PSC Members Testify About Why CUNY Faculty Need More Time with Students and for Scholarship
Friday, March 3 President Bowen and 20 PSC members testified before the City Council in support of CUNY’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request for $35 million to fund the Faculty Partnership for Student Success Initiative. The Initiative would allow a restructuring of the full-time faculty workload to enable more time with individual students and more time for research, leading to greater student success and a richer educational experience. In her testimony, Associate Professor Nichole McDaniel, chairperson of the biological sciences department at Bronx Community College, said:
“There are few things more profoundly frustrating than having a desire to help without the ability to do so. Despite seeing hundreds of students, I can’t help but see how many more there are that fall through the cracks. Our students need and deserve to have the sort of undergraduate experience that I did—for which I am extremely grateful. Our students, and the people of New York City need your help to fill in those cracks.”
Video of the hearing is available here. CUNY testified first about the University’s overall budget request. President Bowen’s testimony begins at the 1:42:00 time stamp. Testimony from other faculty and students begins at 1:54:00.
Written testimony from CUNY faculty
Parisa Assassi, Lecturer, Queensborough Community College
“Teaching is not just going to class and giving a lecture. Teaching requires preparation, creativity and research to discover effective ways of teaching. In order to be a successful instructor, we should know our students by name, their personality, their weaknesses and strengths and find an effective way to teach each class and each student. CUNY’s current workload makes it impossible for faculty and CUNY as a whole to reach our full potential.” Read Assassi’s full testimony here.
Charlotte Brooks, Professor, Baruch College
” my courses routinely fill to 40 students each, which is as much as most Baruch classrooms will hold. Since we have no TAs at Baruch, I do all my own grading. This grading isn’t easy. I don’t believe in using multiple choice exams, which only teach students to memorize and regurgitate answers without context or argument. My bluebook exams and papers require students to make clear arguments, show change over time, marshal evidence to back up their points, and demonstrate a deep knowledge of a particular period. They also require students to learn to read critically and write well. These are skills our students desperately need to develop both for their careers and to be good citizens. Most do not have the chance to develop these skills in their high schools, which are often overcrowded and underfunded. Furthermore, English is frequently not our students’ first language. That means our students require intensive investments of time from professors to help them build the skills I’ve described. And they deserve that investment of time. They deserve a real, thorough, and competitive college education.” Read Brooks’ full testimony here.
Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, College of Staten Island
“There is a direct link between the quality of one’s teaching and the ability to pursue cutting-edge scholarship and publishing. By investing in CUNY faculty through a diminution of the teaching load, New York City and State will immeasurably strengthen CUNY students.” Read Dawson’s full testimony here.
Luis Fernández, Professor, Bronx Community College
“A lower full-time faculty teaching load will improve the learning environment and well being of students by enhancing the time that professors can dedicate to each student. It will also improve the research output of the university and produce new grant initiatives for the advancement of science and the humanities.” Read Fernández’s full testimony here.
Amy E. Hughes, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College
“…our students are incredibly—and, I daresay, atypically—passionate, resourceful, driven, and, above all, diverse. Most of them step onto our campuses without the advantages and privileges that students at other colleges bring to bear on their education. Because of these disadvantages, our students need as much time as we can possibly give them.”
Read Hughes’ full testimony here.
Elisabeth Gareis, Professor, Baruch College
“Our current workload renders CUNY uncompetitive, not only in attracting new faculty but also in the scholarship productivity of established faculty… Faculty with a 3/4 workload (even 3/3 workload) are unable to compete nationally and internationally with colleagues who operate on a 2/2 workload.” Read Gareis’ full testimony here.
Yakov Genis, Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“If CUNY’s request for $35 million dollars to fund the Faculty Partnership for Student Success Initiative was included in the City budget, it would allow faculty to restructure the full-time faculty workload and pursue work that would enrich students’ learning experience. Currently, when I am teaching, I do not have enough time to work with an individual student or a small group of students. If I had more time, I would be able to help my students better.” Read Genis’ full testimony here.
Robin Isserles, Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“This semester, I teach five classes. In order to maintain the quality of teaching that I expect of myself, I had to cut out a short paper in two of my classes and drop an entire book from two others. You may ask why? And though it’s difficult for me to admit this, I needed a way to reduce some of the grading and necessary feedback as I now had to spread myself and my time to an additional group of students. I needed to preserve the energy that I need for the class preparations, class discussions, office hour meetings, email exchanges that are a constant, and now intensified with an additional class.” Read Isserles’ full testimony here.
Heather B. James, Instructor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“We cannot hope to continue to be a leader in income mobility and educational success without retaining top-quality faculty, encouraging a culture of intensive mentoring, and allowing time for innovative teaching. Our success is unsustainable if we do not address the crisis of workload at our colleges.” Read James’ full testimony here.
Anupama Kapse, Associate Professor, Queens College
“Our current undergraduate teaching contact hour workload is among the highest of peer institutions, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to provide the kind of attention our students need, as well as for faculty to enhance their research.” Read Kapse’s full testimony here.
Fern Luskin, Lecturer, LaGuardia Community College
“The rationale for requiring us to teach nine courses a year at community colleges used to be that our mission was to teach rather than publish. However, that mindset has changed – faculty members at the community colleges are also expected to publish, and that’s a good thing, because it can only enrich our students’ learning experience, but it is unequitable to require us to teach more courses than do our colleagues at the four-year colleges.” Read Luskin’s full testimony here.
Ángeles Donoso Macaya, Associate Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“For several semesters I have had the intention to develop a new course on Latin American visual studies. It would be so rewarding being able to develop and teach a course focused on my area of expertise, especially now that we have a major. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do so, because developing a new course requires extra time. Having more time would also allow me to apply for collaborative research grants to work more closely with students during the summer—at present, I devote most of the summer to work on my own research. A restructured workload committed to teaching, service and research would certainly be beneficial in this regard.”
Read Macaya’s full testimony here.
Nivedita Majumdar, Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
“Our faculty works under the most trying of working conditions where teaching four or five courses to classes often of 30 or more students, conduct their research and serve their institutions in other capacities. And yet, as you’re hearing in our testimonies, our faculty routinely do over and above what’s required to make time for students and attend to their many and complex needs.” Read Majumdar’s full testimony here.
Hayes Peter Mauro, Assistant Professor, Queensborough Community College
“… the sheer quantity of the teaching, coupled with the special needs of many of our students, has made professional life at QCC challenging. We currently teach nine classes per academic year, in a five-four split between semesters. We are also expected to publish regularly, give conference presentations, obtain grant and fellowship funding, and engage in a large amount of extra-contractual “service” to the campus, such as committee work, assessment reporting, and program reporting. All of this makes focusing on students and their needs more and more difficult…” Read Mauro’s full testimony here.
Nichole McDaniel, Associate Professor, Bronx Community College
“There are few things more profoundly frustrating than having a desire to help without the ability to do so. Despite seeing hundreds of students, I can’t help but see how many more there are that fall through the cracks. Our students need and deserve to have the sort of undergraduate experience that I did—for which I am extremely grateful. Our students, and the people of New York City need your help to fill in those cracks.” Read McDaniel’s full testimony here.
Karen Miller, Professor, LaGuardia Community College
“I teach between two and four classes a term, depending on my other commitments. For me, a reduction of three credit hours annually (which would translate into one fewer class per year) would allow me to be more effective at my job because it would ease some of the tensions between my commitments.” Read Miller’s full testimony here.
Joyce Solomon Moorman, Associate Professor, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“CUNY community college professors are now being required to produce scholarship equivalent to that of senior college professors. We all need a course load reduction to meet increased research demands and to spend more time with our students, especially the community colleges where we are required to teach 27 hours yearly (a 5/4 semester course load) as compared to 21 hours for the senior colleges (4/3 semester course load). If CUNY wants to be competitive with the top American universities, it must reduce the course load for its professors.” Read Moorman’s full testimony here.
J. Paul Narkunas, Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
“Our heavy teaching load in the humanities (with between 80-150 students in the 3 or 4 courses we teach per semester) lessens our ability to provide the personal attention to students in their written and oral feedback, to expose students to the diversity of ideas and skills they need to succeed in the changing knowledge economy, and to motivate and advise our students given their overextended and challenging lives.” Read Narkunas’ full testimony here.
Emily Schnee, Associate Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College
“A restructured faculty workload that accounts for the teaching, learning, and advising that must happen outside of class hours would enable me to be the professor I aspire to be and would afford our students the academic experience they deserve.” Read Schnee’s full testimony here.
Sigmund Shen, Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College
“I served on the hiring committee in the English department for two years and more than one of our candidates, during the interview, very candidly expressed incredulity when we notified them of the workload. Humanities Ph.D.’s can do basic arithmetic and very clearly understand that CUNY’s claim to being a research university is empty. I don’t know if I have personally seen faculty from diverse backgrounds dissuaded from working at CUNY because of the workload, but I do know that when workload suppresses active scholarship, it discourages the experimental, the unorthodox, and the minority voice, perspective, or methodology.” Read Shen’s full testimony here.
John B. Van Sickle, Professor, Brooklyn College & Graduate School
“… letters to our Committee on Promotion and Tenure affirm the excellence of our faculty; yet these leading professionals marvel that CUNY faculty manage to produce such significant scholarship despite the caseloads deemed extraordinary by the standards of comparable public institutions. The issue of caseload haunts not only such exchanges with colleagues but limits our ability to compete in hiring and retention: faculty caseload in short an ill-kept secret, the shame of CUNY.” Read Sickle’s full testimony here.