By Lisa Sime and Niko Balkaran
The Professional Staff Congress (the union representing faculty members) held a protest outside CUNY Central on Feb 27, the day before their contract expired. The union’s bargaining agenda is taking into consideration the impact that COVID-19 had on union members and students. These include learning to shift modalities from in-person to online and how institutional racism affected the learning environment by not reflecting the diversity of students.
The pandemic showed how much the working conditions at the university were unacceptable,
according to the bargaining agenda. One reason for this, as stated, is the years of “underinvestment in the university.” Some benefits the union is fighting for include salary increases, job security, racial justice and support for the common good.
“We have been underfunded for decades,” said Youngmin Seo, a university-wide officer on the PSC Executive Council, in a Clarion article.
However, several CUNY executives received raises after their Board of Trustees approved sizable pay hikes last October.
Meanwhile, CUNY enrollment is down 28,000 students from 2020. The university also sent a memo telling all college campuses to cut their budgets and execute a hiring freeze.
That memo was sent by Hector Batista, CUNY’s executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer. Batista is now making $420,000 after receiving a $90,000 pay increase.
Closer to home, York has been affected by the university’s budget cuts. As a result, numerous construction projects across the campus have been delayed. And the college is just one of many that do not have an operable cafeteria. Last semester, students at Hostos Community College protested their lack of a cafeteria, as was first reported by Jonathan Custodio for The City.
“CUNY colleges cannot sustain more cuts without severely undermining the student experience,” said James Davis, president of the PSC, in an NY1 article. “Larger class size, fewer instructors, and less student-facing staff support will not help CUNY rebound from the pandemic.”
Adjuncts are one area where the university is already affected and the PSC’s agenda hopes to help. Adjuncts deal with several issues, such as “insufficient wages, uncertain employment, barriers to career advancements and lack of access to benefits,” according to the agenda.
“Driving across the George Washington Bridge to get to work is one thing if you’re a full-timer, but another thing if you’re a part-timer,” said said Ángel Martinez, a part-time personnel officer from Bronx Community College, in a Clarion article. “To travel from one campus to another could be a daunting task. This is New York City. The cost of living has skyrocketed. I have this obligation to put a human face on this…We have homeless adjuncts. We have adjuncts who live in precarity.”
The PSC union represents more than 30,000 CUNY members. They have been advocating for improving working and learning conditions for faculty, staff and students at the university since the 1970s, according to their website.