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Ad Campaign–Hurting CUNY Means Hurting Our Recovery

May 25, 2020

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Professional Staff Congress Launches TV and Digital Ad Campaign Calling on CUNY Board and Chancellor to Stop Thousands of Faculty Layoffs, Protect Quality Education

CUNY Must Use Millions of Dollars in Federal Aid to Protect Jobs

New York, NY – On Monday, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing over 30,000 CUNY faculty and staff, launched a television and digital ad campaign to oppose planned layoffs of thousands of adjunct faculty and part-time staff at the City University of New York (CUNY). The layoffs come despite the fact that the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, allocated $237 million to CUNY, half of which is to be dedicated to direct aid to students and half to institutional needs arising from the pandemic—including job protection.

The ads call attention to the rapidly unfolding crisis at CUNY, where adjuncts teach more than half of the courses. College administrations have until May 29th to decide whether to re-appoint adjuncts, and some colleges have already started laying off adjuncts.

Without the courses taught by adjuncts, many students will not have access to classes they need to graduate. In addition, many adjunct faculty members rely on their stable income and health insurance to survive, especially during this crisis.

The ad set to run on local and cable broadcast stations.

“There is no justification for the terminations of employment and, in many cases, of health insurance that CUNY colleges have announced,” said Barbara Bowen, President of the Professional Staff Congress. “Taking such actions at any time would be alarming; doing so in the midst of a pandemic after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid is inexcusable. CUNY must do better.”

As it stands now, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, John Jay College, and Queens College have all announced plans to make significant cuts to their adjunct faculty and part-time staff, with more colleges likely to follow. These mass layoffs will result in thousands of course offerings being cut and they risk the quality education for students. CUNY students come largely from low-income communities of color—exactly the communities with high rates of COVID-19 illness and death.

The State budget enacted in April gives Governor Cuomo the authority to cut the State budget unilaterally at several points during the year in response to declining revenues. The State funding cuts applied to CUNY could be as high as $95 million, if Albany does not increase taxes on the rich and Washington fails to allocate additional stimulus money to the State. Mayor de Blasio has announced $20 million in mid-year funding cuts to CUNY. CUNY’s status as an economic driver and path to mobility for many lower-income students is in jeopardy due to these devastating cuts and layoffs.

The PSC is calling for an immediate halt on plans for layoffs at colleges and for non-reappointment letters to be rescinded. The union is demanding that CUNY use the $118 million in stimulus money allocated for institutional needs at CUNY to protect jobs and is calling for increased taxes on the rich to protect New York’s underfunded public education system.

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