By Shemiza Basdeo
CUNY York College adjunct faculties are encountering profound injustices at work due to being part-time employees and being deemed less valuable or significant compared to full-time workers. Many adjunct faculties are skating on the thin ice of losing their jobs due to the enrollment of students plummeting post the COVID-19 pandemic. The York chapter of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing faculty members, held a listening session where adjunct workers could speak about their struggles and challenges in the workplace without fearing being let go and losing their health insurance as their financial security benefits. The employees stressed that if the college lets them go, it will be a monumental disadvantage to the students because there will be a shortage of teachers to teach them. Students have already lost a crucial amount of time for learning and were subjected to academic gap years because of the pandemic. If teachers as an essential resource decrease, who will teach the students, and how will the students prosper and achieve success in school? Adjunct professors said that students need hard-working, dedicated, and diligent teachers to teach them and ensure they get the most out of their educational experience.
Professor Jillian Abbott, a member of the English Department, explained that resources and revenue need to be poured into teaching instead of trivial matters, like commencement ceremonies costing almost $240,000 compared to before when it only cost $96,000. Some consider this wasteful since the money is not being used to support educators with the necessary funds for their hard work and to accommodate their students.
Many adjunct Professors shared in the meeting that they are being kept in the dark of not knowing the entire story of where the money is going. Andrea Boffa, a Professor in the History, Philosophy, and Anthropology Department, stated that most adjunct professors are unable to attain full-time positions, but that does not mean they should be limited in terms of having rights as an employee in the college. Boffa, goes on to stress that adjunct professors do so much, like working tirelessly to ensure they are teaching effectively for their students. Yet, all of their dedication and hard work go unnoticed, and they are categorized as invaluable in the workforce. She went on to say that the compensation rates for adjunct professors are very low concerning how hard they work and how much time they spend making sure that each of their students is on the path to success. Professor Abbott agrees with Boffa by reinforcing that it is challenging to be a teacher due to the endless planning, grading, reaching out to students, creating assignments/activities, and much more. Still, even though the adjunct professors do all of this, it does not matter in the eyes of the senior administration because it is never enough.
Consequently, in the process of this unfair treatment and long fight, adjunct professors are coming together in unison to fight for their rights and their job. They have come up with two outcomes to help them keep their jobs. One of the potential outcomes is that the union will write to all department chairs to reinforce that they cannot let 3-year adjuncts go just like that without any concrete reasons. The other option is that adjunct professors will write to the politicians who come to York, indicating their concerns about how all the money is going to unnecessary matters and not into teaching, which is the most important thing for students to get a substantial education. Adjuncts have stated that they all believe in the power of teaching, how teachers can make a positive and tremendous impact on students, and why they’re now calling for a change.