Friday, July 5, 2013

Petraeus at CUNY - A Roundup

Outrage over Petraeus's appointment to the Macaulay Honors College has exploded since Gawker published the salary and employment negotiations that led to his accepting the job. To entice Petraeus to CUNY, Matthew Goldstein and Macaulay Dean Kirschner offered Petraeus either $200,000 or $150,000 to teach a single three-credit course, meeting either for one or two semesters. Petraeus has also been offered assistants to do his grading, course administration, and even research, leaving him with what is truly a three-hour/week appointment. At approximately $3,000 per course, average adjunct salaries are, unsurprisingly, considerably less than this.

For more on the scandal, and particularly Assemblyman and Iraq Veteran Kieran Michael Lalor's outraged response, and the CUNY's evolving claims over Petraeus's salary, see Corey Robin's typically excellent blog post. Undoubtedly, Professor Robin will continue to update his blog as more information becomes available.

Hunter College lecturer Jennifer Gaboury's Facebook comments on the appointment deserve to be shared more widely:

One piece of the Petraeus-at-CUNY story is getting lost in some of the coverage. When, in the revealed email exchange, the General brags that he could have gotten much more money elsewhere but the kvelling Dean Kirschner (she defines it for him) and Chancellor Goldstein convinced him that this was the place to teach, they mean Macaulay Honors College and not the City University of New York at large. This is the semi-private college within the public university, sprinkled with the fairy dust of philanthropists. It is not part of CUNY where adjuncts who make $3,000 per course teach 65% of the classes and often don’t have adequate office space to meet with students. This is Chancellor Goldstein’s crowning achievement, to have privatized part of a public institution and be able to brag about the accomplishments of these lucky few. Meant to attract high performing students who might have gone elsewhere, Goldstein recently shared on The Brian Lehrer Show that this past year there were 10,500 applications for Macaulay’s 400 available seats. And no wonder, students get a terrific education at CUNY; MHC admittance comes with free tuition, free room and board (where dorms are already rare), and a laptop. And as a “University Scholar” you have access to an “Opportunity Fund” to help support time to study abroad or take an unpaid internship. Yes, one will do better in school with a little money and a room of one’s own.

I look forward to learning more about the ways in which Petraeus’s track record “of excellence” as a “scholar and researcher” qualifies him for a line as a Distinguished Visiting Professor.

I’m glad to see in this mess that some attention is being paid to the issue of contingent labor and compensation. The downside of the pay scandal is that we aren’t having a conversation about making Petraeus a Distinguished Visiting Professor despite his alleged links to torture centers and drone strikes responsible for civilian deaths.


  1. Governor Spitzer was an adjunct at City College; the New York Times reported his rate per course as $4,500.

  2. Since the Research Foundation is going to pay for the bulk of this I wonder how much research will be done ;-)

  3. This is not the only outrageous spending. Take a look at these two articles in the New York Post. They highlight some of the other big spending: extra pay and perks for the presidents. Shame on CUNY! The bigwigs keep getting more while adjuncts are fired and our class sizes keep going up. They spend more while the quality of education in our classrooms goes down.

  4. I'm in no way defending the absurd pay package, but this post is not the only instance where I've seen faculty colleagues questioning the basic qualifications of Gen. Patraeus for this position. I find some of his actions over his career to be at odds with my own sensibilities, but I don't think a knee-jerk reaction to this suddenly makes his academic qualifications vanish.... What other colleagues currently holding tenured positions would you like to ban from teaching because you disagree with their politics or actions during their pre-CUNY careers?!

    So, if you can't be bothered to take the 30 seconds to look him up on wikipedia to discover his long list of publications, his MPA and PhD from Yale, his assistant professorship at West Point, his decades of service throughout the military and federal government, etc. etc.... Maybe you shouldn't comment.

    We teach our students to build a sound argument around facts and evidence, but, as faculty, we can ignore this?! Ad hominem attacks and emotion is good enough for us! You may consider the selection of Patraeus to be inappropriate, but it's not because of his qualifications for an academic appointment. If that were true, a good number of the faculty reading this blog should probably pack it in.

    1. Mr. Burbank, Actually, I had already looked at Gen. Petraeus's qualifications, they in no way meet the high standards of a Distinguished Professor at CUNY. A Visiting Distinguished Professor is expected to be a scholar of that same caliber. Having a PhD, a few publications, and a few previous teaching gigs doesn't cut it. You might wanted to look into those standards before you comment further. - JG

    2. Ms. Gaboury,
      That is an absurd comment. So, an appointment related to public policy should only take into account previous teaching experience and publications? His professional experience doesn’t count. Hmm. You probably should tell all of the distinguished professors at CUNY in the arts that their careers in music, film, art, television and theater don’t count. They need to have at least as many journal articles as you.

      If CUNY hired Bill Clinton as a distinguished professor, you’d probably have the same objections... right? He has less than two years of teaching experience and very few publications. Certainly not distinguished professor material.

      My point, if you set aside this silliness about his qualifications, is that there are MUCH more persuasive arguments to be made here – arguments concerning far more fundamental questions. I am absolutely against this appointment, but I know that questioning his appointment on the basis of a specious argument concerning his credentials... wow, that’s the fast lane to Hypocrite Town.

      Is he suitable for this group of students? For CUNY, in general? Does he actually provide an “added value” to the university? (i.e., bang for the buck) Is the workload appropriate for the pay? Are the trade-offs (opportunity costs) worthwhile? These and many more are reasonable questions. You, Ms. Gaboury, asked these same questions. I did not object to your first and last paragraphs. These are important issues. I took issue with your snarky interlude.

    3. I would absolutely have the same objections if President Clinton or anyone who did not have the proper scholarly qualifications was assigned this highly coveted title. Setting aside the other issues re: the General, there are plenty of other more appropriate titles on which similarly fancy people at CUNY have served. That was a quick aside has almost nothing to do with the fundamental objection to why I believe he shouldn't be hired; Corey Robin (see above) and other have covered those reasons very well. My point that is was part of the obscene wooing going on here.

      Adjunct Asst or Assoc Professor or a Distinguished Lectureship would be more appropriate here and is connected to one's professional experience. But then, they don't pay as well, not that that matters in this off the book RF hire.

      - JG

  5. Our position is not that he shouldn't be hired or that he isn't qualified to teach. Our position is that he should not be paid $150-200,000 to teach two courses. It's an affront to poorly paid adjunct and undermines the basic mission of the university.

  6. In an AM New York article of Wed July 10, regarding the Petraeus debacle, CUNY spokesman Michael Arena countered Barbara Bowen's comments about this outrageous salary by stating that 85% of CUNY students graduate debt free and 6 out of to go to school tuition free.

    I'm CUNY faculty. I'm underpaid compared to my peers nationwide and have a higher teaching load. My son graduated debt free from CUNY because I paid full freight. We don't even get any tuition remission for our children as is done on many campuses across the country.

    Barbara: Here's your challenge. Let's survey students to see if Arena's statements are accurate. I doubt it. My students grouse too much about costs. Also, let's get tuition remission for the family of faculty.

    Frimette Kass
    Assoc. Prof. of Accounting
    Brooklyn College

  7. For those of you who doubt the General's qualifications as an academic the citation for his dissertation is below. Still, even with his PhD, either he's being overpaid or the rest of us are underpaid.
    PETRAEUS, DAVID HOWELL. Princeton University, ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 1987. 8724797.