CUNY Faculty Protests Hiring of David Petraeus

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July 9, 2013
Fran Clark,, 646-459-6882



New York—The union representing faculty and staff at the City University of New York has called CUNY’s plan to pay disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus $150,000 to teach one seminar per semester “obscene” and has demanded that the University set priorities that fit its mission.

"It is obscene for a university that operates on a bare-bones budget to pay anyone $150,000 for a single course per semester. Every dollar raised at CUNY, whether from public or private sources, should go to providing broad access to a quality college education," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (AFT #2334).

More than half of CUNY students come from families with annual incomes below $30,000 and three-quarters of CUNY students are people of color. They depend on CUNY, but the university is struggling to serve them. Years of public disinvestment have led to tuition hikes (most recently, $1,500 over 5 years), full-time faculty shortages, and overdependence on and exploitation of adjunct faculty. Adjuncts at CUNY earn about $3,000 per class—one fiftieth of what Petraeus will receive. They have no job security, lesser benefits than their full-time colleagues and no team of CUNY-funded graduate students at their disposal, as Petraeus will have.

Many faculty and staff see the Petraeus appointment as an example of the Chancellor’s skewed priorities. “This appointment moves CUNY in the wrong direction and sends the wrong message about what is needed,” said Steve London, first vice president of the Professional Staff Congress. “We need smaller classes, more financial aid for students, more fulltime faculty and better learning conditions for all our students.”

CUNY claims that they will pay Petraeus by raising private funds and funneling them through the CUNY Research Foundation, an organization that administers grants that is closely associated with CUNY administration.

On the same day that news broke of CUNY’s plans to pay Petraeus $150,000 via the CUNY Research Foundation, employees represented by the PSC were on a one-day strike outside the Foundation’s central office. They have been without a contract for six months, and the Foundation management is offering below inflation salary increases, demanding excessive concessions for new hires and increasing heath care costs for employees.

Over a hundred research Foundation workers and their supporters took part in the walk out, including Anthony Dixon, chair of the Professional Staff Congress chapter at the Research Foundation's central office.

“That $150,000 for Petraeus is almost enough to cover a 3% salary increase for our entire bargaining unit,” said Dixon.