Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Executive Committee Endorses BC Faculty and Staff Statement Against Anti-Blackness and For Systemic Change

The BC PSC Executive Committee endorses the June 15, 2020, "Statement Against Anti-Blackness and For Systemic Change" by the BC Black Faculty and Staff Organization, the Faculty of Color Group, and the Latino Faculty and Staff Organization.

As members of Black Faculty and Staff (BFS), Faculty of Color (FOC) Group, and Latino Faculty and Staff (LFSO), we are greatly affected by the murders of Black people by police officers and white vigilantes. Even before the mass uprisings across the country, we witnessed the vulnerability of our students as COVID-19 exposed the structural fault lines where Black suffering is distinct, often beyond comparison. Now that conscientious people across the nation have joined in protests to condemn racism, corporations and institutions have seized the moment to join the chorus of those who utter the name of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McCade. However, we at Brooklyn College are disturbed by the way in which Black suffering is placated, ignored, and co-opted, not for social justice but in the perpetuation of anti-black racism.
Anti-blackness names the specific kind of racism that describes the conditions that Black people face, dehumanization that has its origins in the historical project of Western modernity that serves as the foundation for global racial capitalism. Focusing on anti- blackness in discussions about racism pushes back against the idea that all ethnic minorities have the same lived experiences and can be understood within a singular logic, often signified by those who champion “diversity and inclusion”.

Attention to anti-blackness requires the recognition that racist violence is not limited to spectacular displays of state violence such as in the case of the murder of George Floyd. An awareness of anti-blackness recognizes the pervasive violence that is manifested by stereotypes that label Black students as less capable and intelligent and view the research of Black faculty as biased and less scholarly. In both instances, Brooklyn College becomes simultaneously a site of general hostility and social isolation. Institutional racism has been recognized for some time at Brooklyn College and the current administration has campaigned “We Stand Against Hate” since 2017, yet the most subtle and effective form of anti-blackness is the liberal rhetoric that advocates equality and boasts of progress while the lived experiences of Black people stand in contrast.

We are encouraged that some of the broader social and economic conditions that are highlighted by Black Lives Matter activists are getting recognition but we condemn the opportunism that seizes upon the spectacle of black deaths; when in reality anti-blackness is a regular feature on campus. Brooklyn College has been inert when it comes to addressing the daily abuses of Black staff, faculty, and students. Additionally, the faint response to the declining number of Black people across the college is normalized anti-blackness.

What would a Black life-affirming campus look like? We pose this question to college administrators and all in leadership positions, who sincerely value equity, to imagine a campus that is proactive and committed to social justice. When BFS met with President Michelle Anderson on February 19, 2020, they presented several low cost, modest recommendations that the college could put into action as a display of “good faith”. BFS discussed the development of a mentoring program for Black faculty and all junior faculty. They requested the development of the formal position of a Black staff ombudsperson, who would be drawn from the existing staff, in recognition of the work that is already being done informally. Lastly, they requested a fix to an account issue that would better allow them to allocate scholarships and awards to deserving students. BFS endeavored to create a better working relationship between faculty and staff and the upper administration to end the practice of being talked at and not talked with. The dwindling Black presence on campus cannot be described as less than a crisis and in the months that followed their concerns have been received with mostly silence.

Brooklyn College is situated in a neighborhood that is 34.1% Black but only has a 17% Black student population and a dismal 6.5% full-time Black faculty body (CUNY Quarterly Report Jan 2018). If Brooklyn College is opposed to anti-blackness it must first acknowledge that it is pervasive and is expressed ideologically and materially and the demands the appropriate action:

the curriculum we teach: programs and departments that support culturally relevant pedagogy (Africana and Puerto Rican and Latino Studies among others) are systemically underfunded and indirectly targeted by budget cuts.
We demand: culturally relevant programs have specific protections to ensure the expansion of anti-racist pedagogy and an equitable distribution of funds and support across disciplines, programs and departments.

●  the over-representation of Black people in underpaid, undervalued, and contingent jobs on campus;
○  We demand: all jobs at BC are paid a living wage, with clear pathways to promotion and viable means to job security; prioritize hiring and promotions internally (across roles: adjuncts, HEOs, CLTs); 
○  We demand: a faculty and staff that is representative of the student body, specifically targeting Black hires with attention to acute lack of representation in certain disciplines, including mentors to support promotion to full professor.

●  the lack of recognition (either in salary/pay or public acknowledgment) of the amount of invisible labor Black faculty and staff contribute to the college. Black faculty and staff routinely perform unrecognized labor beyond job description to confront anti- blackness in their institutional roles and to advocate for Black students who suffer regular indignities;
○  We demand: changing promotion and tenure policies to honestly reflect the hidden workload of Black faculty and staff
○  BFS’s suggestion for a Diversity Mentorship Coordinator and a Staff Ombudsperson could oversee this project; the under-hiring (including hiring below rank) and lack of retention of Black faculty and staff contributes to the revolving door of faculty and staff and diminishes morale.

the presence of the NYPD on campus extends a continuum of policing of students, faculty and staff from majority Black neighborhoods to the feeling of surveillance and criminalization at their institution of higher education;
We demand: the immediate removal of NYPD from campus and a longer-term goal to reimagine campus security with increased social services that support the safety and well-being of all people on campus: this includes increased funding for: mental health services; dedicated funds for Black students in the form of scholarships, grants and post docs; mentorship programs; de- escalation, conflict resolution and restorative justice training for all faculty and staff.

This moment in our country is the culmination of systemic denial of dignity that typifies anti- blackness. This form of structural inequality cannot be addressed through empty statements of standing in solidarity and promoting “diversity”. We advocate a transformational solidarity that aligns departments, programs, and campus life with an ethos of social justice that is action oriented. Transformational solidarity means that the systemic racism, surveillance, and austerity that is a normal feature of society is aggressively struggled against on campus. Transformative solidarity understands that struggles against domination are shared and that anti-blackness and austerity must be fought hand in hand. This is a fight that involves Albany and state politics but it begins with us on campus. We require a shift in the current institutional logic of the administration urging faculty and staff to do more for our students with less.

This moment calls for a transformative solidarity and not token statements of support.
By embracing this moment of profound possibility in response to this crisis, is to imagine and create a life-affirming campus we do not have, but require.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Submit Your Spring 2020 Grades on May 28, Not Sooner

Dear Colleagues,

You’re likely aware that many Brooklyn College adjunct jobs are currently at risk, and for some the health insurance that comes with their CUNY employment. The PSC is engaged in a union-wide campaign to preserve those jobs and build for the larger struggle ahead. Here at Brooklyn, the PSC chapter is urging all faculty to submit Spring 2020 grades on the last permissible date, May 28. We are not asking you to violate university policy or state law, nor is your students’ degree progress in jeopardy. But in solidarity with one another as faculty, we must act in protest of the demand to cut 25 percent of Fall course offerings. Having everyone on the faculty do the same thing at the same time is one important way to show to the administration and ourselves that we are capable of acting in concert. In order to exert pressure on the decisionmakers and those who hold the purse-strings of the university, we will need to escalate coordinated actions beyond next week, into the Summer and Fall, and we will need the participation of our professional staff colleagues as well. Their concerns – and ours – about returning to a healthy and safe workplace may become the next site of collective action, even as the immediate task is to keep our faculty on payroll and insured.

The campaign to submit grades no sooner than May 28 builds upon the good work that has been launched by our BC chapter working-groups on Legislative outreach, Communications & Media, Strike Authorization, and Student & Alumni outreach. You have probably seen the #CutCovidNotCUNY social media campaign. You may have seen coverage of the struggle over Brooklyn College funding in The New Yorker, The Nation, and City Limits, among others. We are building the participatory local infrastructure that is needed to wage a successful struggle for a safe and fully funded university, even as campus and university leaders remain silent.

If, like those of us on the PSC chapter executive committee, you are concerned and outraged by the proposed layoffs, please wait to submit your grades until May 28, no sooner. If this seems to you like too tepid an action, unequal to the forces arrayed against us, do it anyway! Then come build capacity with us for bolder actions ahead. If this feels to you like too risky an action, rest assured that you can still provide your students with their grades as soon as you complete them, just send them by email. Here’s a way to convey to your students the urgent need for this collective action.

Please let me know if you have any feedback about this action, and if you’d like to join the dozens of colleagues engaged in outreach to others in their departments and across campus, email me (jcdavis@brooklyn.cuny.edu) and PSC organizer Janet Kwon (jkwon@pscmail.org).

In solidarity,
James Davis, English Department
BC PSC Chapter chair

Monday, May 18, 2020

Proposed resolution BC PSC Chapter Meeting, 5/21/20

The following passed as a statement of the members assembled at the May 21, 2020 special meeting of the Brooklyn College PSC chapter. Quorum not achieved: 22 yes, 3 no, 2 abstain.

WHEREAS the COVID-19 crisis has caused unprecedented physical, emotional, and economic hardship for the students, faculty, and staff of the university, many of whose families have been thrown into chaos due to layoffs, illness, or both, and

WHEREAS the governor has been granted the right to make executive cuts to the state budget, and this pressure is already being felt at Brooklyn College via demands by administration to slash Fall 2020 department budgets by as much as 25%, and

WHEREAS adjunct faculty, who are most vulnerable to these cuts, teach a majority of classes at CUNY, and have faced decades of unstable work, low wages and hyper-exploitation that have left many financially unprepared for this crisis, and

WHEREAS many adjunct faculty in particular rely upon a minimum number of courses per year to retain their health benefits, which they desperately need in the midst of this pandemic, and

WHEREAS the wellbeing of the faculty and staff are inextricably linked to the wellbeing and success of the students who attend the university and the quality and quantity of the research performed therein, and

WHEREAS a militant response from our union, up to and including a job action, is likely the only way such ruinous budget cuts can realistically be resisted, and

WHEREAS, in the last Delegate Assembly meeting the union membership was denied the opportunity to fully discuss delegate Marc Kagan's resolution, "The PSC Union will immediately ask all faculty to withhold submission of grades until such a time (if any) that best demonstrates the power of our union to disrupt the normal operations of the university. All faculty should be asked to notify their students that this action is in support of a fully-funded CUNY ”, and

WHEREAS President Bowen acknowledged there were irregularities in the voting process and attempted to hold a revote, by which time the Delegate Assembly no longer had the quorum necessary for a binding vote, and

WHEREAS, on May 13th, the City College PSC chapter passed and approved a similar resolution to this one, as did the John Jay PSC chapter on May 14th, be it

RESOLVED that we, as the Brooklyn College PSC chapter, join our fellow union members in urging the Delegate Assembly and Executive Committee of PSC to take the initiative and revote on the above resolution as soon as possible.

Monday, May 4, 2020