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Letters to the Editor

CUNY chutzpah

The first Tuesday in December is often called “Giving Tuesday.” This year the chancellor asked CUNY workers to donate to CUNY. I received my undergraduate and one of my master’s degrees from CUNY. Usually, I am happy to donate to CUNY, but this year is different.

I am a proud member of the PSC. I worked very hard to help us get this current contract, in which we were scheduled to receive a 2% raise in November, but the chancellor at the start of November decided unilaterally to withhold this raise. Then he had the unmitigated gall, on Giving Tuesday, to ask us to make a donation to CUNY. By withholding my raise, he received, without my permission, money from me. Even if eventually he gives me back all the retroactive increase I am owed, he may have access to the interest which that raise generates.

The chancellor has not taken the multiple millions of dollars that this raise consists of and stuck it under his mattress. Presumably, he is spending it on CUNY. And then he comes along and requests that I give on Giving Tuesday to CUNY because they didn’t get any money from me. That is the equivalent of a robber stealing from a store and later on contacting the store owner and requesting a loan or a gift of money because he is poor. The chancellor had the right to use impact bargaining to delay paying out that raise and maybe using a percentage or all of the interest for CUNY’s use [if it is negotiated]. Had he done that I would have agreed to make a donation to CUNY on Giving Tuesday.

Because he didn’t bargain with the union or even have the courtesy to send employees notice of his decision, I donated the same amount to all the CUNYs I am connected to. I donated $0.00 to Hunter College, where I received my undergraduate degree; $0.00 to Queens College, where I received my master’s in library science; and $0.00 to York College, where I work. Maybe next year the chancellor will have made me whole and I will be able to donate to CUNY once again.

Scott Sheidlower
York College
Editor’s note: The writer is the PSC chapter chair at York. See more on this story on page 3.

Remote teaching blues

The transition to remote learning in March 2020 created anxiety for students. I had installed an app for communication with students in case we moved online. The uncertainties surrounding the circumstances scared me as well, but with the help of close colleagues, we managed to move the courses to distance learning swiftly. It was “learn as you go” mode for a few weeks.

Recording live lectures and giving access to students helped them. Teaching math didn’t make things any easier. Mathematics anxiety is real. Compounded with a new modality of instruction (and in a way, a new reality), it created a new learning environment. Students realized that they needed to be self-driven to succeed. I found myself doing wellness check-ins with students on most days. Unfortunately, some students were coping with the loss of wages – others were coping with the loss of family members. Wellness check-ins became an integral part of my pedagogy. The situation required more flexibility than I usually provide, and four weeks after the transition, I was happy to see that students had adapted well.

The semester did not pass without witnessing a sad story. Notably, a senior student, whom I had known since her first year at the college, had to drop out due to extenuating family circumstances, which particularly pained me.

I also taught Spring II, which is our summer session. The class capacity mirrored the face-to-face size and was manageable. Luckily, students knew what to expect in the virtual environment, and they hit the ground running on day one. Retention in my class was 100%. Students had, for the most part, adapted to the new modality of instruction and for math specifically; they enjoyed synchronous teaching. Mathematics anxiety in the distance-learning environment wasn’t completely gone, but several students managed to sail through it.

I do hope my campus continues to provide students with remote-learning devices and continues to give us manageable class sizes so we can continue to serve students as best we can. Currently, all my courses are at capacity, similar to the case of face-to-face courses from last fall. The class-size cap should remain intact to keep our momentum in retaining students. It takes more than teaching to keep our students engaged and motivated.

Reem Jaafar
LaGuardia Community College