Sabotaging American Public Education

[I started teaching in the nearest private college where I could function as a full time faculty member while I finished my dissertation under Ernest Nagel at Columbia (our chairman at that time advised against taking a part-time job at Columbia as exploitation and not worth the time and effort put in). I had already become intrigued with the City University of NY where I had been frustrated in attempts to gain entrance for Harlem kids who I was able to recommend to Yale which was beginning to open its doors to minorities.

When I decided to make the jump back to a CUNY college, Nagel, Columbia’s highly respected University Professor, warned that he had seen too many good people enter CUNY teaching only to be ground down by low salaries and heavy teaching loads. But I was fortunate in that precisely at that time CUNY was being widely expanded with good salaries and reasonable teaching loads. One was spared part-time teaching and could enter tenure track positions which I did. I was extremely fortunate in that I was able to do the teaching that I desired in a context that was adequately supported by public funding. Tuition was free then.

Unhappily as my career was winding down, the public funding for us was being reduced and the powers that ran things had discovered that they could get the teaching done cheaply with well qualified part-timers — we had generally used these only for specialized courses that we wanted our students to experience with part-timers called in at the last minute to take on extra courses that we had had to open to meet heavy demand in our introductory courses. The new wave of part timers generally had to teach at several places and cut corners in their teaching, e.g. few written assignments requiring student research.

So the sad thing was that during the last decade or so our pay scales have been dropping, delayed with pitifully grudging rewards for faculty. Had I not had a TIAA pension growing during the years of prosperity, I would have faced a hard put retirement.

Now the fine faculty that we all worked to be our takeover department are being hard pressed beyond fair limits. Our union struggles even to get a contract in place as the note below indicates. And we are not alone. Higher education in America generally is being sabotaged at precisely the time when our nation is losing its competitive edge with the rest of the world. Our NYC mayor is typical of things — a cheap X with funding public education at any level while himself a multiple billionaire. He makes Giuliani, a public horror, look like a pussy cat when one looks past his words to his deeds.

And so the U.S. goes down the tubes.

Ed Kent]

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June 16, 2008 [PSC, CUNY teachers’ union report]

Bargaining Talks Intensify

Talks have intensified in the last week as negotiators from the PSC and CUNY continued to meet almost daily. PSC members, meanwhile, worked to keep the pressure on and to drive home the importance of a crucial set of gains in this round of bargaining. The PSC is seeking to make progress toward more competitive salaries and to introduce other enhancements that would begin to put conditions at CUNY on par with those at other comparable universities. Meanwhile, the union continues to hold strong against concessionary demands made by management. As part of the union’s campaign to reform the abusive adjunct system, PSC President Barbara Bowen delivered over 1,000 petition signatures to
CUNY on Friday, calling for job protections for long serving adjuncts and inclusion of eligible part-timers in the City health plan.

What the union’s bargaining team can achieve at the table depends on the strength of a unified and mobilized membership behind it. If you have not already signed up to be part of the union’s “rapid response” team over the summer – members who are ready to make phone calls at a crucial moment and those on campus able to respond to developments – please do so today on the PSC website .

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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