Update on “Recalibration Period"

Updated: March 26, 2020
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Dear Colleagues:

First, I hope you are in good health. My thoughts go out to any PSC members who are sick or caring for others, especially to our members in the healthcare fields.

One bright spot is that several CUNY science departments have identified stockpiles of masks and gloves and made them available for front-line health workers. Read about the donation from Queens College; Lehman and other colleges have done the same. If you know of such equipment at your own campus, please do not try to access and donate it yourself! Contact your college president with the information or consult this guide to donating medical equipment.

“Recalibration Period”

Without prior consultation with the union, Chancellor Matos Rodríguez sent out a message on Tuesday announcing a sudden change of the teaching schedule at most campuses and a reduction of spring break to three days.

As soon as the message went out, the PSC began receiving angry emails from full-time and part-time faculty who felt undermined and betrayed after weeks of “triple-working,” as one professor said, to make the shift to distance learning. While the faculty were unanimous in their support for providing resources to students and delighted to hear that laptops were being made available, they strongly objected to a decision made without consultation. Thousands of hours of creativity and intellectual labor were apparently being dismissed with a vague demand to “recalibrate.”

The PSC immediately intervened with the chancellor’s office, and the result was the “clarification” that was sent yesterday. Everyone in the PSC understands how challenging this crisis is and how conditions change day by day, but if CUNY management had consulted with the PSC from the start, and had respected the knowledge of the faculty, the added disruption caused by the “recalibration period” might have been avoided. And the union still has questions about how equipment will be distributed without putting employees at risk and how faculty lacking adequate equipment will be supported.

Following the PSC’s conversations with management, a second message was sent yesterday, March 25, and the CUNY website was updated, indicating a significant change from the previous day’s message: the “recalibration period” has been recalibrated.

This is where the teaching schedule stands now:

  • For students and classroom faculty at the 16 affected colleges, the March 25 message clarifies that “recalibration period” is time off: “All faculty and students at these schools will be off from Friday, March 27 to Wednesday, April 1 and again from Wednesday, April 8 to Friday, April 10 . . .” (emphasis added). In effect, spring break has been rescheduled as six days in one segment and three days in another.
  • The PSC understands the March 25 message to mean that for classroom teaching faculty at the 16 affected colleges, the six days of the “recalibration period” should be treated as a break. No work or other responsibilities should be assigned. Classroom teaching faculty are free to do exactly what they would normally do during a break, including taking much-needed time for themselves and their families.
  • At these 16 colleges, spring break is, in effect, rescheduled as the six days of the “recalibration period” and the three days of original spring break, for a total of nine calendar days. In the original academic calendar, spring break lasted a total of nine calendar days.
  • Note that the March 25 message underlines the connection between the “recalibration period” and spring break when it describes the recalibration period as “moving up some days from the Spring Recess.”
  • The March 25 message further says that the “16 colleges will be on pause in the Recalibration Period, no classes will be held, and no assignments or tests should be due during this period.”
  • The union acknowledges, however, that because CUNY management has now made a second shift in the teaching schedule, faculty who developed a schedule of assignments based on the original academic calendar may have to spend much of the “recalibration” week reorganizing their courses yet again. The union continues to be in discussion with CUNY about the effects of the changed schedule. Please contact us if you have been affected in this way: psc@pscmail.org.
  • If you are classroom teaching faculty and the college president or dean assigns you any work responsibilities during the “recalibration period,” immediately contact the union: psc@pscmail.org.

The PSC continues to have some serious concerns, however.

  • Many faculty have expressed intense frustration that the two-part break will be academically undermining. “Disruption on top of disruption,” as one professor put it. Faculty invested tremendous amounts of time and intellectual energy reconfiguring their classes, and some have expressed concern that the continuity they were just beginning to reestablish for their students will be lost. While the faculty and staff are unwavering in our support for students during this harrowing time, the abrupt change in the calendar and failure to anticipate students’ needs will hurt some classes and mean further added work for faculty. At least one college academic senate has voted to continue teaching on the old schedule.
  • The PSC is concerned that decisions about the teaching schedule at “pre-matriculation programs like CUNY Start, Math Start, CLIP and Adult Literacy . . . [and] continuing education and graduate programs are at the discretion of school presidents and deans” (emphasis added). Teaching faculty in these schools and programs must be afforded a spring recess of equal length with the teaching break elsewhere in CUNY. The union will monitor the decisions for these programs.
  • The PSC is also concerned that each college president is being asked to make a plan for how laptops and other equipment will be distributed to students. Librarians and professional staff must not be asked to put themselves and public safety at risk to do the distribution. Please notify the union if you have been asked to participate in distribution. The union will demand that you be equipped with the necessary protective clothing.
  • In response to the union’s letter to the chancellor on Monday, the PSC has received updates on the names and titles of every PSC-represented employee still deemed “essential” and expected to work on campus. As of yesterday, March 25, there are 131 names listed, but many are identified as working one day a week or “only as needed.” The union continues to demand that all employees still required to work at CUNY worksites, regardless of the number of hours they work, be provided with appropriate protective gear and that their safety be the priority.
  • Finally, the union has raised concerns about faculty who themselves need better access to technology in order to teach through distance technology. Particularly adjunct faculty who rely on their CUNY salary have expressed a need for added technology support in order to teach effectively. The union will continue to advocate for these needs.

As the PSC leadership takes action to protect our members’ safety and rights as CUNY management issues new conditions of work, we are also engaged in negotiations about temporary adjustments in the contract during this emergency. We are making progress, and I hope to report on that in my next message.

Meanwhile, please take care of yourself and stay in touch with your union.

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY