Brooklyn College Professor James Davis To Assume Role As Professional Staff Congress President
After 21 Years of Union Leadership, President Bowen to Return to Teaching at CUNY
New York, NY - After tallying the votes in the union's month-long leadership election, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY (PSC) announced today that James Davis, Professor of English and the union chapter chair at Brooklyn College, has been elected as PSC President. He will succeed outgoing President Barbara Bowen, who has led the PSC for more than two decades. Davis and the other newly elected leaders will assume office in late May. Union members also re-elected Andrea Vásquez as First Vice President and elected Felicia Wharton as Treasurer and Penny Lewis as Secretary. Current PSC Treasurer Sharon Persinger and Secretary Nivedita Majumdar will also step down after six years of service, both to return to their CUNY academic positions.
President-elect Davis is no stranger to CUNY and the Professional Staff Congress. Davis has been a professor at Brooklyn College since 2003 and a union chapter chair since 2015. As the union leader at Brooklyn College, Davis broadened the base of member involvement in the PSC and developed effective campaigns to enforce the contract and amplify the voices of faculty, staff, and students. Vásquez, a long-time union leader representing CUNY’s professional staff, retains her position as First Vice President, in which she has been a vigorous advocate for members’ needs and for the New Deal for CUNY legislation. Wharton and Lewis will be serving as Treasurer and Secretary, respectively, for the first time, though both are experienced union leaders. Prior to being elected treasurer, Wharton taught at the Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center (BEOC) and led the PSC chapter there. Lewis, an associate professor of Labor Studies at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, has served as the PSC’s Vice President for Senior Colleges and as a member of the Executive Council.
“This talented group of incoming officers inherits something precious and durable, a fighting union that under Barbara Bowen’s extraordinary leadership has consistently delivered for members and improved the City University as a workplace and a place to learn. Emerging from the pandemic and recession, we’re eager to build upon that legacy and help to turn this moment of crisis into a movement of possibility for all who study and work at CUNY,” said incoming PSC President James Davis.
During her 21 years as PSC President, Barbara Bowen has become an influential voice within the labor movement and higher education nationally. She has been an outspoken advocate for a labor movement in service of the entire working class and in opposition to racist austerity. Under her leadership, the PSC has consistently challenged the systemic underfunding of CUNY, winning broad community and student support to the position that disinvestment in CUNY is an attack on the working class and people of color. The PSC was an early and influential opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, an advocate for the rights of undocumented students and workers, an unwavering opponent of racist violence.
Under the leadership of Bowen and her caucus, the PSC approached collective bargaining as an arena to fight for the principle that CUNY students should have the resources needed for a life-changing college education. Through five rounds of bargaining since 2000, the PSC has made ambitious gains that enhance the quality of education as well as the lives of union members: historic wage increases, health insurance for adjuncts and graduate employees, paid parental leave, a teaching load that gives faculty more time for individual students, a dramatic pay increase for adjuncts, paid research leave for untenured faculty, targeted increases to address salary inequities of race and gender, and more. The PSC relied on the power of an organized membership, regularly engaging hundreds of members in budget advocacy, street protests, sit-ins, strike authorization votes, and civil disobedience when needed.
Bowen, who has served as president since 2000, will return to her faculty position in the English department at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center after a year-long research sabbatical. The PSC’s new executive leadership team will step in their new roles on May 25.
“I cannot imagine a greater privilege than being accountable to people in struggle,” Bowen commented. “There has not been a single day since I was first elected that I haven’t felt grateful for the chance to contribute to the PSC’s collective work. To be in this position is to realize anew that the power of a union is the power of an organized membership. Everything the PSC has done has been possible only because of the thousands of PSC members and allies. As I approach the end of my term, what I’m most conscious of is what remains to be done. James Davis is more than up to the challenge. He will bring imagination, commitment and deep experience to the position. I’m excited to see what a new generation of leaders will do and confident that James, Andrea Vásquez, Felicia Wharton and Penny Lewis will lead the PSC with integrity and vision.”
“Under President Bowen’s leadership, the PSC has grown into a strong progressive union that has made huge gains for our members while simultaneously opposing racist austerity measures in higher education that harms our students. Along with James Davis, Felicia Wharton and Penny Lewis, we will continue to fight to transform the university in order to provide quality accessible education for all,” said First Vice President Andrea Vásquez.