October 24, 2013
Alex S. Vitale
ChairBrooklyn 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.