PSC had protested cuts
In the Fall semester, as members at senior colleges were mobilizing against budget cuts at their campuses, the PSC chapter at Queens College was facing a reduction that seemed particularly dire. As Clarion reported, the English department was bracing for a cut of 800 seats out of a total of 1,200 seats allocated for introductory English classes for the Spring 2020 semester.
In satirical pamphlets, the PSC chapter at Queens asserted that English classes were going to be awarded to students in a lottery process where only the lucky ones could be assured access to the required courses they needed to graduate. Meanwhile, English adjuncts were without classes to teach as a result, union activists said.
The good news is that this Spring semester, the cuts have been avoided.
“We cut some seats, about 150 or so, but we were able to do so without having to let go of any adjuncts who depended on our department for work, so that worked out okay,” said Karen Weingarten, the interim English department chair. “It was nowhere as dramatic as we anticipated.”
When the cuts were first announced, the PSC chapter at Queens College confronted CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez – who until last year served as the president of Queens College – about the English department cuts in a campus Q&A session. At the session, David Gerwin, PSC chapter chair, said the cuts constituted a “red line” that the campus could not afford to cross.
“It was the one cut that most clearly demonstrated what would have happened to Queens,” Gerwin told Clarion, adding that such severe cuts would have redefined the college in a fundamental way. “At Queens College, you have a good chance of getting the classes you need to graduate. If they had cut 800 out of more than 1,000 seats in mid-level required English classes, that wouldn’t be true.”
According to Gerwin, the cuts would have made it nearly impossible for students to get into the classes they needed. “This showed how far down the road Queens was toward disaster,” he said.
The administration did not say whether union protests against the English department reductions were what prompted the college to avert the cuts. While he expressed relief that the English department cuts were largely avoided, Gerwin added that members are still organizing against systemwide budget tightening.