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Home » Clarion » 2013 » June 2013 » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor


Library Faculty vs. Pathways

The members of the PSC Library Faculty Committee have “no confidence” in Pathways. We believe that faculty governance, especially the faculty’s historical role in deciding curriculum, was subverted by the process in which Pathways was designed and imposed. Moreover, we believe the Pathways structure does not foster robust, inquiry-based learning and reduces the opportunities for students to receive classroom instruction from librarians.

Jill Cirasella, John Drobnicki, Lisa Ellis, Robert Farrell, William Gargan, Mariana Regalado, Sharon Swacker, Tess Tobin, Elizabeth Tompkins for the PSC Library Faculty Committee

Referendum Structure Criticized

Expediency is the mother of oppression and discontent. The union leadership’s decision not to allow the adjuncts who teach more than 50% of the courses at CUNY to participate in the Pathways referendum blatantly shows their support of the two-tier system which they profess to abhor. We pay union dues and yet are denied a basic right of membership: the vote on issues that impact us such as curriculum. “No taxation without representation.” Revolutions happen.

Howard Pflanzer
Bronx Community College

PSC President Barbara Bowen responds: The two-tier labor system remains the most intractable and destructive issue in higher education. I can understand why adjuncts, especially those whose primary employment is at CUNY, would feel stung when the union conducts a referendum in which they are not included. When so much of an adjunct’s daily experience at CUNY is about exclusion – from job security, reasonable pay, office space, even respect – being excluded from a union vote could be especially hurtful.

But the deeply ingrained two-tier labor system could not, of course, be dismantled by the inclusion of adjuncts in this vote. The union is working incrementally toward that end, most immediately by securing adjunct health insurance, but it will take a massive economic and political reform to accomplish it.

The referendum was a tactic, not a “basic right of membership.” Adjuncts have the right to participate in leadership elections and contract ratification votes, just as full-timers do. The referendum was limited to full-time faculty because it is full-time faculty who have a statutory role in the development of curriculum – a role that has been usurped by the Pathways process – and full-time faculty whose views of Pathways have been consistently misrepresented by the CUNY administration. The union’s elected delegates discussed the issue at length and voted overwhelmingly to affirm the design of the referendum (see page 7).

Many adjuncts worked their hearts out in support of the referendum, as did many full-timers in support of adjunct health insurance. That kind of solidarity holds the most promise for overturning the two-tier system.

Further Thoughts on CUNYfirst

I’m glad to see PSC members’ very active discussion on CUNYfirst (see pages 10-11) that’s followed Clarion’s publication of my op-ed “CUNYfirst, Users Last” (May 2013) on this new computer system. I’m writing to add a couple of further comments:

(1) Enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) like CUNYfirst are massive software systems that integrate the data flow of all business functions (inventory, sales, accounts payable and receivable, human resources, etc.) across an enterprise. These systems began to make their appearance in the corporate world of the 1980s. In the 1990s, ERPs created efficiencies that helped fuel the leaps in profitability in companies such as Apple, McDonalds, Philips and others, and constituted an essential tool for exploiting the business opportunities made available by globalization. As the new century dawned, and with it the corporate model of the university, it was perhaps inevitable that university chancellories would become interested in ERPs. But CUNY’s use of a business-oriented ERP, without customization for the different needs of an academic environment, has obviously created severe problems.

(2) In my article, I referred to my own very limited duties as a “training liaison” for CUNYfirst. But every campus has its own training liaison, and I know directly that many or most have far greater responsibilities than mine: they actively recruit trainers, do training themselves and are much more involved in the CUNYFirst rollout than I was. Typically, they are asked to do this without reduction of their other duties, i.e., the usual HEO raw deal. By not making this clear, I unintentionally did those folks an injustice.

David Arnow
Brooklyn College

CUNY and Italian Americans

It may come as a surprise to many readers that Italian Americans are designated “an affirmative action category for this University [CUNY] in addition to those categorized under existing Federal statutes and regulations….” This directive, issued by then Chancellor Robert Kibbee in 1976, has been reaffirmed by subsequent chancellors and confirmed in federal court. CUNY’s failure to hire adequate numbers of people of color or women in professional positions is compounded by histories of ethnic discrimination against Italian Americans and others.

This lingering issue was the topic of a March 27 conference “Italian Americans and Discrimination in Higher Education” held at St. John’s University. Ironically, the conference was not sponsored by the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute – a CUNY chartered institute designated, in part, to ensure CUNY’s compliance with antidiscriminatory mandates. The March conference at St. John’s was, instead, sponsored by the American Association of Affirmative Action and other organizations not affiliated with CUNY.

Both the Calandra Institute and CUNY’s Italian American Faculty and Staff Council (IAFSC) have remained silent despite repeated calls from many faculty and staff for a CUNY-wide conference to report and disseminate the apparent quagmire status of Italian Americans at CUNY. This conspicuous lack of action only reinforces the “invisible minority” status of Italian Americans at CUNY, as documented by Dr. Francis Elmi’s seminal 1996 study.

Mario Caruso
Queens College

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