City Campaign: Fight for Full Funding of CUNY

Updated: April 24, 2017
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PSC Members to Testify About Teaching Load and Adjunct Faculty Pay

More than 60 PSC members will testify about the need to raise adjunct salaries to $7,000 per course and implement the contractual agreement on full-time faculty workload at the next CUNY Board of Trustees hearing. The hearing took place on Wednesday, April 19, at 5:00 PM at the Borough Hall in Queens (120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens).

Written testimony from CUNY faculty

Aaron Davitt, Doctoral Student at CUNY Graduate Center and Adjunct Lecturer at Guttman Community College

"I enjoy teaching and I appreciate the experience. However, the adjunct pay rate is abysmal and it just plain sucks. It is difficult to be a quality teacher when the pay is so low. I have to take on extra adjunct positions in order to ends meet, taking away from my ability to effectively teacher. Being a veteran teacher does not make this any easier—there are no tricks or tips that I have learned over the years in order to make this low pay rate bearable." Read Davitt's full testimony here.

Amy Greenberg, Adjunct Lecturer, Brooklyn College

"I have often found myself called a “practitioner” in a derogatory manner by certain full-time staff and there is an assumption that I am not knowledgeable in theory and only in practice, an assumption that is false. I have consistently kept up with best practices and current research and am fully capable of engaging in academic research and writing. I am proud to be considered an effective practitioner. It was my choice to devote my career to working with students both at the middle and high school levels, as well as at the college level. I think I speak for many adjuncts when I say that we always put our students first, not research. Our students are our clients and they deserve our full attention." Read Greenberg's full testimony here.

Beverly P. Horowitz, Associate Professor, York College

"Adjunct faculty teach a high percentage of classes across the CUNY system. Despite their dedication they do not have sufficient time for regular office hours and student advisement on an ongoing basis. Reducing teaching requirements to 18 contact hours annually will provide full-time faculty with the additional time to develop and institute innovative curricula, provide more time for student advisement for greater numbers of CUNY students, and enable faculty to engage in additional scholarly activities, including faculty-student research endeavors." Read Horowitz's full testimony here.

Sigmund Shen, Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College

"There is no pedagogical defense for the current workload. The only reason for it is to save money. The only reason to keep saving money in this perverse way is to regard CUNY as a business. But that’s not why we’re here. The only reason to build and defend a public higher education system is because we acknowledge, we know, that we are responsible for the next generation of leaders, and if we fail in that responsibility we will all pay the price." Read Shen's full testimony here.

David Palazzo, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Hunter College

"Adjuncts are not part of the department in any meaningful manner. Yet, I routinely shape the future of students’ learning, engage them in how to navigate their studies, provide opportunities for advancement and achievement. But how effective can I really be if I have one foot in the department and one foot in another department? I operate on the assumption that the best education is one where there is a plethora of student-teacher interaction. This requires the latter actually has a presence on campus. Adjuncts do not have that presence. The perpetuation of reliance on adjunct-majority teaching is greatly detrimental to the learning environment of higher education." Read Shen's full testimony here.

David Gerwin, Associate Professor, Queens College

"I am a senior faculty member – 19 years! – in a college that lacks enough faculty to run programs, my workload is now expressed in administrative tasks. But a workload reduction that increased my full-time colleagues while also reducing my administrative burden could allow me to teach strong and innovative courses every semester, balancing my responsibilities to my program, my graduate students, and my undergraduate students, while doing the research that keeps my teaching fresh and up-to-date in the field, and provides opportunities for undergraduate mentoring and research." Read Gerwin's full testimony here.

Michael Batson, Adjunct Lecturer, College of Staten Island

"The average pay for a course is $3,400, which amounts to less than $25,000 if one were teaching a full-time load. This $3,400 covers not only the hours in the classroom, but the time preparing a course, creating a syllabus, grading assignments and exams, and importantly, meeting with students. While adjuncts share in the same proportion of talent and passion for our work as our full-time, tenured colleagues, we often teach under incredibly stressful conditions brought about by low pay and insecurity. Our parity of talent and passion should be matched by parity in pay." Read Batson's full testimony here.

Haley Bueschlen, Adjunct Assistant Professor, CSI CUNY

"Vampires are real." Read Bueschlen's full testimony here.

Stacey Engels, Adjunct Lecturer, Lehman College and Hunter College

", I spend many hours a week on lesson preparation and reading student work in addition to the time I spend in the classroom. When I began asking colleagues how they manage to grade twenty-five student essays four times a semester, in addition to all their other obligations, I learned they have developed systems that enable them to spend a fraction of the time I have been spending on each essay – literally a quarter to a fifteenth of the time I have dedicated to reviewing, correcting and commenting on student essays." Read Engels' full testimony here.

Felix Grezes, Adjunct Lecturer, Hunter College

"As a computer science adjunct lecturer, I want to be able to focus solely on my students and their work, but as a result of low wages, teaching can never be my top priority. To properly train my students, I need time to adapt my lectures and exams to their specifics needs." Read Grezes' full testimony here.

James Schlefer, Adjunct Lecturer, New York City College of Technology

"We work enthusiastically and with great sense of purpose and dedication for the students of this city, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, with the goal of nurturing an educated, well-informed citizenry for the future. Frankly, our pay is far below what it should be given the time, effort and expertise we give for our teaching." Read Schlefer's full testimony here.

Jacqueline Berger, Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology

"In the year 2000, a friend, an adjunct, had tenure at FIT, a SUNY College. Adjuncts there were eligible for tenure. That tenure was accompanied by an annual salary increase of 10 dollars a contact hour. My friend had been at FIT for ten years. In the year 2000, she was earning 89 dollars a contact hour. In comparison, 17 years later, as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYC College of Technology, with 20 years of continual service, at the top of the salary scale, I earn 96 dollars and 38 cents per contact hour. The salary difference between the two colleges over a 17 year period is 7 dollars and 38 cents. It took CUNY 17 years to become competitive with the SUNY salary offerings for the year 2000." Read Berger's full testimony here.

Welker White, Adjunct Professor, Brooklyn College

"What I have had to do is make hard choices about how to give my students the best possible learning experience. I’m chagrined to admit that I have, in several of my courses, seriously scaled back the level of writing and research I’m asking my students to do. There is simply NO WAY that I can grade up to 26 papers, prep for class, answer emails and meet students privately, and then meet them on the weekends to watch and discuss plays. I will be honest and tell you that I am not able, with the meager compensation I currently receive from CUNY, to prepare these students to move out into the world as critical thinkers and engaged and caring citizens of the world. I yearn to do better. " Read White's full testimony here.

Katherine Culkin, Associate Professor, Bronx Community College

"I love teaching at BCC, finding the students intelligent, curious, and enthusiastic. As we know, though, the students at CUNY, particularly at the community colleges, are also often unprepared and have to balance school with many other demands. The CUNY faculty’s request for a reduction in teaching load is not based on a desire to work less with students, but to serve them better." Read Culkin's full testimony here.

Lorraine Cohen, Professor of Sociology, LaGuardia Community College

"The issue of teaching load has resulted in losing some very promising faculty to other colleges whose teaching load is less onerous. One such faculty member, a historian, left my department last year while I was serving as chair; he told me that teaching load was a major factor in his decision." Read Cohen's full testimony here.

Richard Vetere, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Queens College

"I have written scripts for Paramount, Universal, ABC, CBS, and Disney, and yet what gives me the most satisfaction is helping students who come to Queens College from all over the world to learn how to write movies. And I’m treated like a seasonal worker by the Board of Trusties at CUNY. I’m hired semester-by-semester, and my pay, though I’ve been teaching nearly non-stop since 1983, is abysmal." Read Vetere's full testimony here.

Sharon Preiss, Adjunct Lecturer, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"I am an adjunct. At my current salary, with CUNY’s restrictions on the number of hours I can teach, the most money I could make a year is about $39,000. This is not what you would expect as the salary of a professional who’s tasked with performing such an important function for our students, not to mention the fact that it’s not even a livable wage in New York City. In order to make a living, then, every semester I teach for two different university systems, barely making enough money to get by." Read Preiss' full testimony here.

Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, CUNY School of Professional Studies

"I currently work three part-time jobs, but in 2015-16, I worked 5 different part-time jobs, my adjunct teaching being but one of them. Do you know what it is like to work for five different employers – to put notes next to your alarm clock to remind you of where to go when you wake up? To juggle the deadlines of multiple employers that come due at the same time, meaning some nights you don’t even bother to set that alarm clock because you know you won’t have time for sleep? To delay necessary medical care because your CUNY health insurance disappears if one of your two courses doesn’t run?" Read Fountain's full testimony here.

Rita C. Tobin, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Hunter College

"My first teaching job, in 1975, was as an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College. I was paid $1,500 per course. In today’s dollars, that’s about $7,500. Today, with more than 60% of the CUNY teach staff working part-time, a beginning adjunct is paid only a little more than half of what I earned in 1975: a 60% salary reduction in real dollars." Read Tobin's full testimony here.

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PSC Members Testify About Why CUNY Faculty Need More Time with Students and for Scholarship

Friday, March 3 President Bowen and 20 PSC members testified before the City Council in support of CUNY’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for $35 million to fund the Faculty Partnership for Student Success Initiative. The Initiative would allow a restructuring of the full-time faculty workload to enable more time with individual students and more time for research, leading to greater student success and a richer educational experience. In her testimony, Associate Professor Nichole McDaniel, chairperson of the biological sciences department at Bronx Community College, said:

“There are few things more profoundly frustrating than having a desire to help without the ability to do so. Despite seeing hundreds of students, I can’t help but see how many more there are that fall through the cracks. Our students need and deserve to have the sort of undergraduate experience that I did—for which I am extremely grateful. Our students, and the people of New York City need your help to fill in those cracks.”

Video of the hearing is available here. CUNY testified first about the University’s overall budget request. President Bowen’s testimony begins at the 1:42:00 time stamp. Testimony from other faculty and students begins at 1:54:00.

Written testimony from CUNY faculty

Parisa Assassi, Lecturer, Queensborough Community College

"Teaching is not just going to class and giving a lecture. Teaching requires preparation, creativity and research to discover effective ways of teaching. In order to be a successful instructor, we should know our students by name, their personality, their weaknesses and strengths and find an effective way to teach each class and each student. CUNY’s current workload makes it impossible for faculty and CUNY as a whole to reach our full potential." Read Assassi's full testimony here.

Charlotte Brooks, Professor, Baruch College

" my courses routinely fill to 40 students each, which is as much as most Baruch classrooms will hold. Since we have no TAs at Baruch, I do all my own grading. This grading isn’t easy. I don’t believe in using multiple choice exams, which only teach students to memorize and regurgitate answers without context or argument. My bluebook exams and papers require students to make clear arguments, show change over time, marshal evidence to back up their points, and demonstrate a deep knowledge of a particular period. They also require students to learn to read critically and write well. These are skills our students desperately need to develop both for their careers and to be good citizens. Most do not have the chance to develop these skills in their high schools, which are often overcrowded and underfunded. Furthermore, English is frequently not our students’ first language. That means our students require intensive investments of time from professors to help them build the skills I’ve described. And they deserve that investment of time. They deserve a real, thorough, and competitive college education." Read Brooks' full testimony here.

Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, College of Staten Island

"There is a direct link between the quality of one’s teaching and the ability to pursue cutting-edge scholarship and publishing. By investing in CUNY faculty through a diminution of the teaching load, New York City and State will immeasurably strengthen CUNY students." Read Dawson's full testimony here.

Luis Fernández, Professor, Bronx Community College

"A lower full-time faculty teaching load will improve the learning environment and well being of students by enhancing the time that professors can dedicate to each student. It will also improve the research output of the university and produce new grant initiatives for the advancement of science and the humanities." Read Fernández's full testimony here.

Amy E. Hughes, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College

"...our students are incredibly—and, I daresay, atypically—passionate, resourceful, driven, and, above all, diverse. Most of them step onto our campuses without the advantages and privileges that students at other colleges bring to bear on their education. Because of these disadvantages, our students need as much time as we can possibly give them."
Read Hughes' full testimony here.

Elisabeth Gareis, Professor, Baruch College

"Our current workload renders CUNY uncompetitive, not only in attracting new faculty but also in the scholarship productivity of established faculty... Faculty with a 3/4 workload (even 3/3 workload) are unable to compete nationally and internationally with colleagues who operate on a 2/2 workload." Read Gareis' full testimony here.

Yakov Genis, Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"If CUNY’s request for $35 million dollars to fund the Faculty Partnership for Student Success Initiative was included in the City budget, it would allow faculty to restructure the full-time faculty workload and pursue work that would enrich students’ learning experience. Currently, when I am teaching, I do not have enough time to work with an individual student or a small group of students. If I had more time, I would be able to help my students better." Read Genis' full testimony here.

Robin Isserles, Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"This semester, I teach five classes. In order to maintain the quality of teaching that I expect of myself, I had to cut out a short paper in two of my classes and drop an entire book from two others. You may ask why? And though it’s difficult for me to admit this, I needed a way to reduce some of the grading and necessary feedback as I now had to spread myself and my time to an additional group of students. I needed to preserve the energy that I need for the class preparations, class discussions, office hour meetings, email exchanges that are a constant, and now intensified with an additional class." Read Isserles' full testimony here.

Heather B. James, Instructor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"We cannot hope to continue to be a leader in income mobility and educational success without retaining top-quality faculty, encouraging a culture of intensive mentoring, and allowing time for innovative teaching. Our success is unsustainable if we do not address the crisis of workload at our colleges." Read James' full testimony here.

Anupama Kapse, Associate Professor, Queens College

"Our current undergraduate teaching contact hour workload is among the highest of peer institutions, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to provide the kind of attention our students need, as well as for faculty to enhance their research." Read Kapse's full testimony here.

Fern Luskin, Lecturer, LaGuardia Community College

"The rationale for requiring us to teach nine courses a year at community colleges used to be that our mission was to teach rather than publish. However, that mindset has changed – faculty members at the community colleges are also expected to publish, and that’s a good thing, because it can only enrich our students’ learning experience, but it is unequitable to require us to teach more courses than do our colleagues at the four-year colleges." Read Luskin's full testimony here.

Ángeles Donoso Macaya, Associate Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"For several semesters I have had the intention to develop a new course on Latin American visual studies. It would be so rewarding being able to develop and teach a course focused on my area of expertise, especially now that we have a major. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so, because developing a new course requires extra time. Having more time would also allow me to apply for collaborative research grants to work more closely with students during the summer—at present, I devote most of the summer to work on my own research. A restructured workload committed to teaching, service and research would certainly be beneficial in this regard."
Read Macaya's full testimony here.

Nivedita Majumdar, Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

"Our faculty works under the most trying of working conditions where teaching four or five courses to classes often of 30 or more students, conduct their research and serve their institutions in other capacities. And yet, as you’re hearing in our testimonies, our faculty routinely do over and above what’s required to make time for students and attend to their many and complex needs." Read Majumdar's full testimony here.

Hayes Peter Mauro, Assistant Professor, Queensborough Community College

"... the sheer quantity of the teaching, coupled with the special needs of many of our students, has made professional life at QCC challenging. We currently teach nine classes per academic year, in a five-four split between semesters. We are also expected to publish regularly, give conference presentations, obtain grant and fellowship funding, and engage in a large amount of extra-contractual “service” to the campus, such as committee work, assessment reporting, and program reporting. All of this makes focusing on students and their needs more and more difficult..." Read Mauro's full testimony here.

Nichole McDaniel, Associate Professor, Bronx Community College

“There are few things more profoundly frustrating than having a desire to help without the ability to do so. Despite seeing hundreds of students, I can’t help but see how many more there are that fall through the cracks. Our students need and deserve to have the sort of undergraduate experience that I did—for which I am extremely grateful. Our students, and the people of New York City need your help to fill in those cracks.” Read McDaniel's full testimony here.

Karen Miller, Professor, LaGuardia Community College

"I teach between two and four classes a term, depending on my other commitments. For me, a reduction of three credit hours annually (which would translate into one fewer class per year) would allow me to be more effective at my job because it would ease some of the tensions between my commitments." Read Miller's full testimony here.

Joyce Solomon Moorman, Associate Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"CUNY community college professors are now being required to produce scholarship equivalent to that of senior college professors. We all need a course load reduction to meet increased research demands and to spend more time with our students, especially the community colleges where we are required to teach 27 hours yearly (a 5/4 semester course load) as compared to 21 hours for the senior colleges (4/3 semester course load). If CUNY wants to be competitive with the top American universities, it must reduce the course load for its professors." Read Moorman's full testimony here.

J. Paul Narkunas, Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

"Our heavy teaching load in the humanities (with between 80-150 students in the 3 or 4 courses we teach per semester) lessens our ability to provide the personal attention to students in their written and oral feedback, to expose students to the diversity of ideas and skills they need to succeed in the changing knowledge economy, and to motivate and advise our students given their overextended and challenging lives." Read Narkunas' full testimony here.

Diana Rickard, Assistant Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College

"I have approximately 170 students this semester. As you know our students come from diverse backgrounds and underserved communities. They need and they deserve quality education which includes having professors who are there for them, who can address their individual learning styles, who can catch students who are falling behind and try to help them achieve success." Read Rickard's full testimony here.

Emily Schnee, Associate Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College

"A restructured faculty workload that accounts for the teaching, learning, and advising that must happen outside of class hours would enable me to be the professor I aspire to be and would afford our students the academic experience they deserve." Read Schnee's full testimony here.

Sigmund Shen, Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College

"I served on the hiring committee in the English department for two years and more than one of our candidates, during the interview, very candidly expressed incredulity when we notified them of the workload. Humanities Ph.D.’s can do basic arithmetic and very clearly understand that CUNY’s claim to being a research university is empty. I don’t know if I have personally seen faculty from diverse backgrounds dissuaded from working at CUNY because of the workload, but I do know that when workload suppresses active scholarship, it discourages the experimental, the unorthodox, and the minority voice, perspective, or methodology." Read Shen's full testimony here.

John B. Van Sickle, Professor, Brooklyn College & Graduate School

"... letters to our Committee on Promotion and Tenure affirm the excellence of our faculty; yet these leading professionals marvel that CUNY faculty manage to produce such significant scholarship despite the caseloads deemed extraordinary by the standards of comparable public institutions. The issue of caseload haunts not only such exchanges with colleagues but limits our ability to compete in hiring and retention: faculty caseload in short an ill-kept secret, the shame of CUNY." Read Sickle's full testimony here.