To help with reopening
The PSC’s national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has awarded the PSC a grant of nearly $100,000 to support, “activities by our locals that help their communities feel safe, supported, and welcome in a return to in-person learning.
These activities could include vaccination drives, outreach to vaccine-hesitant staff or students, enrollment campaigns, small-dollar grants to students with one-time obstacles to getting to or staying enrolled in school, etc.” Below is an excerpt of PSC First Vice President Andrea Vásquez’s presentation to the AFT about the PSC’s use of the grant:
Because we serve 260,000 mostly poor, working-class students (80% people of color, 60% with annual family income below $30,000 per year), we know the importance of in-person learning for our students to succeed. As faculty, we understand that high-quality online learning is possible and is not necessarily a poor pedagogical method of teaching and learning. CUNY students need small classes and face-to-face engagement with their professors and other staff charged with their academic development and overall well-being. The biggest challenge our members face is not knowing if they and their students will be fully vaccinated and safe. While CUNY nominally requires student vaccinations, they are also making plans to accommodate unvaccinated students, and their policy does not take effect until FDA provides full approval of the vaccines. We want to do everything we can to encourage students to get vaccinated. With some buildings over 100 years old, and after decades of disinvestment, our ventilation systems are not what they should be, so vaccinations and masking will be crucial.
Using joint faculty-student in-person tabling, social media paid advertising, and unpaid social media engagement, we aim to popularize a raffle for vaccinated CUNY students with grand prizes of $2,000 (and with 25 “lesser” prizes of MacBook Airs and backpacks). Through this program, we seek to incentivize vaccination and encourage mask usage for CUNY community members in order to make classrooms and public spaces at our 19 colleges safe for teaching and learning in the Fall. Right now, according to a recent CUNY survey (1/3 response rate), 59% of CUNY students are at least partially vaccinated. We believe that we can substantially increase this percentage.
Upon receiving the grant, we will design social media images encouraging CUNY student vaccination and promoting a rolling fall raffle for any vaccinated CUNY student who provides proof of vaccination. Every weekend of the Fall semester, we will raffle two MacBook Airs on Facebook and Instagram Live, and on the final weekend we will raffle one MacBook Air, and five grand, cash prizes of $2,000 each.
Over the course of the semester, we will aim to conduct 200 days of tabling across CUNY campuses. These in-person tabling events will be hosted by a CUNY student activist – recruited through the CUNY Rising Alliance – and a PSC member, recruited by the PSC. Each tabling activist will receive a $25 gift card for food when they table. Tables will have fliers promoting vaccination (in addition to materials about our campaign for a New Deal for CUNY and the national campaign for A New Deal for Higher Education), snacks to give away and, importantly, free KN95 masks. The tables will have “I’m vaccinated because….” papers that students can write on. The tablers can then take their picture with their phones and encourage them to post the images to social media with the hashtag #VaxUpCUNY. All students who show up to the table and provide proof of vaccination will be entered into the raffle (using a platform like GalaBid).
PSC’s coalition partners in the CUNY Rising Alliance (CRA) will help to administer the program and oversee outreach. With ongoing support from the AFT and PSC, CRA is well-staffed and has proven to have strong ties to CUNY communities, legislators and other activist groups. At a recent rally for city funding, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Democratic Nominee Antonio Reynoso and others spoke in support of CUNY students and a safe return to college. In addition to promotion on social media, CRA will organize PSC faculty members to contact their students and the University Student Senate to announce the opportunity throughout the summer and we will ask legislators to tweet about this opportunity for students. Dozens of CUNY Rising Alliance community partners can also help to promote the raffle. This program will not only help us make our city and university safe, but it will strengthen and increase member and student engagement.