June 7, 2021
As you may have heard, the Graduate Center is opening library study spaces to students today “without in-person services.” Members of the Graduate Center PSC Chapter will be conducting a health and safety walkthrough of these spaces tomorrow, to ensure that the spaces are safe for members of the GC community. We need to make sure that the GC is doing everything possible to reduce indoor concentrations of the coronavirus and stop it from spreading in our communities. A key way to do this is through the ventilation system, which is why we need to inspect airflow and other measures put in place as more people start visiting the building.
We understand the devastating impact COVID has had on research and teaching and that reopening the library is seen by many as an important first step in regaining a sense of academic and intellectual normalcy. However, in our excitement about the prospect of returning to campus we cannot betray solidarity with our colleagues who are now being asked to go to work without proper assurance that their workplace is safe.
As a result of impact bargaining with the PSC, CUNY management has agreed that workers and their union representatives have the right to conduct pre-occupancy walkthroughs, and has encouraged college presidents to facilitate them. Moreover, colleges have been issued explicit guidance “to maintain open communication with the unions representing your employees and attempt to discuss and address concerns that arise.” Therefore, we are dismayed that the Graduate Center administration did not communicate with our union in advance about the library reopening or provide us the opportunity to inspect the library before June 7. More broadly, we echo the forceful statement of a May 21 resolution passed by the Doctoral and Graduate Students’ Council, which bemoaned the lack of transparency and inclusion in the Graduate Center’s reopening plans, and reinforced the PSC Standards for Safe Opening at CUNY.
These PSC standards cover a wide range of issues associated with reopening, including testing, vaccinations, ventilation, health and safety walkthroughs, and accommodations for remote work. Our May 20 Town Hall on Safe Reopening provided a large forum for educating our members about the PSC standards. In the coming weeks and months, our chapter will be conducting multiple pre-occupancy health and safety walkthroughs across our chapter campuses in the lead-up to CUNY’s proposed return-to-campus day on August 2nd.
If you’d like to be trained in what to look for and what questions to ask when you inspect your workplace, we strongly encourage you to sign up for the next PSC health and Safety watchdog workshop on June 10 at 3:30pm. Please also complete this short form to indicate your interest in scheduling a walkthrough of your workspace.
Our PSC chapter includes multiple campuses other than the Graduate Center. Throughout the spring semester, we held labor-management meetings at the School of Public Health, the School of Labor and Urban Studies, Macaulay Honors College, and the School of Professional Studies. Reopening was central to all these discussions. We have dedicated health and safety activists at these campuses, and their contact details are provided below.
The PSC-GC Executive Committee
The PSC-GC Health and Safety Committee
Individual health and safety representatives (contact information linked):
Gerry Martini (Graduate Center)
Zee Dempster (Graduate Center)
Roxanne Shirazi (Graduate Center)
Lori Rothstein (Graduate Center Research Foundation)
Jean Grassman (School of Public Health)
Luisa Borrell (School of Public Health)
Susan Fountain (School of Professional Studies)
Penny Lewis (School of Labor and Urban Studies)
Lynne Turner, PSC-GC Chapter Chair (contact for Macaulay Honors College and School of Journalism)