and control in many different manners. From Pathways and the waste of money that is CUNYfirst, to the CUNY draft policy on expressive activity, our identity as students is being assaulted.  The draft policy on expressive activity does nothing to ensure the real safety and security of students. The idea that expressive activity is a threat to security is absurd, and does not assure that student grievances are addressed. It’s almost as if the administration does not want to deal with the grievances of students or implement solutions to our problems. It is initiatives like this draft policy that often lead to unnecessary confrontation between student groups and the administration.  

            What we are being told is that we should somehow compartmentalize our collective attitude as a student body and deny ourselves the constitutional right to assemble. This policy, by implementing protest zones, and allowing individual administrations to stop simple activities such as leafleting or tabling, is washing its hands of the very real problems that CUNY faces. This is nothing but an attempt to make sure that we stay divided as a student body. Yes there is a concern for safety, but there should be input from the students, faculty, and staff in order to create a framework for building college community. There should not be any mistakes made about the fact that student activism will happen even if this policy is implemented. Students will always assert their constitutional right to protest.

            It seems to me that there is a large disconnect as to how this policy of restricting student activism is helpful to the college community, This seems contrary to what a University should be doing to ensure a well-rounded educational experience for all students. Universities are institutions built to ensure that the students within them receive an education that exposes them to the world. What this policy fails to take into account is the fact that before college many of us are not exposed to the politics that form our minds. Therefore this policy, in restricting the right to protest is hobbling the education we receive at CUNY.

If the Board of Trustees believes that curtailing expressive activity will somehow stop activism they are wrong. Activism is not a tool that people can only use when given space; it is a structure that allows activist to right the wrongs of society. There is nothing to be gained by trying to shut out the voice of the students in a University. As a matter of fact that thought alone seems illogical, and will not work. All it does is galvanize students to strive and restore that which our predecessors fought for. This policy will ensure that we have a grievance with which to build upon and ask the questions that CUNY will not answer directly. Just like workers have the right to organize, students have that right too, and any attempt to prevent that is an attack on our constitutional rights. Political activism is not built upon the idea that we must always adhere to the existing structures of political discourse to bring about a point. Unfortunately, for issues like student debt that is not possible, and to stifle activism on campuses will make it even harder to fight against rising tuition and student debt.

The CUNY administration might think that banning yelling on the quad might stop student activism, but when you tell a student how to act and even how to think you will get the opposite. As a Political Science major, I can tell you that learning about government is not just about sitting in a classroom with a textbook. There are lessons to be learned by engaging in the current events of the world and fighting the injustices that must be addressed. I would hope that those who drafted this policy would see how it does nothing to ensure a well-rounded education for students. The board can ban activism, but activism will not let itself get banned.

Fraternally yours,

Paolo Cremidis
Member of the CLAS student assembly

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Even in New York, Adjuncts' Paychecks Can Take Their Sweet Time

Even in New York, Adjuncts' Paychecks Can Take Their Sweet Time

By Peter Schmidt OCTOBER 29, 2013
There are worse things than trying to make ends meet on a modest paycheck—like trying to do so on no paycheck at all.
Ask Anthony M. Galluzzo, who began working as a part-time English instructor at the City University of New York's Queens College in late August, when the fall semester began. He went uncompensated until last week because the college did not send him the first two paychecks he was due. Lacking enough savings to pay his bills, he borrowed money and stayed with a friend while renting out his own bedroom in a Brooklyn home.
"I live paycheck to paycheck," says Mr. Galluzzo, who is earning about $3,700, before taxes, for each of the three classes he teaches at Queens and had been expecting a paycheck of about $1,100 every two weeks. He describes having to turn to family and friends to scrape by as "sort of demoralizing," and says that he feels badly for other Queens College adjuncts who "don't have that support network" to help them get through an unexpected period without income.
Of 1,070 adjunct instructors hired by Queens College for this semester, at least 340 did not receive checks on their first pay date, scheduled for September 19, and more than 60 remained uncompensated as of Monday, three pay periods later, according to statements issued by the college's administration.
The college, which has blamed the problem mainly on difficulties encountered in adapting to a new payroll system, has offered adjuncts who have gone unpaid payroll advances of up to 60 percent of owed wages. Some adjuncts, however, have not known the advances were available to them, according to the City University of New York system's faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress.
Queens College is not the only CUNY campus to fail in recent years to pay adjunct faculty members on time. York College, also in Queens, similarly failed to pay more than a third of its part-time faculty on time last fall. The Professional Staff Congress filed a systemwide grievance in early 2009 after four of the system's 23 campuses were weeks late in sending adjuncts their first check for the spring semester.
Nevertheless, a CUNY spokesman, Michael Arena, on Monday described the late payment of adjuncts as "rare, infrequent, and isolated."

Repeatedly Starting Over

Throughout the nation, many adjunct faculty members end up waiting long periods for payment for their services. As faculty members who are hired off the tenure track and on a contingent basis have become a growing share of colleges' work forces, institutions have struggled with the task of updating their payrolls each academic term.
Colleges that meet their first deadlines for paying adjuncts often do so only by scheduling their adjunct instructors' first pay dates well after the first pay dates of other employees. Maria C. Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for instructors off the tenure track, says the start of every semester brings a wave of calls to her from adjunct instructors confused over how their colleges can get away with waiting so long to pay them.
"The reason that it happens is that there are so many adjuncts that administratively it is a huge task to process all of these forms," says Ms. Maisto, who calls the time and money spent by colleges to add successive waves of adjuncts to payrolls "one of the hidden costs of contingency."
Because adjunct instructors are paid by the course and their workload at a college often varies from one contract period to the next, colleges generally feel they have no choice but to start over each semester or term in putting adjuncts on their payrolls. This constant churning of payroll information occurs even though a 2010 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce found that more than three-fourths of part-time instructors had taught the same course at a college for at least three terms.
Among colleges where adjuncts have endured substantial waits for pay, faculty members at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, in Michigan, felt compelled to organize a food drivefor part-time instructors last January. The college's spring semester began January 7, but its part-time employees were not paid until February 1, later than many had believed would be the case based on the faculty handbook.

'Room for Improvement'

When colleges miss one or more deadlines for paying their adjuncts, the question of how to reimburse them raises tough questions. In the past, CUNY campuses have given adjunct faculty members who did not get paychecks lump-sum reimbursements in a subsequent pay period, but the resulting spike in income temporarily bumped some adjuncts into a higher tax bracket and caused some to lose eligibility for government subsidies such as food stamps.
Queens College is reimbursing its adjuncts for lost pay incrementally, over several paychecks, but Mr. Galluzzo complains that that approach has left him unable to repay those who lent him money to get by.
Queens College's administration issued a statement on Monday that blamed that institution's failure to pay adjuncts on time on the nature of the adjunct-hiring process, which can result in the late submission of needed information on new hires, and on glitches in the college's switch from a manual payroll system to an automated one.
In an email this month to Jonathan Buchsbaum, chairman of the Queens College chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, Meryl R. Kaynard, the college's general counsel, pinned much of the problem on the late submission of forms by deans and academic-department heads. "No one disagrees that the semester-to-semester on-boarding of adjuncts leaves room for improvement," Ms. Kaynard wrote.
The statement that the college's administration issued on Monday said it had established a panel of administrators and faculty and staff members to review what went wrong and to recommend changes. "Our adjuncts have a right to expect timely paychecks," the statement said, "and we are committed to making that happen."
Correction (10/29/2013, 12:15 p.m.): This article originally stated that Anthony Galluzzo of Queens College taught two classes, but he teaches three. The article has been updated to reflect that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PSC Address at the Stated Meeting

Stated Meeting Address

October 24, 2013

Alex S. Vitale

Brooklyn College Chapter

As most of you know we have gone 3 years without a contract. This is a condition we share with every unionized employee in the city. Because of Mayor Bloomberg’s insistence on withholding raises and increasing health care contributions, there are no unions currently bargaining with the City. None. Gov. Cuomo has made and in some cases won similar demands from the state unions. As a result, we have very little reason to engage in economic bargaining until the election of a new mayor. We have, however, approached CUNY management about opening up non-economic bargaining and there are many things to discuss. We will prepare to bargain in earnest over economic matters when a new mayoral administration shows an interest in non-concessionary bargaining. But given that the old contract remains in force, we have very little incentive to bargain.

On a brighter note, the PSC was the only public sector union to back Bill DeBlasio, who is likely to be elected the mayor, in the primary and we are hopeful that he will follow through on his pledge to expand spending for CUNY as well as implement a broader agenda of tax fairness and increased spending for Pre-K and after school programs to prepare students before they are admitted to BC.

On campus, the union is increasingly concerned about faculty morale. There is a growing sense that there is a broad hostility towards faculty and professional staff by CUNY management. This crisis has been felt most acutely in relation to the adoption of Pathways in the face of overwhelming faculty opposition (and requiring HEO timesheets) expressed clearly in local governing bodies and through the union referendum, in which 92% of faculty voted no confidence and a majority participated. The response from CUNY management has further undermined faculty confidence in the Chancellery and Board of Trustees. Board Chairman Beno Schmidt characterized the referendum as nothing more than an opinion poll, showing either his ignorance of survey methodology or willful disregard about the significance of such a vote. The union continues to pursue litigation and collective bargaining remedies to the abuse of faculty governance by CUNY.

The process of developing and implementing Pathways was indicative of a management approach that views faculty as an impediment, rather than an ally, in generating and enacting educational excellence. Another example is the new proposed policy on expressive activity being considered by the Board of Trustees. This policy was developed by CUNY central administration with no meaningful input from students and faculty, who will be most affected by this new more restrictive and more punitive policy. If there is a problem with expressive activity then the CUNY administration should work with faculty and staff to co-produce a policy to address the problem, rather than imposing one by fiat.  

We are concerned that this attitude may be infecting our local administration as well. We appreciate the important role that the College President plays in strategic planning and in developing new initiatives consistent with the college’s mission. We are troubled, however, by indications that the president has not been able to work more closely with faculty in developing and implementing such strategic initiatives. The desire to “fast track” accreditation in Business is one area where large numbers of faculty feel that they have been denied meaningful participation in the process, including the management of their own departments. The Provost’s decision to unilaterally eliminate the foreign language requirement is another example.

We call on the administration to recommit itself to following the college’s governance plan, which insures a central role for faculty in directing and enacting the intellectual mission of the college in terms of curriculum, program development, and departmental governance. 

Thank you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Special Resolution on Faculty Governance

The following resolution will be brought to the November Faculty Council meeting by the FC Steering Committee. The local PSC chapter supports this resolution.


November 12, 2013

Special Resolution on Faculty Governance
Steering Committee

Whereas, according to the Governance Plan of Brooklyn College (Article II), the faculty “shall be responsible for the formulation of policy relating to the admission and retention of students, including health and scholarship standards; student attendance, including leaves of absence; curriculum; awarding of college credit; granting of degrees”; and

Whereas, Faculty Council is “the legislative body of the Faculty and shall have all the responsibilities of a faculty”;  and

Whereas, Faculty Council, at its meeting of April 3, 2012, voted not to “implement a [CUNY] Pathways curriculum under the current guidelines,” and again, at its meeting of May 8, 2012, reaffirmed that stand, and since that time has not approved any Pathways-related curricular changes; and 

Whereas, the College administration, without approval by Faculty Council, and in violation of the College governance plan, changed the general education requirements in the 2013-2014 Undergraduate Bulletin,

Be it therefore resolved that the Faculty Council of Brooklyn College directs the College administration to restore the general education requirements approved by Faculty Council, as stated in the 2012-2013 Undergraduate Bulletin.

Guest Post: CUNY Should Withdraw draft Protest Policy

BY Alex S. Vitale

CUNY’s new draft policy on Expressive Activity in paying rhetorical allegiance to the “important of a free exchange of ideas and expression of all points of view,” makes the fundamental mistake of equating protest with speech. Throughout the document, the right to protest is restricted by concerns about “order,” “disruption,” and the “rights of others.” These restrictions indicate a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the right to assembly as distinct from the right to freedom of speech.

There are many possible outlets for ideas including interpersonal speech, published writing, and social media. The right to assemble, however, involves the physical manifestation of people in space as both an exercise in communication and an expression of power. As such it is inherently disruptive, disorderly, and interferes with the rights of others. Any policy that attempts to eliminate these qualities reduces protest to speech.

The constitution specifically protects the right to such manifestations by listing assembly as a right distinct from that of speech. The framers understood the importance of public gatherings in rallying opposition to the Crown and in holding colonial officials accountable. It was not enough to circulate pamphlets and make arguments, since the British government was only interested in exploiting the wealth of the colonies and had no interest in a considered debate.

Both the constitution and case law do require that demonstrations be “peaceable.” This limit should not, however, be equated with orderly. The framers were concerned about limiting the insurrectionist impulses of crowds not in micromanaging their assemblies. It is understood that public assemblies involve an inconvenience to others. It is precisely the physicality of assembly that embodies its forcefulness in distinction to mere speech. Occupying streets, sidewalks, and public plazas and loudly and dramatically communicating to those nearby is precisely the point of political assembly.

While we primarily associate universities with speech, protest has also been at the center of university life and the protest activities of students and faculty around the world has played a pivotal role in shaping the modern political landscape. Pro-democracy demonstrations in China and South Korea, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in the US and Europe, and Anti-Apartheid protest on colleges around the world have shaped social movements, changed governments, and inspired millions to take political action.  

CUNY management has a legitimate interest in ensuring the physical safety of the CUNY community and in protecting the physical infrastructure of the university. But the proposed policy goes too far by trying to take the disorder out of assembly. Notification requirements, the establishment of restrictive protest zones, and the intent to forcibly terminate protests that threaten to disrupt any aspect of life at the university are an unreasonable abridgement of the right to assemble.

Furthermore, the process of drafting this policy is another example of the CUNY administration’s disregard for the members of the university community. No effort was made to seriously engage students, faculty, or staff in the production of this policy. While CUNY claims its purpose is to protect the safety of students and employees, CUNY continues to tolerate more pressing threats to safety by allowing bullying of staff by administrators,  inadequately funding mental health and crisis intervention services, and failing to properly maintain buildings and campus infrastructures.

The CUNY administration should immediately withdraw this policy from consideration and initiate a much broader policy conversation that involves students, faculty and staff. In addition, any new policy resulting from this process should first be approved by appropriate governing bodies before being considered by the Board of Trustees for adoption.

Alex S. Vitale is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and writes about the policing of protests.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Faculty Coalition: It's Time to Examine MOOC and Online Ed Profit Motives

From Campus Learning


Distance Learning | News

Faculty Coalition: It's Time to Examine MOOC and Online Ed Profit Motives

A coalition of faculty groups has declared war against online learning, particularly massive open online courses (MOOCs), because it said it believes that the fast expansion of this form of education is being promulgated by corporations — specifically for-profit colleges and universities and education technology companies — at the expense of student education and public interest.

The question at the heart of the battle is whether higher education is worthy of public investment or better suited to be an offering of big business. A report issued today by advocacy group Campaign for the Future of Higher Education examines the motives behind much of the current push for online education.

The report, "The 'Promises' of Online Higher Education: Profits," examines how the rhetoric used to describe new online offerings — "innovation," "expanded access," and "reduced costs" — should be interpreted "through the lens of corporate interest and influence." Specifically, corporations and investors have a major interest in the adoption of education technology to deliver online classes.

The challenge is communicating the role of online formats and other technological innovations in higher ed in a more nuanced way in order to make more fully informed decisions.

The campaign coalition includes 65 faculty, student, teacher and union associations from across the United States. The stated mission of the campaign is "to guarantee that affordable quality higher education is accessible to all sectors of our society in the coming decades; and to include the voices of the faculty, staff, students, and our communities — not just administrators, politicians, foundations, and think tanks — in the process of making change."

According to the campaign, the report is a "first step in looking at who is making money, how much, in what ways, and with whose assistance in online higher education." Only by understanding those aspects of the evolving formats of education, the report explained, will the public be able to "assess the full 'value' of the seemingly endless stream of technologically related innovations in higher education and make the best policy decisions for the future of higher education in our country."

"The report...shines a light on how leaders in government and in our colleges and universities are being enticed by snappy slogans and slick sales pitches into making decisions that benefit investors and corporations instead of the students we're supposed to serve," said Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles and a participant in a teleconference about the report. "We're talking here about a critical public need, higher education — one that affects individuals and societies in far reaching ways. The long-term costs and damage can be huge. And that's what we set out to do in this work — look behind this rhetoric."

The report draws a link between the drop in business and value for for-profit schools following a damning 2012 government investigation of the sector and the current surge in partnerships between public institutions and private operators. For example, earlier this year the University of Phoenix said it would enter partnerships with 100 community colleges as well as the Harvard Business School, following on an announcement that the owner of the institution — Apollo Group — would be closing 115 of its own brick-and-mortar locations.

Likewise, multiple public institutions have announced deals recently with private companies, such as 2U, Pearson, Bisk, and others, for "bundled services," to convert traditional degree programs into online versions. In these deals, revenue generation for the for-profit partner is "robust," the report said. Academic Partnerships, which works with schools to develop and market online degree programs, for example, made $4 million from its share of tuition from Arizona State, $10 million from Florida International University (FIU), and $18 million from Ohio U's nursing program. All are public universities.

In early 2013 a faculty senate online review committee at FIU alluded to the contract with Academic Partnerships, suggesting that "political pressure was obviously a factor." Minutes from the meeting noted, "Jeb Bush has great influence with Republicans in the Florida Legislature. If he let it be known that FIU was not cooperative with public-private partnerships, this could hurt FIU's funding." Former governor Jeb Bush is currently a senior advisor to Academic Partnerships.

In all, the report stated, 200 non-profit schools in 2013 partnered with for-profit service providers, and 500 more will consider similar arrangements over the next two years. Those estimates come from Eduventures data.

MOOCs are the latest territory in which for-profit entities are laying the groundwork for injecting their products and services into publicly-funded education. Citing reporting from Inside Higher Education, the report stated that the major MOOC companies — Coursera, Udacity, and EdX — "have 'cash to burn'": $21.5 million of investor money at Udacity, $43 million at Coursera, and $60 million at EdX, "generously bankrolled" by MIT and Harvard.

The public-facing basis for MOOCs "is high-minded," the report explained. "MOOC promoters...promise unimagined-before access to higher education and the dawning of a new age." The reality is turning out to be quite different, stated the report's authors: "Udacity and Coursera are judged not by the quality of the actual educational experiences they provide students, the degree to which they tear down barriers for students and instructors around the globe, or any of the goals so passionately discussed in public. The bottom line here is the business bottom line — which company looks positioned to make the most money."

How will they make money when they're free? Bob Meister, a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the real plan is "to turn my lecture into a technique for collecting a large and permanent database on student performance, a database that can be used to produce many products, only one of which is the certificate of completion that a student would get." What's not brought up much in coverage of MOOCs, he noted, is that "CEOs and investors [are] waking up to the profit-making possibilities of big data in the online education business. The real model is simply to attract the largest numbers of users while it is free so it can create a global database that can be cross-licensed to all of the other big global databases out there. This is all in return for possibly providing the student with a completion certificate for the course. It seems too good to be true because it is."

The report also referenced Moody's take on the MOOC phenomenon: The adoption of MOOCs, according to Moody's, can improve a school's credit rating. Elite public institutions that don't ride the MOOC bandwagon risk "[destabilizing] their residential business models over the long run." In fact, those that do participate in MOOCs gain a "short-term benefit": the "blunting" of criticism that universities don't provide sufficient services to "fulfill their public mission and, therefore, maintain their tax-exempt status."

In 2012 Moody's rated 283 not-for-profit private universities and 228 four-year public universities in the United States. When the company downgrades the debt ratings of schools, such as it recently did with seven Illinois public universities, the impact is reflected in dealings with creditors and the companies those institutions do business with.

The conundrum for public institutions is that the cost for participating in MOOCs is "relatively high," according to Trinity College President Patricia McGuire, "and the net returns unclear at best." Yet, to avoid the wrath of a Moody downgrade, she suggested, universities "will repress more thoughtful consideration of the value of adopting MOOCs for any given institution — and will encourage further avoidance of faculty participation in the decision — in favor of rushing to embrace this unproven method ―because Moody's said so." Her conclusion: "Moody's should stay out of academic decisions."

Gary Rhoades, a faculty member at the University of Arizona, recommended two "pragmatic policy proposals" that stem from the campaign's paper. One, institutions need to put in place "clear business plans for the growing number of online partnership deals between private companies and non-profit colleges." Two, they need to stop "fast-tracking, bypassing, or eliminating quality control decision-making processes in colleges and universities in accreditation or government oversight. These processes are focused on finance, governance, and educational quality and consumer rights. And they are in place to protect students and taxpayers and ensure appropriate use of college and university money."

Over the next two weeks, the Campaign will publish two additional reports, one that examines the accuracy of promises that online courses can reduce costs for students and educational institutions and a second one that looks at the facts behind the assurances that online education will dramatically expand access to higher education.

About the Author
Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.


Friday, October 4, 2013

What is Pattern Bargaining?

The PSC bargains its contracts in a very complicated environment. CUNY is a public institution that is financed by both New York City and the State of New York. Following the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970’s, the State took over much of the financial obligation for CUNY. Almost all public funding for senior colleges and two-thirds of public funding of community colleges comes from the state. The remaining one-third of public funding for community college, along with some cross CUNY special programs, like the Black Male Initiative come from the City.

This means that when the PSC sits down with CUNY management, the labor negotiators from the City and the State, appointed by the Mayor and the Governor are looming in the background. While CUNY and the PSC have flexibility in negotiating a variety of “non-economic” aspects of the contract, such as disciplinary procedures or the process for reappointment, the basic “economic” package is set by the city and state. Salary increases or new benefits that cost money, such as junior faculty release time or 80% sabbaticals, all have to come out of a pot of money set by the City and State. We can argue with CUNY management about how to spend the money, but the amount of money is largely fixed.

But how is the size of that pot of money determined? The short answer is that it’s determined by the financial packages agreed to by certain unions, which is then applied to all other unions.  In practice, what this generally means is that the City will work out a contract with one of the major municipal unions—often AFSCME DC 37, and then apply the same percentage increase in the financial package to each subsequent negotiation. At the State level, the process is essentially the same, with the state often beginning the pattern with either the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) or the Public Employees Federation (PEF).

Usually the unions accept this arrangement, which they initiated in the 1980’s, in an effort to provide a united front in bargaining. Unfortunately, they have not always been able to prevent a union from breaking off and agreeing to a concessionary package to avert member displeasure with an extended impasse. DC 37 took this approach in recent years, and in 1998 its leadership was thrown out of office after it was revealed that they had doctored a contract ratification vote that had large givebacks, and set an austerity pattern for the rest of the municipal work force.

Some unions, however, have been able to set their own patterns. Uniformed unions, such as police and fire, have been able to exert enough political muscle at times that they have gotten a better overall financial package than other unions. In some cases, mayors have tried to break the pattern to their own advantage. Currently, Bloomberg has demanded wage freezes in negotiations with unions who are still owed raises from the last pattern. The most notable example of this is the UFT, which is currently in “Fact Finding” over this exact point, hoping to get two 4% increases in the first 2 years of their new contract in keeping with the previous pattern. The PSC has similarly argued that we are also owed one 4% increase in the first year of our next contract.

Sometimes individual unions attempt to fight the pattern. Two years ago the rank and file membership of PEF rejected the contract negotiated by its leadership. In the end, however, the basic pattern held. Unfortunately, this means that the pattern is often set by the “weakest link” in the labor movement. More powerful and well organized unions are often passed over in negotiations until the pattern is well established, leaving them little room to maneuver.

Since CUNY is financed by the state and the city, we have two patterns to contend with. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. In some cases we have been saddled with the worst of both patterns, as in the 1990’s when we were forced to accept wage freezes and benefit cuts. However, this situation also creates the possibility of getting the best of both patterns and even possibly squeaking out a few things that don’t conform to the pattern, because of our unusual hybrid status. Sometimes we are also able to win things that come out of the CUNY operating budget rather than the pot of new money.

In the past, the PSC leadership has struggled to eke out any gains it can from this complex arrangement, but always within the context of the larger patterns set by other unions. We've pointed out that many of our members are recruited out of national and international labor markets, that CUNY is a revenue generating institution because it is now primarily supported by tuition, and that the basic mission of educating students is compromised when the institution and its employees are inadequately compensated. 

These are important arguments, but to win a good contract we need more than compelling arguments and skilled negotiators, of which we have many. We need power. That power can take two central forms. The first is political power. Over the last 10 years, the PSC has taken dramatic steps to raise its profile in the electoral arena in Albany and the City. In order to expand the pot of money for the PSC and other unions, it is imperative that we have a major political movement away from austerity. This year we were the only municipal union that endorsed DeBlasio in the primary, because of his strong anti-austerity stance, significantly raising our political status. We've also become major players in the Working Families Party and the State and Municipal labor federations. Dozens of our members are involved in the hard work of vetting candidates in these forums and working to get the ones we endorse into office. We need more people to join in this effort.

Second, we need to show CUNY management as well as the mayor and the governor, that the union has the strong backing of the membership. This means that when the union calls on people to take action to support contract negotiations, that people respond. This builds the strength and legitimacy of our demands for better pay and working conditions. We need members to come out to events like the Sept 30th rally at the Board of Trustees at Baruch.

While, “the pattern” sets the context for bargaining, there are ways to maximize that process, but we need your help to do it. Please follow this blog and take action when possible to support the power of the union, because ultimately, the union is YOU!