Why our faculty is mad as hell By Jazmin Rosa
Our faculty and staff members have been lacking contracts for five years. They haven’t seen a raise for six. Now, they are turning up the heat.
Earlier this fall, fifty-four CUNY professors and staffers – including a number from CCNY’s campus – were arrested during a protest at the University’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. They blockaded the doors at CUNY Central, demanding a fair contract, shouting and chanting along with 800 supporters.
Just a month before, about a thousand faculty and staff members gathered outside of Chancellor James B. Milliken’s home to give him a “wake up call,” urging Milliken to secure a union contract. They also believe he has not done enough to fight the apparent austerity campaign that’s crippling City College and the rest of the CUNY schools.
“There is too much at stake to allow another academic year to go by without a fair contract and another generation of CUNY students to be shortchanged by underinvestment in their faculty and staff,” said Barbara Bowen, president of PSC CUNY, the union representing faculty and staff. “Failure to invest in our contract represents a political decision not to invest in the people we teach—as well as not to invest in us.”
These blows come amid a serious financial crisis for CUNY, which is suffering a steady decrease in state funding while enrollment has climbed; 278,000 students are currently enrolled in CUNY, up 42% from 2000.
Professors and adjuncts are shouldering the brunt of the budget cuts. Adjuncts, or part time educators, don’t earn a living wage and are often the first cut in college financial crises. At CCNY, a majority of the classes are taught by adjuncts instead of full-time professors. Thus, cutting adjuncts translates to fewer courses and classes that contain more students. Because faculty wages have been stagnant for the past six years, CUNY colleges are also unable to offer established educators competitive salaries, thus damaging the overall quality of a CUNY education.
All of these grievances are underscored by Chancellor Milliken’s incredible $670,000 a year salary – which is more than President Obama makes. In addition, CUNY subsidizes his luxury Upper East Side apartment for $19,500 a month. At the wake up call protest, fed up professors and administrators shouted, “No more excuses!”
PSC CUNY has more protests planned, and there’s been talk of a strike. Says Bowen: “In Seattle, Chicago and a growing number of American cities, teachers have felt forced to strike to defend public education against attempts to degrade their jobs and strip resources from poor communities and communities of color. The crisis at CUNY is no less real.”