This summer, Clarion reported on a major PSC victory to create over 500 new full-time positions and the union’s subsequent demand to prioritize current adjunct faculty to fill those positions. Part of the union’s proposed legislation in the New Deal for CUNY (ND4C) calls for the creation of new full-time faculty positions. In last spring’s state budget negotiations, the union won a commitment from the state to create the new full-time faculty positions at CUNY, a significant step toward achieving the goals of the ND4C. Scores of people have already been hired into new full-time positions.
Immediately after securing the commitment, the union began a campaign to pressure the CUNY administration to “Hire from Within.” For years, adjuncts have provided excellent instruction to students despite not having adequate compensation or the job protections of their full-time colleagues. The only “just” thing to do, from the union’s perspective, is to fill the new full-time lecturer positions with CUNY adjuncts. Hence the campaign: “Hire from Within for Excellence and Justice.”
A PSC CAMPAIGN
Thanks to the hard work of union activists, many CUNY adjuncts across the university have been hired in full-time lines this Fall. For these PSC members, the new jobs have made their lives materially better.
Union activists argue that the university can and should do more to advance veteran CUNY adjuncts to full-time positions, including pushing the state legislature to pass the full New Deal for CUNY and advocating that both the State and City fully fund public higher education. Clarion heard from former adjuncts who are now in full-time positions.
I have worked as an adjunct for 10 years. I love teaching at CUNY. Working with CUNY students is the most challenging and rewarding work I’ve ever done. What makes the work challenging, however, is less the nuances of pedagogy and more the fact that adjuncts are severely underpaid.
When I started as an adjunct, I was in my mid-20s. I was single, had recently graduated from law school with massive debt and had not yet started graduate school. I didn’t make much money, but I didn’t need to at that time in my life. Over the course of 10 years, however, a lot changed. I started graduate school, got married and had kids. In other words, I lived my life. But the reality of working as an adjunct made “living my life” hard to do.
Until the union’s last contract, when we won a significant increase in adjunct pay, my wages barely covered the cost of part-time childcare. Even with that raise, though, my family continued to struggle because of my low adjunct pay.
When COVID hit, my family was lucky because my partner and I were able to work from home. But our home wasn’t big enough for two adults to work full-time, while two toddlers ran rampant. We had to move, thus increasing our rent. We also faced increased medical costs. My daughter has a club foot and needs occasional surgeries. Despite being on graduate student insurance, we faced routine and increasing medical costs, higher rent and ongoing childcare costs. It became increasingly clear that the instability and underpaid nature of adjunct work just wasn’t working for my family. I started looking at open positions in high school teaching jobs.
When [Andrew] Cuomo resigned and [Kathy] Hochul became governor, for the first time in many years, the union was able to win significant funding in the state budget for CUNY. That funding opened up hundreds of lecturer lines. I applied for an open lecturer position.
Thankfully, I was hired. Because of that, I am able to keep working at CUNY. I have the time to focus on students, lesson plans and grading. I can also contribute service work to my department, something that I was barred from as an adjunct. I am able to keep doing the work that I am passionate about while also providing for my family.
That’s not all. Being hired as a full-timer means I’ll have time. I won’t have to work winter and summer breaks. I’ll finally be able to start working on my dissertation again, since between my family, my work and union activism, there was never time for scholarship. Being hired as a full-timer has given me two things every teacher, every scholar (and every person) needs: a good salary and time.
MORE FULL-TIME LINES
The union needs to push for more funding in the state budget to open more lecturer lines. We need the New Deal for CUNY to achieve real job security and wage equity for adjunct workers. But, also crucial, hiring committees need to look seriously at adjunct candidates for available lecturer lines. Full-time professors need to recognize us as experts and as colleagues. The adjunctification of CUNY must end, but for that to happen, the union needs to work hard internally at CUNY as well as externally with lawmakers.
John Jay College
Achieving the dream
My childhood dream was to become a teacher. In my home country, Malaysia, this dream would likely have never become a reality. My immigration to the United States provided me with a new opportunity that I was determined to take. I wanted to follow the direction of my childhood dream, to get a college education and become a teacher. After working for some years, I was able to save enough money and attend evening and weekend classes at Borough of Manhattan Community College.
I earned an associate degree at BMCC and was then accepted by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. Following the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I earned my master’s degree at Lehman College.
In the Fall of 2009 I was hired as an adjunct at BMCC. During my time as an adjunct, I attended many workshops hosted by the Open Educational Resources (OER) team, which helped me hone my teaching skills and techniques. I saw my successes in the success of my students. My Summer Immersion Program classes saw as high as 100% passing rates. Through the years, I have continued to teach and learn, to better serve BMCC and my students. The pandemic brought special challenges to us all with remote learning and online platforms.
After 13 years as an adjunct, beginning in the Fall of 2022, I was hired in a new full-time lecturer position. As a full-time lecturer, I will get the opportunity to attend more conferences and to further my teaching abilities. I will have a greater number of students to teach, motivate and encourage.
I am living my childhood dream. I am helping my students expand their learning and enrich their education. I’ve attained the American dream. Hard work and perseverance brought me to where I am, and I could not be prouder to be a part of the BMCC family. I look forward to many years of teaching ahead.
Borough of Manhattan Community College
What is to be done?
My field, English composition, had many open lines across CUNY, almost all of them at senior colleges. I applied to 11 of those positions. I was very fortunate to be offered a lecturer position at City College of New York this year.
Above all, this job gives me stability. This was going to be my last year with PhD funding and I didn’t know what I would do for money or for health insurance after that, since my fellowship was close to half of my income. This job means my partner and I are able to begin to seriously discuss when we want to start a family. A New York State pension means I have a retirement plan beyond “hope that capitalism is overthrown before 2065.” (Although, I do still hope for that).
However, many of these lines are going to external hires. Someone I know found out that the hiring committee in her department was specifically looking for folks with research experience, postdoctoral fellowships and publications, even though these CUNY lines are supposed to be for dedicated teachers.
I think the union should negotiate for new lines dedicated explicitly to CUNY adjuncts, as we have done in the past, by creating a system of conversion, where any adjunct who wants to be hired full-time will automatically be converted into a full-time lecturer once they meet the conditions. Adjuncts teaching as much as they can under the 9-6 rule are already teaching a full-time teaching load, so I think in many cases, adjuncts are teaching the course sections needed in order to be converted to full-time roles. The need is there. CUNY just doesn’t want to pay for the salaries and benefits of lecturers, when adjuncts are so much cheaper.
Published: September 28, 2022 | Last Modified: November 9, 2022