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News & Events

NYC Council Hearing on Adjunct Employment at CUNY

Nov 16, 2020

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On Thursday November 12, the City Council Higher Education and Labor Committees held an online oversite hearing about adjunct employment at CUNY. The hearing started with testimony by the CUNY administration and questions from the Council. There were some very heated exchanges between members of the committee and CUNY officials.

PSC President Barbara Bowen, Vice President of Part-time Personnel Rosa Squillacote and Blanca Vázquez of the Executive Council then testified (Timestamp 1:47:21). Several PSC chapter chairs who have fought against adjunct layoffs also presented testimony (2:05:10). PSC members were also invited to submit written testimony.

Video Testimony

Written Testimony Delivered During the Hearing

 

Testimony of Barbara Bowen, President

CUNY’s labor system is a disgrace, and the reasons the system exists have everything to do with racist disinvestment on the part of the State and City, and institutional silence and complicity on the part of the CUNY administration. Ultimately, CUNY’s labor system undermines students. No matter how dedicated and super-committed CUNY’s adjuncts are and how many unpaid hours they give to their students—and they do—students still suffer when the majority of their instructors are working without job security and without the support they need to do their best work. (Full testimony. )

 

Testimony of Rosa Squillacote, Vice President Part-time Personnel

“It is not an exaggeration to say that CUNY runs on adjunct and part-time labor. CUNY relies disproportionately on adjuncts to teach classes, as well as part-time workers like non-teaching adjuncts, continuing education teachers, and college laboratory technicians. All these people (almost half of the CUNY workforce) work tirelessly to provide support and a world-class education for their working-class students and students of color. You don’t become an adjunct at CUNY unless you care about your students –what adjuncts need are better working conditions and protections so that we can provide the educational and emotional support our students need. “ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Blanca Vázquez, Executive Council

“As the City Council knows, CUNY has been underfunded for decades now. But we arenow at a critical juncture and there’s no return to normal.At a critical time in history, we need to establish real priorities: Prop up Wall Street or the streets of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem?Education is a priorityandCUNY has to bea priority.It is not only an economicengine for the City’s recovery,it is an economic engine for working families, for new immigrants and for the poor.” (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Robert Farrell, Chapter Chair, Lehman College

“…NTAs perform work identical to full-time faculty in their areas including counseling, advising and librarianship. Yet NTAs are paid at an extremely low rate –60%, not of their full-time peers, but of teaching adjuncts, who themselves make a fraction of full-time wages. Many of these employees are in the academic “gig economy” and so in desperate need of even this form of exploitative employment to survive.” (Full testimony)
 

Scott Cally, Chapter Chair Kingsborough Community College

”The disadvantaged students of New York need their elected officials to stand up for them and force CUNY to make the right decisions -decisions that will be contrary to the administrative ethos that has dominated CUNY for years –an ethos that continues tofail our students every day. “ (Full testimony)
 

Written Testimony Submitted for the Record

 

Testimony of Bernard Bilawsky

”My years as an adjunct started in the spring semester of 1972. Yes, that’s correct. Forty-eight years ago I became a “temporary” employee. Since that time I was offered courses each semester by each of the department’s four different chairpersons, until now. As an untermensch in the CUNY system I received not a PERSONAL word in regard to my impending departure from the college. Nothing! Not from the department chair and not from the director of HR, in spite of both of them knowing me for decades. I’m not surprised. Over twenty years ago I took a semester off to help a dying parent who lived out of state. When I returned to the college, after my father’s death, I was rewarded by the college for being a caring son with a reduction in rank from Adjunct Assistant Professor to Adjunct Lecturer.“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Mark Edelman

”…On June 26, after teaching at BCC for 11 consecutive semesters (5.5 years),I received a non-reappointment letter with no explanations. Just 5 lines: you are fired, “we wish you success” from Ms. Clark…On June 26 I wrote a letter to the president, presenting myself and asking to reconsider the decision to fire me…July 23: I received a reply to my June 26 letter to the President written by Ms. Fiore. She wrote that the President values my contribution to BCC but the only reasons I’ve been fired were “Covid-19 pandemic and enrollment numbers”…July 27-July 30: I took and passed an on-line Blackboard course (have never been reimbursed); obtained CUNY Blackboard certificate…August 21 –there were more than 20 students signed-up for the course assigned to me. This day the chair of the Math. & Comp. Science department informed me that he was told to hire somebody else to teach my course because I can’t be hired…The reason (from HR) is the following: an instructor who received a non-reappointment letter cannot be rehired until two semesters (one academic year) have passed. At that point, you can be considered a “new hire.”” “ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Edward Herman

”At the beginning of June I had 3 classes assigned to me the enrollment including several students that had previously taken classes with me, each had only 20 students per course rather than what have been normally 35 and I would not have been surprised if some of them would be combined in one class? Do to lack of enrollment. However when I received the notice the classes that had been assigned were lineally listed as Instructor to be assigned, then they were at first assign to the Department chair and were soon replaced by new people who I had never seen before.“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Elizabeth Hovey

”Several adjuncts had classes taken away from them in August, due to new minimum class sizes(which hurt students)and the priority of filling full-timers’ schedules. Multiple legally “reappointed” adjunct faculty were not even assigned classes. They were told later that the appointment notices they received on June 30 were meaningless. And although national standards have been established that 12 is the ideal enrollment for an online class, John Jay’s de jure online limit of 28 students were flaunted. Several faculty members, including myself, instead have had 36 enrolled in classes where, due to privacy guidelines, we may never see the faces of some cherished students. “ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Carl Jensen

”Last spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic all classes at Baruch went online. This increased the workload and uncertainty for both students and faculty. Faculty were bombarded with issues from both students and the Administration. We were told by the Administration that we were doing a great job and that they were very thankful. Well the thanks I ultimately got was “thank you for your efforts but we have no classes for you in the fall”.“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Mark Kagan

”I currently have 77 students (it was 78 for a few weeks, before a student dropped the class). Responding to the larger volume of student emails (including requests to correct grading mistakes by the computer systems) is still pretty time consuming. It also makes it nearly impossible to check in on which students are actually paying attention and understanding the material, and challenging to check in with students during group work (since there are too many groups to spend much time with each one)…Last spring, I had approximately 40 students per class. I now have 75 students per class.“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Barry Lituchy

”The flagrant violation of academic and contractual norms by [Rudy Crew and Augustine Okereke] at Medgar Evers has nothing to do with the Covid crisis! They attempted to violate the very same three year contract stipulation three whole years before Covid even began, in the spring of 2017, just weeks after the collective bargaining agreement between CUNY and the PSC was signed…the central CUNY administration is allowing malfeasance to occur at Medgar Evers College and is throwing up additional smokescreens to obscure and deflect their own culpability in allowing the administration at Medgar Evers College to act in this manner and to do so with impunity.“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Monica Pacholczyk

”I have finally started to receive my unemployment benefits, but I have lost my health insurance and simply cannot afford to enroll in any reasonable plan at the moment; precisely at a time when my neighborhood, Astoria, is among the zip codes that have reported a spike in positive cases of COVID-19in recent days. This situation is both inconceivable and unconscionable. I am scared, I am lost, and I am really not sure what I am supposed to do next. I feel futureless, vulnerable, and powerless …“ (Full testimony)
 

Testimony of Max Thorn

”It saddens me to think about what these students, who are majority POC and working-class, are missing because this isn’t my full-time job: the attention I’m unable to give them, the lessons I’ve cut out of the curriculum, the feedback I’d like to give on their work but don’t have time for, the time to assess and improve my work. My full-time colleagues do what they can to help, but they’re already overwhelmed with so many responsibilities. The students are robbed of the guidance they need to really hone research skills–which they’ll be asked to use throughout college and beyond–because CUNY has settled for hiring precarious part-time workers to fill essential roles.“ (Full testimony)
 


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