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Home » Clarion » 2021 » December 2021 » Accountability concerns at CUNY

Accountability concerns at CUNY

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The need for PSC organizing

A report by the Chronicle of Higher Education alleging CUNY administrators did not initially properly respond to allegations of workplace sexual harassment and mistreatment of staff at Hunter College reflect a lack of managerial accountability throughout the university, PSC activists said.

Hunter College faculty member Jen Gaboury
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Jen Gaboury, Hunter College PSC chapter chair, told Clarion that it was important to note that many of the workers mentioned in the Chronicle piece were Graduate Center students and many were “contingent workers and…CUNY Research Foundation [RF] workers who were not unionized.”

PRIVATE-SECTOR WORKERS

The CUNY Research Foundation is a private-sector nonprofit institution that is closely linked to CUNY, and while the PSC represents many RF workers, it doesn’t represent them all, and non-unionized workers often don’t have the same strong protections unionized workers do. From the PSC’s perspective, CUNY skirts accountability as an employer when RF employees work within CUNY.

As Naomi Zauderer, the associate executive director of the PSC explained, “CUNY hides behind the RF…. The RF exists to provide cover” for CUNY, because if an RF employee experiences a workplace problem at a CUNY campus, they have to report it to their direct employer, which is the RF, not CUNY. “They really have no authority” over CUNY colleges, Zauderer said of the RF.

Gaboury said she hoped to see more RF workers being unionized.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Hunter College faculty member Mike Fabricant
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Michael Fabricant, former PSC first vice president and a professor of social work at Hunter College, said that he hoped the Hunter administration would be more open about how it has handled claims of worker mistreatment at the college. “This is about transparency,” Fabricant said.

Hunter administration has had a spotty record regarding transparency in such cases. In late 2016, Clarion reported that “Hunter College and CUNY…agreed to revise and reexamine how they handle sexual harassment and assault allegations after a US Department of Education investigation found violations or concerns in the more than a dozen complaints emanating from the Upper East Side campus.” The report added, “The investigation found that Hunter did not make sufficiently clear where to file complaints, did not promptly and equitably address some complaints and at times failed to provide interim measures to address possible hostile environments.”

“I think there’s a structural issue,” said Michelle Fine, a distinguished professor of critical psychology, women’s studies, American Studies and urban education at the Graduate Center. “The RF, the [Graduate Center] and Hunter are separate institutions that aren’t well coordinated around this,” she said.

Fine believed that CUNY officials haven’t shown that they’re taking steps to provide more accountability when it comes to allegations of worker mistreatment.

“I fear that CUNY is circling the wagons,” she said.


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