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

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.