Open Letter to CUNY Union Pres. Barbara Bowen

To sign this letter, leave a comment with your name here. Please include your affiliation, whether CUNY or another institution—all are welcome in this effort to hold the union leadership accountable at the largest university by enrollment in the U.S.! Real democracy now!

Dear Barbara—

I write as a union member and CUNY contingent faculty member to express my great dismay at your statement of May 9th praising Mayor De Blasio for his CUNY budget and singling out “full-time faculty and student support staff” as needing “investments” while entirely omitting mention of adjuncts and graduate student workers.

In addition to the questionable negotiating strategy of such mayoral sycophancy—and your bizarre contention that CUNY is the “solution” to “inequality,” when CUNY reproduces, and contributes to, the inequality of New York City at large—I don’t understand how you could ignore the needs of adjuncts and graduate student workers, who teach the vast majority of classes at CUNY and are the majority of union members and agency-fee payers. Furthermore, I don’t understand how full-time faculty need “investments” more than adjuncts and graduate student workers, who make a pittance compared to full-time faculty, work under worse conditions, and lack job security. What kind of message does this send at negotiating time?

Indeed, it seems to me that any “investments” in faculty the union wins from the city should go to adjuncts and graduate student workers and not to full-time faculty, given the extreme inequality between contingent faculty and full-time—inequality that has occurred in large part because of the priority full-time faculty have received by union leadership since the beginning of the Professional Staff Congress and which, quite evidently, continues under your leadership.

I wish I could say your out-of-touch statement is an aberration, but unfortunately it conforms to the sense so many of us adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY have about the union’s neglect of us and our issues. It’s certainly been clear to me in my tenure this academic year as an Adjunct Project coordinator, in which you and your leadership team have either ignored or outright stymied our efforts for greater union representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our issues.

Union leadership has been unable to respond to or move forward our simple request from December that adjuncts and graduate student workers have a choice of which chapter to affiliate with; our demands for the bargaining agenda were sat on by you, also since December, until a meeting with my colleagues on April 10th, and we’ve received no follow-up from you, including on your promise to include adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings; and our newly reconstituted Graduate Center chapter—an initiative the Adjunct Project proposed at its October 2013 organizing meeting—contains only two student workers on its slate of 12.

Meanwhile, the UFT deal, which will set a precedent for the rest of the city’s bargaining units, including our own, has been heavily critiqued by the Movement for Rank and File Educators caucus, which is waging a struggle against an entrenched, monopolistic party much like the New Caucus, which commands every (or nearly every) chapter of the PSC. At the moment, I feel more allegiance to MORE than I do to our union, given your De Blasio statement and inaction on the above issues.

I am hoping you will find this letter jarring enough to immediately redress these issues, at least the ones you have full control over: namely, the addition of our demands to the bargaining agenda, the inclusion of adjuncts and graduate student workers in the bargaining meetings, and the change in chapter-affiliation policy.

Furthermore, to enable the participation of CUNY adjuncts and graduate student workers in this summer’s COCAL conference, which is being organized by the PSC and taking place at CUNY’s John Jay College, I ask that the union cover the $250 registration fee for 30 adjuncts and graduate student workers at CUNY.

I look forward to your response, Barbara. If you don’t respond, however, I will not write again, as it shouldn’t be my job to convince you of the merits, ethics, and fairness of genuine union democracy and the concomitant representation of adjuncts and graduate student workers and our needs.

Very sincerely,

Sean M. Kennedy, Graduate Center, CUNY

Elizabeth Sibilia, Graduate Center, CUNY

Wendy Tronrud, Graduate Center, CUNY

Dadland Maye, Graduate Center, CUNY

Öykü Tekten, Graduate Center, CUNY

Erica Kaufman, Institute for Writing & Thinking, Bard College

R. Josh Scannell, Graduate Center, CUNY

Preeti Sampat, Graduate Center, CUNY

Peter Matt, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Margaret Hanzimanolis, City College of San Francisco, De Anza College, Cañada College, California Part-Time Faculty Association

Debangshu Roychoudhury, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jack Longmate, Olympic College

Monique Whitaker, Hunter College, CUNY

Anna Spiro, retired CUNY adjunct

Rafael A. Mutis, Hostos Community College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Jennifer Prince, Graduate Center, CUNY

Esther Bernstein, Graduate Center, CUNY

Héctor Agredano, City College, Bronx Community College, and Graduate Center, CUNY

Collette Sosnowy, JustPublics@365, Graduate Center, CUNY

Megan Paslawski, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kristen Hackett, Graduate Center, CUNY

Fang Xu, Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Christina Nadler, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kristin Moriah, Graduate Center, CUNY

James Anthony Phillips, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Ana M. Fores Tamayo, Adjunct Justice

Tristan K. Husby, City College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Erin Michaels, Graduate Center, CUNY

Cameron Pearson, Queens College, CUNY

David Tillyer, City College, CUNY

Amy Martin, Graduate Center, CUNY

Colin P. Ashley, Doctoral Students’ Council Co-Chair for Business, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ian Foster, Graduate Center, CUNY

Derrick Gentry, alumnus, Graduate Center, CUNY

Melissa Phruksachart, Graduate Center, CUNY

Maureen E. Fadem, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Alec Magnet, Graduate Center, CUNY

Erin M. Andersen, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ashna Ali, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jerry Levinsky, Member UALE, COCAL Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor

Michael A. Rumore, Graduate Center, CUNY

Makeba Lavan, Graduate Center, CUNY

Conor Tomás Reed, Medgar Evers College and Graduate Center, CUNY; Free University-NYC

Kathryn Moss, Graduate Center, CUNY

David Spataro, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kenneth H. Ryesky, Queens College, CUNY

Betsy Smith, Cape Cod Community College; member of MCCC, MTA, and NEA

Isabel Cuervo, alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jennifer Chancellor, Graduate Center, CUNY

Luke Elliott, Graduate Center, CUNY

CUNY Adjunct Project

Alan Trevithick, La Guardia Community College, CUNY

Ann Kottner, York College, CUNY

Vanessa Vaile, Precarious Faculty Network

Mary Carroll, Lehman College, CUNY

Linda Neiberg, Baruch College, CUNY

Brian Unger, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ian Green, Graduate Center, CUNY

Eric Lott, Graduate Center, CUNY

John Sorrentino, John Jay College, CUNY

Hulya Sakarya, Mercy College

Allison E. Brown, Graduate Center, CUNY

Rayya El Zein, Medgar Evers College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Melissa K. Marturano, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Ross Borden, SUNY–Cortland

Frank Reiser, Nassau Community College

Dominique Nisperos, Graduate Center, CUNY

Amanda Matles, Graduate Center, CUNY

Lavelle Porter, City Tech and Graduate Center, CUNY

Lauren Tenley, College of Staten Island and alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY

Mary N. Taylor, Graduate Center, CUNY

Edwin Mayorga, Graduate Center, CUNY

Charlotte Thurston, Graduate Center, CUNY

Robin Hizme, Queens College, CUNY

Sue Clark-Wittenberg, Director, International Campaign to Ban Electroshock

Wilson Sherwin, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

James D. Hoff, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Mark Drury, Graduate Center, CUNY

Anton Borst, Hunter College, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jason Schulman, Lehman College, CUNY

Wilma Borelli, Lehman College, CUNY

Daniel Nieves, City College and Lehman College, CUNY

Elizabeth Bidwell Goetz, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Maria L. Plochocki, Baruch and College Now, CUNY

Sara Jane Stoner, Graduate Center, CUNY

Anna Gjika, Graduate Center, CUNY

Alicia Andrzejewski, Graduate Center, CUNY

Paul Hebert, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Patrick Reilly, Baruch College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Kara Van Cleaf, Graduate Center, CUNY

Harry T. Cason, College of Staten Island, CUNY

Kylah Torre, Graduate Center, CUNY

Kate O’Donoghue, Queens College, CUNY

Keith Hoeller, editor, Equality for Contingent Faculty; co-founder, Washington Part-Time Faculty Association

Karen Gregory, City College and Center for Worker Education, CUNY

Michael Friedman, Queens College, CUNY

Heather Heim, Lehman College, CUNY

Marnie Weigle, San Diego City College

Austin Bailey, Hunter College, CUNY

Leigh Somerville, Queens College, CUNY

Lindsey Freer, Macaulay Honors College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Graduate Center, CUNY

Nathaniel Sheets, CUNY Graduate Center, Hunter College

Brianne Bolin, Columbia College Chicago

Sean Collins, trustee, Troy Area Labor Council

Meyer A. Rothberg, alumnus (1958), City College, CUNY

John Martin, chair, California Part-time Faculty Association

Jonathan R. Davis, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Marga Ryersbach, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Andrew Akinmoladun, Bronx Community College, CUNY

Thomas Smith, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Tyler T. Schmidt, Lehman College, CUNY

Sarah Davis, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Reid Friedson, Adjunct Faculty Union

Emily Nell, Graduate Center, CUNY

Jack Henning

Vakhtang Gomelauri, Global Center for Advanced Studies

Brenden Beck, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Brandon Kreitler, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Alex Kudera, author, Fight for Your Long Day, Clemson University

Aysenur Ataman, College of Staten Island and Graduate Center, CUNY

Anthony Galluzzo, Queens College, CUNY

Jenna Gibbs, Florida International University

Ryan Daley, former NYCCT adjunct; Red Hook Initiative

David Parsons, Baruch College

Rebecca Schuman, all-purpose higher-ed loudmouth

Daniel Levine, alumnus (2013), Baruch College; writer

Stanley W. Rogouski

Kelly Eckenrode, Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Danny Sanchez, Queens College, CUNY; member, Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee

Michelle Chen, Graduate Center, CUNY

Carol Lipton

Michael Pollak

Aaron Botwick, Graduate Center, CUNY

Naja Berg Hougaard, Graduate Center, CUNY

Gerhard Joseph, Lehman College, CUNY

Catherine Liu, alumna, Graduate Center, CUNY; University of California–Irvine

Emma Myers, Borough of Manhattan Community College and City Tech, CUNY

Marimer Berberena, Hostos Community College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Seth Sanders, Trinity College

Evgeniya Koroleva, Graduate Center, CUNY

Johannes Burgers, Queensborough Community College, CUNY

Angelina Tallaj-Garcia, Graduate Center, CUNY

Alexander Chee

Sansanee Sermprungsuk

Angelo R. Dicuonzo, Baruch College, CUNY

Lisa Regula Meyer, Kent State University

Sonia Maldonado, Hostos Community College, CUNY

Natalie Yasmin Soto, alumna (‘09) Hunter College, former adjunct, Medgar Evers College, CUNY; NYC public high school teacher

Thomas Mintz, Queens College and Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

Gabrielle Kappes, Graduate Center, CUNY

Ralitsa Todorova, Graduate Center, CUNY

Leonard Dick

Joseph Brisendine, Graduate Center, CUNY

Alexander Baldassano, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Sarah Tosh, Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Mark Miller, Hunter College, CUNY

Stephanie M. Anderson, Graduate Center, CUNY

Cynthia Thompson, Baruch College, CUNY

Sounak Ghosh Roy, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Cat Chenal, City College, CUNY

Melissa J. Silvestrini, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Doug Singsen, alumnus, CUNY

Chet Jordan, Guttman Community College, CUNY

Harminder Kaur, CUNY

Rebecca Traynor, Graduate Center, CUNY

Hilarie Ashton, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

Marisha Chinsky, spouse of CUNY adjunct/PhD student

Gustavo Gomez, Graduate Center, CUNY

Robert Ausch, Hunter College, CUNY

Debra Jenks, New Jersey City University

Ozge Savas, University of Michigan

Konstantinos Pouliasis, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY

David Palazzo, alumnus, Graduate Center, adjunct, York College, CUNY

L. E. Hunter, University of Michigan

Arnaud Gerspacher, Graduate Center, CUNY

Nozomi Kato, Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Marianna Shvartsapel, CunyStart, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

Jeremy Rayner, Hunter College, CUNY

Aaron Barlow, City Tech, CUNY

Leslie Shaw, CUNY

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44 thoughts on “Open Letter to CUNY Union Pres. Barbara Bowen

  1. […] I would have written [the open] letter with a few different words, I agree with the […]

  2. […] the Adjunct Project is participating in for contingent representation at CUNY’s union, the open letter calling on the union leadership to represent contingent academic laborers, and the call for $5K […]

  3. […] sign this letter, please visit its new site here and leave a comment with your academic affiliation (if you have one). All are welcome in this […]

  4. […] at 3:40 p.m. I sent an open letter to Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s union, with the […]

  5. Jana La Sorte says:

    It has been appalling to me to learn upon signing on as an adjunct just how little we are paid. I am paid $3000 for a three-credit course at City College and am classified as an “adjunct lecturer” – which perhaps allows City College to legally pay me for only the time I “lecture” in the classroom twice a week. As all of you know, this does not cover the time creating the syllabus; reading the textbook; creating class plans; creating tests and exams; grading papers, tests & exams; consultations with students; administrative tasks required by the program; securing special guests; etc. It is unacceptable that universities are paying us so little as it reflects a complete lack of respect of us, for the students who are paying for the education, and showcases the drive instead to give the top administrators fat pay packages and/or, depending on the college, to put tons of $$ they save paying us pennies into making the campus like a spa resort. Count me in for changing this plantation mentality and our pay!

  6. Noah R. Simmons, LaGuardia Community College, Bronx Community College says:

    I could not agree more with Sean’s letter. The union shamefully heavily favors full-time faculty despite the reality, like it or not,of contingent employment. We live in an increasingly imperfect world, and believing that a few more tenure-track jobs will solve the problem of the majority of workers who are exploited is a delusion.

  7. Shelina Shariff says:

    I agree whole heartedly with this letter and hope you will act on it. Adjuncts need a huge pay increase to keep up with inflation and considering how much of the teaching they actually do at CUNY.

  8. Zulai Romero says:

    Zulai Romero — The City College of New York, CUNY

  9. Leslie Shaw says:

    I have been an adjunct lecturer for 18 plus years. I was told 16 years into my tenure by the chair of my department that she never should have hired me because my MA is not in the discipline I teach. Last semester, I was given my final schedule a day before classes began. I was required to teach three classes over a period of four days, meaning an additional transportation cost. I have not received a pay increase since the last contract, which was, I don’t know, four years ago, five? As of May, I did not know whether I would have health insurance after the end of June, and today, I don’t know if I will have health insurance after the end of September. Eighteen years later, I still don’t know my schedule until moments before the semester begins. My four hour class at QCC was cut to three because of Pathways with no consideration of the salary loss to adjuncts and therefore my yearly income has been cut by more than $2400 annually. I have only been offered summer classes at my primary school twice in an eighteen-year period. There is no seniority and only favoritism in my department. I am thinking about retirement with a pension of less than $10,000 annually after working 18 years.

  10. Aaron Barlow says:

    Aaron Barlow, City Tech, CUNY

  11. Jeremy Rayner says:

    Jeremy Rayner, Hunter College

  12. Marianna Shvartsapel says:

    Marianna Shvartsapel, CunyStart, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

  13. Nozomi Kato says:

    Medgar Evers College, CUNY.

  14. This job is my lifeline.Without it i would be hard pressed at 60 to find more teaching work.Ive got 24 years of teaching experience much of it in NY. This job enables me to pursue my studio practice,and have contact with students which informs my work.I am a really good teacher and probably better than if i was a full time professor as i still have passion for my work [painting,sculpture]that i bring to my students. Let us teach what we love.I show I sell some,and i keep a sharp edge,let me convey that to my students.My student work backs me up,no brag,fact.Thank you union.

  15. Arnaud Gerspacher, Graduate Center, CUNY says:

    Arnaud Gerspacher, Graduate Center, CUNY

  16. L. E. Hunter says:

    L. E. Hunter, University of Michigan

  17. David Palazzo says:

    PhD CUNY Graduate Center, Political Science; Adjunct Lecturer, York College, Political Science

  18. Konstantinos Pouliasis says:

    Konstantinos Pouliasis, Graduate Center Phd Candidate and Adjunct at Hunter College

  19. Ozge Savas says:

    Ozge Savas, University of Michigan

  20. Debra Jenks says:

    I teach as an adjunct faculty at New Jersey City University, and work as a union VP. As with most adjunct faculty nationally, our struggles mirror those of CUNY’s. Adjunct faculty at NJCU, in solidarity, are hoping PSC will live up to its reputation as a progressive union. We are hoping PSC will make this issue a priority, and set a standard of equitable pay for contingent faculty.

  21. Robert Ausch says:

    Robert Ausch, Hunter CUNY

  22. Gustavo Gomez says:

    Gustavo Gomez, CUNY Graduate Center

  23. Marisha Chinsky says:

    Spouse of CUNY adjunct instructor/PhD student

  24. Hilarie Ashton says:

    Hilarie Ashton
    Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY

  25. Rebecca Traynor says:

    Rebecca Traynor, GC

  26. Harminder Kaur says:

    It’s a shame that full timers & Union people say that they are aware of the adjunct situation (adjuncts basically starve) but really they do nthg abt it. Shame!

  27. Chet Jordan says:

    Chet Jordan, Guttman Community College, CUNY

  28. Melissa J. Silvestrini says:

    Melissa J. Silvestrini, Queens College/The Graduate Center

  29. Cat Chenal says:


  30. Sounak Ghosh Roy says:

    Queens College of CUNY, The Graduate Center

  31. Cynthia B. Thompson says:

    Dear Barbara Bowen and all union representatives:

    I wholeheartedly support an increase in the starting wage–and for adjunct wages across the board. The small incremental raises we get over a three year period have not kept up with the tremendous rising cost of living these past few years. Paid only for classroom hours–a mere fraction of our actual work hours–any raise is for such few hours that it hardly upgrades our salaries. Many adjuncts have been plunged into debt and financial hardship over the past few years due to this fact. It is unconscionable that professionals, that professors, should be put in what has become an extremely disadvantaged economic situation.

    Five thousand dollars per three credit course translates into $111.11 /hr starting salary. So a four credit course should pay $6666.66. The senior adjunct pay range should be correspondingly higher. A higher base salary is needed without question, but those with years of teaching must be paid an upper tier of the base pay rate. This same rate increase should apply to our office hour.
    Thank you for your attention to these concerns that reflect the concerns of many CUNY adjuncts.
    Best regards,
    Cynthia Thompson
    Baruch College, CUNY

  32. Stephanie M. Anderson, The Graduate Center, CUNY

  33. Mark Miller, Hunter College says:

    Mark Miller, Hunter College

  34. Sarah Tosh says:

    The Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, CUNY

  35. Alexander Baldassano, CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College

  36. Joseph Brisendine says:

    Joseph Brisendine, PhD candidate, GC Biochemistry

  37. Erica Chutuape says:

    Erica Chutuape, Hunter College, Graduate Center, CUNY

  38. Ralitsa Todorova says:

    Graduate Center, CUNY

  39. Gabrielle Kappes says:

    Gabrielle Kappes, Graduate Center, CUNY

  40. Linta Varghese says:

    Linta Varghese, Hunter College, CUNY

  41. Rita Obeid says:

    Signed, Rita Obeid, College of Staten Island, CUNY

  42. Thomas Mintz says:

    Signed, Thomas Mintz, Queens College and Kingsborough Community College, CUNY

  43. Angelo R. Dicuonzo says:

    Angelo R. Dicuonzo, Baruch College, CUNY

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