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Home » Clarion » 2015 » March 2015 » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor


Contract Organizing and PSC History

The contract impasse not only denies much-needed compensation and improvements in benefits for individual members, it weakens the PSC. While the Taylor Act discourages strike actions, we could organize strike-like activities that could result in a breakthrough.

An incident in the history of the Hostos PSC chapter supports implementing such a tactic that had genuine effect. In the spring of 1973, when the PSC was just being formed, CUNY faculty and staff were working without a contract. The fledgling union called on the chapters to organize informational picket lines in front of the campus entrances. At Hostos, the president-to-be of the PSC, Irwin Polishook, and its director, Arnold Cantor (who recently died), joined 15-or-so professors in a very sad-looking picket line.

Shortly after we began shuffling around, a couple of student onlookers approached me, and asked what was going on. After I told them we had been working without a contract, they asked, “Can we join you?” Well, the picket line swelled with students who began chanting, “We need a contract!” (At the time, no one saw that as being a bit incongruous.) The informational picket line could be seen as prefiguring the real thing, and it also manifested the potential of faculty-staff-student unity.

Although we didn’t realize it at the time, this faculty-staff-student picket line was the beginning of a coalition that achieved great victories for Hostos: the acquisition of facilities and funds for their renovation and, most consequentially, the rescission of a Board of Higher Education resolution in 1976 to close the college. For sure, the informational picket lines also helped the PSC obtain its first contract.

Gerald Meyer (emeritus)
Hostos Community College

Don’t Exclude Adjuncts

When I first saw the “15-Minute Activist” box on the back page of the most recent Clarion – headlined “Know A New Retiree?” – I was miffed that the headline didn’t say “full-time retiree.” My sense of neglect was magnified by the headline for the related article on page 9, “Your Medicare Part B Premium Refund.”

As a longtime CUNY adjunct, I wondered where I was in the “your”? As the text of the article stated, reimbursement for retirees’ Medicare B premiums is available only to those with retirement health coverage from the New York City Health Benefits Program. But while eligible adjunct faculty are now covered by the NYC plan while working, it still does not cover us in retirement.

The article made no mention of the PSC’s unsuccessful struggle to get post-retirement health benefits for adjuncts or the fact that we don’t have any. As an older adjunct, I realize I am sensitive to this issue, but I’m not alone: 14,000 part-timers, many of whom, like myself, have worked for CUNY for decades, are left with slim pensions and without the support of short-term disability benefits or medical insurance reimbursements in retirement.

Marcia Newfield
PSC Vice President for Part-Time Personnel

Clarion Editor Peter Hogness responds: Marcia Newfield is right, and we apologize for the error. It would have been simple to add “Full-Time” to the short headline on the back page, and to note clearly on page 9 – in the main headline, or the secondary head, or the pull quote – that the benefit the article describes is one available to full-timers. Headlines must often leave out important information that is provided only in the article itself, but in this case we had better alternatives and didn’t use them. The same is true in this case for the article itself, which discussed the history of the benefit and could have included this point in that discussion.
Thanks for showing us where we went off-track; it will help improve our coverage in the future.

CUNY Admissions Deserve Close Scrutiny

In discussion on the recent Atlantic article on race and CUNY admissions, let’s keep the big picture in mind.

LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner are two of New York’s best reporters, journalists of great integrity and enormous knowledge, especially on education. They took on a very big, important story, one no other journalists had bothered to try and tell: the long-term impact of Giuliani-era changes at CUNY on low-income and college-needy minorities. That this aroused outrage in some quarters is no surprise. Neither is the possibility of mistakes or important information that remained shrouded. Reporters know these are the hazards of the business we’ve chosen. But they take nothing away from the importance of Hancock and Kolodner’s tough scrutiny of what is one of New York’s greatest institutions.

Tom Robbins
CUNY School of Journalism

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