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Home » Issues » PSC Voices Rise at Trustees Hearing

PSC Voices Rise at Trustees Hearing

On November 21, 2011 the CUNY Board of Trustees held a hearing to collect public testimony on a number of items scheduled to come before the Board at their November 28 meeting. At the hearing, testimony focused on three issues: adjunct health insurance, tuition hikes and revisions of the CUNY Bylaws that would undermine faculty and staff rights.

More than 20 part-time and full-time faculty and staff presented testimony demanding that CUNY follow through with their commitment to seek funding for adjunct health coverage. Another dozen submitted written testimony on the same subject.

While the hearing was going on, peaceful protesters—CUNY students speaking out against unfair tuition hikes and the privatization of public higher education—were shoved by police with batons and reported being hit as CUNY security forced them out of the lobby of Baruch College’s Vertical Campus. A number of students were also forcibly removed from the hearing itself after raising their collective voices with several Occupy Wall Street style “mic checks.” See PSC’s statement.

Officers’ Testimony

PSC’s Overall Message to the Trustees

Testimony of Barbara Bowen, PresidentBB_by_Gary S.JPG
We strongly support the University’s budget request, particularly its inclusion of funds for adjunct health insurance…We firmly oppose changes to the Bylaws that would increase the power of the chancellor and eliminate traditional rights of the faculty…Charging students more in tuition is not the way to solve the University’s budget crisis.(Full testimony)

Continue the “Millionaires’ Tax” to Fund Investment in CUNY

Testimony of Steve London, First Vice PresidentSLondon_Mid-YearCutsTestimony_Albany10-2009.jpg
PSC strongly support the University’s request for funds for adjunct health insurance and investment in new full-time faculty lines. The call for additional public resources to cover the University’s mandatory costs and a share of the University’s investment plan is important at a time when austerity policies have undermined the University’s ability to deliver a quality education to our student body. But there is another way—a better way—to fund CUNY. Instead of turning low- and middle-income students into cash machines for the state debt, New York should continue the “millionaires’ tax” and find other progressive taxes to fund needed State and City investments. (Full testimony)

Demanding changes to proposed revisions of CUNY’s Bylaws

Testimony of Mike Fabricant, PSC TreasurerMFabricant_by Pat Arnow.jpg
We appreciate that some changes have been made in response to our comments. Nevertheless, there is a persistent pattern in the remaining proposed revisions that we oppose—elimination of traditional rights of the faculty and elimination of transparency in decision-making—which give increased power to the Chancellor or his/her designees at every point. [These] revisions…are seriously damaging to and, in fact, deny rights to the faculty and staff at CUNY. (Full testimony)

Public Funding, Not Tuition Hikes

Testimony of Arthurine DeSola, SecretaryADesolaCityCouncil031811.jpg
CUNY needs investment, and we share the concern that the University needs stable funding. Faculty and staff struggle daily to make up for the damage wrought by years of underfunding even as enrollments continue to grow. However, we disagree that tuition alone can or should make up for the cuts in public funds. Charging undergraduate senior and community students $300 more per year this year and for the next four years will create a hardship for many. (Full testimony)

Members’ Testimony

Testimony of Adam Tripp, Adjunct Lecturer

Adam Tripp by Amanda crop.jpgI teach economics as an adjunct lecturer at Bronx Community College. I am deeply concerned by the fact that many of my colleagues are at risk of losing their health insurance…CUNY has taken a critical first step in righting this wrong by announcing its commitment to achieving adjunct health insurance funding from the State. I call on you to hold firm to that commitment during the long budget process and communicate to the State that it is essential that adjunct health care funds be part of the final budget. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Alexandra Story, Adjunct Professor

Alex Story.jpgI’m an adjunct professor at BMCC, where I’m teaching my 7th semester of ESL writing classes for a population of students who desperately need what I can offer them… As an adjunct professor who had thyroid cancer three years ago, and is still in need of regular medical check-ups, health insurance is crucial for me. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Annette Gourgey, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Annette Gourgey by Dave Sanders.jpgAs an adjunct assistant professor for over 15 years at Baruch and other CUNY colleges, I urge the Board of Trustees to continue to fund our health insurance… Adjuncts teach a majority of the course sections at CUNY. We adjuncts who currently receive health insurance have taught multiple courses for many years. In addition to our teaching, we spend several hours per week meeting with students individually to help them succeed, with little or no additional compensation. We work tirelessly and CUNY could not continue to operate at its current level without our services. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Anselma Rodriguez, Higher Education Associate

Ansema Rodriguez by Kate cropped.jpgAdjuncts are a core part of the CUNY workforce; they do a lot of the heavy lifting, and teach more than half the University’s courses. They deserve to be treated as first-class citizens of this University. Health insurance for adjuncts, who teach multiple courses, should be available on the same basis as health insurance for full-timers. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Anthony Gronowicz, Adjunct Associate Professor

Tony Gronowicz by Dave Sanders.jpgI teach part-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) Social Science Department, and at the School of Professional Studies at the rank of Adjunct Associate Professor. I have held this rank since 1997. Teaching two courses a semester qualifies me for the health insurance that gives me the peace of mind to pursue assorted activities that include researching and writing history. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Arlene Geiger, Adjunct Lecturer

Arlene Geiger by Dave Sanders crop.jpgOver 20 years at John Jay, I have been and still am devoted to my discipline, and to teaching our diverse student body. The health insurance I currently receive from CUNY is essential to my well-being. At my age and on my adjunct salary, it will be impossible for me to afford health insurance coverage. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Blanca Vazquez, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Blanca Vazquez by Tami Gold.jpg[CUNY should] commit NOW to cover CUNY adjuncts as of the end of the current coverage by any means necessary. Save adjuncts the anguish and anxiety of not knowing for a year what’s going to happen by resolving this now. CUNY knows what it has to do, so just do it. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Bonnie Lucas, Adjunct Lecturer

Bonnie Lucas City College by Pat Arnow.jpgI have been teaching in the Art Department at City College as an Adjunct Lecturer for 15 years. I have been fortunate to get two classes a semester (except for one semester), so for about 14 years have had health insurance paid for by City University of New York (CUNY). I am 61 years old, and single, and will have to wait another four years to get on Medicare… I have contributed so much to the City College community over the past 15 years. I calculated that I have taught over 1,000 students at City College. (Full Testimony)

Testimony of Carolyn Steinhoff, Adjunct Professor

Carolyn Steinoff by Dave Sanders.jpgWho isn’t aware what it means not to have health care? I won’t be able to go to the doctor when I’m sick. I’ll be at higher risk for every illness, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes because I won’t be able to keep track of my health. I won’t be able to get mammograms or pap smears so I’ll be at higher risk for death if I get cancer. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Christopher Davis, Director, Center for English Language Support, John Jay

There are seven non-teaching adjuncts, who have been instructing students for many years. These instructors have deep knowledge and experience in working with students who learned English as a Second Language, and more specifically with the particular ESL students who attend John Jay College. If health insurance coverage was removed for these non-teaching adjuncts, many would be forced to leave their positions in order to find employment that offers this coverage. This would be a devastating loss, since these instructors have experience that cannot be replaced. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Frank M. Kirkland, Associate Professor

Frank Kirkland by Gary Schoichet crop.jpgAs a former chairperson of a department, I was indeed thankful of the news that Chancellor Goldstein would seek funding for health insurance for part-time faculty at the City University of New York (CUNY) in CUNY’s upcoming budget request to New York State. Many of my fellow chairpersons at Hunter found it disconcerting that part-time faculty members that their departments held dear were unable to gain access to health care or found their health care coverage tenuous at best. They knew that it was a fundamental obligation to which CUNY, as an employer, was non-committal at best. (Full testimony)

Testimony of James Davis, Associate Professor and Deputy Chair for Graduate Studies at Brooklyn College

James Davis by Peter Hogness crop.jpgMy department relies as heavily on adjuncts as any at my college. Each semester, we employ about 80 adjuncts, twice as many as our full-time faculty. They are my valued colleagues, and in many cases, my friends. I remember very clearly being in their position after finishing my PhD. I was an adjunct faculty member for three years before finding a tenure-track position. I was grateful to have work in my field, but it was a precarious existence, as I lived paycheck to paycheck. I was fortunate to have health insurance through my spouse, but this is not the situation for many adjuncts. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Jane Clark, Adjunct Lecturer

Jane Clark by Dave Sanders crop.jpgAdjuncts have always been on the front line. We do the heavy lifting in the remedial courses. We are usually the ones who teach, not just what it means to construct a sentence, but what it means to be in college. It is not an easy task, but it is a challenge we thrive on. We are the ones who must shape every class that enters this college, and many of us have spent decades refining this practice. We play a critical role because we provide the foundation of the entire academic experience. As such, it has always been a given that we would be extended the same basic rights as everyone who receives the students after the remedial stage is complete. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Jennifer Hayashida, Director of the Asian American Studies Program

Jennifer Hayashida Hunter by Pat Arnow.jpgAdjuncts are central to the functioning of the Asian American Studies Program. Over 80% of our courses are taught by outstanding adjunct instructors, many of whom are renowned artists, poets, scholars, and filmmakers. If I can no longer offer potential candidates the promise of health insurance after two semesters of teaching, I am afraid to think of what kind of turnover that would lead to among our adjunct faculty – and the ones who would suffer the most would be our students, who benefit from the kind of attention, mentorship, and letters of recommendation our adjuncts provide. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Jonathan Buchsbaum, Professor

Jonathan Buchsbaum by Gary Schoichet.JPGI have been teaching media studies at Queens College for over 30 years. When I began, there were some 25 full-time members of the department; now there are 12. At the same time, the number of majors has risen to over 700 students, and our courses are full…To cover the undergraduate courses, however, the department has relied on the valuable contributions of part-time faculty, some of whom have joined the full-time faculty, some of whom have continued as indispensable and popular part-time teachers, even after completing their PhDs, for they have been unable to find positions in a shrinking tenure-track job market. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Joyce Solomon Moorman, Associate Professor

Joyce Moorman by Lisa Quiones.jpgIn my department at BMCC, we have adjuncts who have worked in the department for 35 years. The Music and Art Department at BMCC has only 14 full-time faculty and 74 adjunct faculty. I do honestly feel that at least half of the adjunct faculty are qualified for full-time jobs, dedicated to teaching, and should be working full-time. How can the City University of New York employ people for 35 years and not feel responsible for their health insurance? (Full testimony)

Testimony of Lynda Caspe, Adjunct Associate Professor

Lynda Caspe -low res- by Michelle Calderon crop.jpgIf CUNY allowed adjunct health insurance to end, it would be like getting a pay cut, which in some cases would equal fifty percent of the adjuncts’ wages. Lack of health insurance would be a financial blow to all adjuncts including myself, even though I am eligible for Medicare. Medicare isn’t free. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Marcia Newfield, Adjunct Lecturer, PSC Vice President of Part-Time Personnel

Marcia Newfield by Pat Arnow crop.jpg[My Students] have dared to dream of an enhanced future. Whether it’s through anthropology, biology, or English classes, they become aware that the door to new futures are there for the opening and that the journey itself will yield rewards.In order to be their teacher, their coach, and their mentor, I need to be healthy. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Mark Lamoureux, Adjunct Lecturer

Mark Lamoureux by Pat Arnow crop.jpg[If insurance for adjuncts were to end] I would have to seriously consider whether or not to continue in my career as an adjunct professor since my medical expenses would total nearly one-quarter of my income during those months during which I am paid, and be prohibitively expensive during those months in which I am not. Cutting adjunct health insurance is, in effect, a de-facto layoff for instructors such as me. Please do the right thing and continue to fund adjunct health insurance. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Mary Refling, Assistant Professor

The termination of health care benefits for CUNY adjuncts will involve a very painful decision…Rather than resume teaching as an adjunct, but this time without health care benefits, I may very well decide to abandon my academic career. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Matthew Mercier, Adjunct Lecturer

Matthew Mercier Hunter by Pat Arnow.jpgCUNY should have the integrity to treat its part-time workers better then this. I have the professional skills to teach full-time, and I would love to have the security of a multiple-year contract, but it’s my understanding that CUNY does not have the funds to hire more full-time professors. It relies on adjuncts as a core part of the workforce. This is an unfortunate imbalance, but the health care coverage has always been a saving grace. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Michael Batson, Adjunct Lecturer

Michael Batson by Gary Schoichet.JPGI believe that too many too often operate under the false premise that adjuncts are not essential to this university; not central to its mission; not a significant part of its structure. Such thinking makes it easier to make another false assumption: that the pay and benefits that adjuncts receive is not a vital part of our income. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Noam Mor, Adjunct Lecturer

Noam Mor NYCCT by Pat Arnow.jpgI am thankful that the City University of New York (CUNY) has included adjunct health insurance funds in the upcoming budget request. I am thankful because without having had such insurance over the last five years, I could have died or ended up unable to walk. In the future, CUNY should not put its employees into a situation in which debilitating illness or death is a potential outcome. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Renee Mizrahi, Adjunct Lecturer

Renee Mizrahi by Dave Sanders.jpgOn February 8, 2008 I was given the gift of life by my sister Susan. I received the miracle of a kidney transplant because I was fortunate enough to have adjunct medical coverage. The surgery went well and I’m now fine, but in order to stay alive I must continue to take immunosuppressant medication for the rest of my life. The cost of my medication is $1167.84 per month and health insurance is my only lifeline to it. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Sara Holtzschue, Assistant Adjunct Professor

I have taught courses in jazz, western and 20th Century music history, music theory, ear training, songwriting, voice, keyboard, guitar, composition, jazz workshop, and modern humanities…I can assure you that without this benefit, I would not be able to be the active and committed member of the CUNY family that I am and hope to continue to be. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Steven Edward Weisblatt, Continuing Education Teacher

Steve Weisblatt by Gary Schoichet.JPG[Working with CLIP,]I have counted myself fortunate as one of the few CUNY contingent faculty on the City Health Plan. It is a matter of justice that adjuncts be included in this plan. I urge the Board to use its influence to the fullest to assure that your budget request provides more than a band aid approach to solving the problem facing the Welfare Fund today (Full testimony)

Testimony of Susan Horowitz, Assistant Adjunct Professor

I have been an adjunct at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) for over 25 years. Working as an adjunct is my primary source of income – usually my only source of income. The adjunct health plan is also my only source of health insurance. Without this health insurance plan, it would be impossible for me to continue working as an adjunct. I have helped hundreds of students meet the degree requirements at BMCC. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Susan Kang, Assistant Professor

I’ve also had the privilege of forming friendships with adjuncts in our department and several other departments. These adjuncts are trusted colleagues who contribute to the education of our students, filling in many needed gaps in our teaching schedule…this benefit, in addition to the rewarding experiences of working with our students, makes our part-time colleagues willing to come back semester after semester, despite the low pay and less-than-ideal working conditions. (Full testimony)

Testimony of Susan Meswick, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Susan Meswick Queens College by Pat Arnow.jpgAdjunct health insurance is crucial to the academic and moral stature of CUNY, where thousands of students are taught each semester by adjunct labor. To not provide health insurance will undermine the nature of adjunct contributions. (Full testimony)

Testimony of William Friedheim, Retired

Bill Friedheim by Pat Arnow.jpgWe owe this to our adjuncts. A button worn proudly by hundreds of CUNY part and full-time faculty, staff, and students tells the story: “CUNY runs on adjunct labor.” Today’s university could not function without adjunct labor. (Full testimony)

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