Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is Goldstein Stealing from PSC Members to Pay Petraeus’s Bloated Salary?

While the details of Petraeus’s hiring remain sketchy, a real issue has emerged about the source of his $150-200,000 salary, itself supplemented with teaching assistants and research support. The information provided in the documents obtained by Gawker raise more questions than they answer. The latest information is from an apparent letter or email dated July 1st  from the Macaulay Dean, Ann Kirschner, posted by CUNY in response to the Gawker article, and possibly communicated before that date. This document claims that the salary will only be $150,000, part of which will be donated to veterans. How much? No one will say. It goes on to state that:

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has provided private funding for your position, which will be paid through the CUNY Research Foundation.
How do we know, however, that the Chancellor has secured the private donations to cover all of the expenses associated with this hire?
For years the Research Foundation (RF), a private entity not directly under state control, has been used as a kind of administrative slush fund with no public accountability. Its main function is to process grants received by faculty from agencies and foundations like the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Ford Foundation. Part of the grant money the Research Foundation processes directly pays for research costs such as lab equipment or research assistants, but a significant portion of the grant money also covers institutional “overhead” to cover the infrastructure costs associated with being a research university such as lab space, basic computers, and utilities.
Not all of this overhead, however, goes directly to support the projects that generate it. Some gets diverted to less well funded faculty research endeavors, while some supports administrative initiatives, which may have nothing to do with research, such as supplementing administrative staff, fundraising, etc. How exactly the money is used is often not clear.

That is because the Research Foundation is a separate private entity, which has resisted being subject to the same disclosure rules as the university itself. The RF has refused to abide by the Freedom of Information laws used by Gawker to develop this story.
The PSC has responded by promoting a bill in Albany to force the Research Foundations at CUNY and SUNY to open the books and subject themselves to public scrutiny.  The main opponent of these efforts has been Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose Chief of Staff has ties to the Nanotech Center at SUNY Albany funded through the SUNY Research Foundation.

Because of the continued secrecy of RF finances, it is impossible to know whether Goldstein really raised the entire $150,000 plus perks from private donors or whether he diverted money from one of his slush funds at the Research Foundation. Faculty need to be assured that the grant money they work so hard to raise isn’t being used to fund the outsized salary of a single, well-connected adjunct teaching only one small seminar.
Faculty, though, are not the only ones potentially being shortchanged by this. The PSC also represents many employees at the Research Foundation, who are involved in a bitter contract dispute. According to the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY):

On the same day that news broke of CUNY’s plans to pay Petraeus $150,000 via the CUNY Research Foundation, employees represented by the PSC were on a one-day strike outside the Foundation’s central office. They have been without a contract for six months, and the Foundation management is offering below inflation salary increases, demanding excessive concessions for new hires and increasing heath care costs for employees.

Over a hundred research Foundation workers and their supporters took part in the walk out, including Anthony Dixon, chair of the Professional Staff Congress chapter at the Research Foundation's central office.

“That $150,000 for Petraeus is almost enough to cover a 3% salary increase for our entire bargaining unit,” said Dixon.

Wherever the money is coming from the hiring of Petraeus is a bad decision. It’s a slap in the face to low-paid adjuncts struggling to survive on $3,000 a course. It’s a poke in the eye to RF staff who’ve gone months without a contract, and an insult to the grant-winning efforts of faculty and to the fundamental mission of the university.

We demand that the CUNY Board of Trustees reject the hiring of Petraeus under the conditions publicly laid out by Dean Kirschner and the Chancellor. We call on acting Chancellor Bill Kelly to divert any donated funds to more fruitful purposes. We urge the NY State Legislature to pass the CUNY and SUNY RF Transparency Bill to insure greater public accountability for these vast secretive institutions. Finally, we invite everyone to sign the petition opposing Petraeus’s hire written by City Councilmember Brad Lander and circulated by



1 comment:

  1. According to Assembly Member Lalor in an editorial in the Daily News, no donations have come in for Petraeus, meaning the money will in fact come directly out of the Research Foundation.