CCU, P.O. Box 286248, New York, NY 10128 

William P. Kelly, Ph.D.
President, Graduate Center
City University of New York
101 West 31st Street
New York, NY 10001

[March 30, 2011]

Dear Dr. Kelly:

I am writing to inquire about a situation of great concern to CUNY Contingents Unite (CCU), an organization that works to defend the interests of contingent faculty and other members of the most vulnerable sectors of the labor system at the City University of New York.

This letter was mandated by our organization’s March 25 membership meeting.
It has come to our attention that Stuart H. Adams, Jr., J.D. (aka Ajamu Sankofa), a member of the CCU’s Coordinating Committee, has been non-reappointed (dismissed) from his position as Urban Leadership Coordinator / Higher Education Assistant at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. Effective July 1 of this year, he is to lose the position he has held since May 2007 at the Murphy Institute, which is part of CUNY’s School of Professional Studies.

Mr. Sankofa’s notice of non-reappointment came shortly after the termination of another leading African American staff member at the Murphy Institute: Dr. Jill Humphries, Urban Studies Program Manager / Higher Education Associate. Dr. Humphries, hired in mid-2010, was suspended and then terminated in early January 2011.

Our particular interest and concern regarding this matter stem from several factors, among them:

1) As noted above, Mr. Sankofa is an elected officer of CUNY Contingents Unite.
2) The objectives of our organization include attaining “real job security and due process for HEOs” (Higher Education Officers). Both Dr. Humphries and Mr. Sankofa are members of the HEO job category.
3) The CCU is committed to helping overcome “the racial stratification in employment at CUNY,” as the situation has rightly been characterized by the Professional Staff Congress. As active members of our union, we are alarmed that, in the words of the PSC Clarion (September 2009), “[t]he higher up one goes in the hierarchy of job titles – in terms of pay, presitige, authority and job security – the whiter the composition of the workforce.”
Thus, we are deeply concerned at the dismissal of two prominent, widely respected and highly placed African American staff members, trade unionists and community activists from a CUNY institute whose stated mission is to offer “educational opportunities to union members to meet their career advancement and personal growth needs” and serve as “an academic resource on issues of concern to the labor movement.”
We look forward to your early response to the concerns expressed in this letter regarding the dismissal of Jill Humphries and Ajamu Sankofa.

Sincerely,

S. Sándor John, Ph.D.
for the Coordinating Committee
CUNY Contingents Unite

cc:
Matthew Goldstein, Ph.D.
Chancellor, City University of New York
535 East 80th Street
New York, NY 10075

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
City University of New York
Office of the Chancellor
535 East 80th Street
New York, NY 10075

John Mogulescu
Senior University Dean of Academic Affairs
Dean of the CUNY School of Professional Studies
101 West 31st Street
New York, NY 10001

Ydanis A. Rodriguez
Councilman, District 10
Chair, Committee on Higher Education
New York City Council
618 West 17th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10033

Deborah J. Glick
Chair, Higher Education Committee
New York State Assembly
853 Broadway, Suite 1518
New York, NY 10003

Herman Farrell, Jr.
Chair, Finance and Ways and Means Committee
New York State Assembly
2541-55 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039

Barbara Bowen, Ph.D.
President, Professional Staff Congress
61 Broadway, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10006

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Meeting – Friday March 25th

The monthly meeting of CUNY Contingents Unite will be held next Friday.

When: Friday, March 25, from 4:00 p.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m.

Where: Room 5414 of the CUNY Graduate Center.

There is a lot to talk about — please attend and bring a friend!

A proposed agenda will be distributed at the meeting, but points will no doubt include:

- Organizing in support of our demands. Among relevant topics here are: mobilizing contingents to attend the special PSC Delegate Assembly (March 31) which has been called to “discuss contract campaign strategy”; CCU preparations for the May 5 PSC contract campaign rally; return visits to campuses to discuss the CCU’s demands.

- Updates on the fight against layoffs.

- Wisconsin; struggles for union rights and in defense of public education; Cuomo/Bloomberg attack on teachers and public workers; new planned cuts to CUNY’s budget.

- HEO issues and rampant management bullying in the workplace.

- Preliminary report of the workgroup on the official union “contract agenda” and the CCU’s demands.

- Committee reports.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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CCU Meeting – February 25

CUNY Contingents Unite will hold its monthly meeting next Friday.

When: Friday, February 25, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:45
Where: Room 5409 of the CUNY Graduate Center.

Please attend and bring a friend/colleague.

A proposed agenda will be prepared later, but topics of discussion will doubtless include the layoffs situation (including a resolution on this that the First Friday group is circulating), reports on the mass resistance in Wisconsin (and now Ohio) against the assault on public workers, new proposed cuts to CUNY, academic freedom, HEO issues, the campaign for our 4 demands, and convening a working group for further analysis of the official union “bargaining agenda.”

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Academic Freedom Victory Celebration

Following Monday’s announcement that Brooklyn College is rehiring Kristofer Petersen-Overton and that his class will go forward, the protest rally has been turned into a victory celebration at the same time and place.

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Academic Freedom Protest – FEBRUARY 3, 12-2PM

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The Advance – February 2011

The Advance

Fighting to Defend Our Jobs

During the last months, troubling reports of impending layoffs of adjuncts started coming out of  various campuses of the City University of New York. An early warning occurred when adjuncts in the City College English Department were told to expect no more than one class apiece. Soon, across CUNY, adjuncts were losing jobs, courses, income… For quite a few, this means losing health insurance – bringing home the point that maintaining health benefits in the face of threatened layoffs is a crucial demand for CUNY contingents.
Among the most alarming situations developed at Baruch College, where adjuncts alerted the CCU regarding impending course consolidations and layoffs. What emerged was an administration plan to push new “jumbo” classes, upping the work-load (speedup) while putting large numbers of adjunct jobs on the chopping block. The CCU reached out to the campus chapter of our union, the Professional Staff Congress, as well as full-time faculty and students opposed to this attack on the quality of education.
Our organizing efforts led to a series of four meetings at Baruch that included adjuncts, full-time faculty (including two department chairs), the PSC chapter chair as well as the vice-chair of the CUNY-wide College Lab Technicians  chapter

The Baruch administration  clearly intended to offload its budgetary constraints onto the backs of contingent faculty.  The plan from the Provost’s office was to create  jumbo classes in a number of required lower-level liberal arts courses.  In a glaring case, it was proposed that class sizes in the English Department’s “Great Works” program be increased from a maximum of 34 students per course to a new limit of 110! This increase would have  led directly to large-scale adjunct lay-offs, since many such courses are taught by contingent faculty.
Crucially in the struggle, a number of full-time faculty spoke out against this degradation of academic life, faculty working conditions and student learning conditions. Notably, Sociology-Anthropology chair Glenn Petersen wrote an open letter to the Baruch administration stating that his department “opposes and will not cooperate” with the jumbo class/adjunct layoff plan.

As a result of the intensive organizing, the administration has now partially retreated. For example, the“jumbo” assault on the “Great Works” program has reportedly been halted, at least for the next two semesters.  How-ever, it looks likely that class sizes in some courses will be increased from 28 to 31 students and that fewer sections of ENG 2150 will be offered. Moreover, the adjunct budget in total will likely be cut. All this illustrates that while our organizing efforts helped save a number of jobs, the situation is far from resolved.
Baruch PSC chair Peter Hitchcock noted that his chapter has formally re-quested, to no avail so far, to see the Baruch “all funds budget.” CCU members emphasized the importance of raising the demand to “Open the Books!” This met with enthusiasm at the meetings, which unanimously agreed to publicize this demand.  Faculty, students and staff have to see the books, verify and inspect the numbers. As one clerical worker told us, administrators “know nothing about education,” but those involved with its real workings of education can and will unveil the real story (like the ongoing search for a new $165,000 bigwig at Baruch!). Don’t let your job be next on the chopping block; join us! 

Last November 4, the Professional Staff Congress held a special Delegate Assembly to vote on the official “bargaining agenda” released by the union leadership the previous night. Over 50 activists from CUNY Contingents Unite (CCU) and the Adjunct Project (AP) – joined by many other guests and observers – came to the meeting to fight for our four demands for the union contract struggle. (See box on p. 1.)
Wearing the distinctive orange shirts created by the AP, we presented 1,400 signatures in support of our   demands, which were gathered in weeks of intensive work on CUNY campuses. Speaking from the floor, union delegates who are members of the CCU, joined by full-time allies, called for an adequate number of days to be allotted to analyze, discuss and debate the leadership’s proposal. Instead, a vote was pushed through at the meeting, approving the official agenda – but not before we put up our four demands for an official vote. Despite in-tense pressure, approximately a quarter of the delegates voted in favor.
Though the contract demands promoted by the union leadership were approved by the assembly, our mobilization resulted in most of the discussion focusing on the situation of adjuncts and other contingent CUNY workers, together with the need to overcome the two-tier labor system.    We reiterate what we said on November 4: the “official” bargaining agenda does not meet our needs, and does not represent the kind of drive against the two-tier labor system that all of us who work and study at CUNY so urgently need.
This is a crucial fight. Today, we are suffering the effects of the last con-tract settlement, which not only left the two-tier system intact but actually increased its inequalities.

Thus, a luta continua (“the struggle continues”) is no empty phrase for us today. The CCU must continue to mobilize, organize and educate for our 4 contract demands.
CUNY’s contingent workers won’t take “No” for an answer to our demands.  The defense of our rights is more urgent than ever in the face of the aggressive anti-worker stance  of the new Cuomo administration in Albany.
Academic Freedom Under Attack
It’s not so often that CUNY adjuncts wind up in the New York Times, but on January 28 the  political purge of a Brooklyn College ad-junct made the “paper of record.”  Scheduled to teach a seminar on Middle East politics, Kristofer Peter-sen-Overton had his appointment rescinded days after a Brooklyn assemblyman wrote the administration to denounce the supposedly “slanted” political content of the instructor’s writings, which this politican deemed too critical of Israel.
You could hardly ask for a clearer example of how adjuncts’ lack of job security is an academic freedom issue. It’s not the first time CUNY academics have been given the Joe McCarthy treatment, but there is an ominous upswing in such attacks. Brooklyn College English prof Moustafa Bayoumi was targeted after the undergrad writing program decided to use his book How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America. Now Grad Center distinguished Poli Sci professor Frances Fox-Piven has been receiving death threats after being demon-ized by Glenn Beck.

Speaking of intimidation, at Medgar Evers College,  “non-reappointment” letters were given to a number of professors in class, in front of their students – by security guards. Located in the largest African American neighborhood in the United States, MEC has – in the words of one historian – long been given “second-class treatment” by CUNY Central.
Now the administration of President William Pollard has taken a series of measures that have aroused the indignation of many faculty at the campus, leading to a vote of “no confidence.”
At meetings on the crisis, CCU representatives heard faculty members describe what they characterized as “disrespect and contempt” toward  their initiatives, events and programs, as well as campus governance.  A center initiated by formerly incarcerated students was closed down, with personal computers seized.
Remarkably at a campus named for the civil rights leader murdered in Mississippi, the provost reportedly derided bringing to campus a press that publishes books by “activist” scholars. (The reference was to  South End Press, which publishes works by bell hooks, Manning Marable, Cornel West and others.)
Defending our colleagues throughout CUNY – “part-time” and full-time alike –  is crucial to the rights of us all.
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Please join us at the first CUNY Contingents Unite meeting of the new semester:

When: next Friday, January 28, 4:00 p.m. (until 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.)

Where: CUNY Graduate Center, Room 5417

A draft proposed agenda will be announced. It will undoubtedly include items on the continuing struggle against layoffs; the campaign for our 4 contract demands; the escalating attacks on public employees and our unions; the situation at Medgar Evers College; and other points.

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