Hunter Teaches: Workplace Newsletter, September 2012
Dear Hunter faculty,
We are a group of adjunct faculty in a variety of disciplines who are concerned with our worsened working conditions at Hunter. We are writing to you to bring up several issues that happened in our workplace recently.
Last semester we began organizing at Hunter in response to a number of issues: rising tuition, the slashing of scholarships (most recently the Vallone Scholarship), lack of access to basic resources such as printers and library hours, outrageous class sizes (with up to 1000 students in one classroom) along with a number of other issues that we see problematic and detrimental to the kind of teaching-learning practices that we envision.
Fundamentally, we were tired of being alone in our struggles, especially since adjuncts and GTF’s make up over 60% of the teaching force at CUNY, and we all face very similar conditions (even though we are often pitted against each other by the administration and sometimes by our own departments). We need more than days of action and teach-ins, we need to take control of our work itself. We believe that all adjuncts working together can make a HUGE impact, and significantly change our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.
For more info or to get in touch, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or just begin organizing in your own department or classroom!
Chicago Teachers on Strike
As fellow educators facing the harsh every day conditions of austerity, the teacher’s strike in Chicago is on all our minds. Everytime education workers, especially the most exploited ones--untenured, overworked, underpaid--take action for our working conditions, we’re vilified as not caring about “the kids”. This vilification obscures the fact that we’re the one’s trying tirelessly to improve learning conditions, and our bosses, administrations, and mayors are increasing class sizes, cutting curriculum, and making school more expensive. It is also paternalistic to the students, who are more aware of their own conditions than anyone. Teacher’s in Chicago have the right idea--they could no longer teach in those conditions, so they’re striking until things are in the control of the teachers and students. Go here to CTU’s website http://www.ctunet.com/blog.
Psychology Department Update: New “Office” in the Basement
One of the issues that we brought up previous semester was the unacceptable working conditions in the psychology department. Early in the Spring semester 2012, the Psychology adjunct office was closed down, and adjunct-student meetings were relegated to the hallways of the 6ht Floor of Hunter North. There are 131 adjuncts in the Psychology Department. Making up nearly 80% of the teaching force in this particular department and thereby collectively teaching thousands of students, this sudden loss of the adjunct office was more than puzzling. As we write now, the department has recently announced - finally - the opening of the new office, which will be located in the mezzanine level of Hunter North (basement). This is just one expression of the kind of superficial gesture the management responds to our urgent demand while continually disregarding the real needs in adjuncts’ daily working conditions.
In the next week, Adjuncts in the Psych department will welcome the new space with a meeting to discuss how to act collectively. We are inviting some students who were especially dedicated to these issues, and welcome adjuncts from other departments, contact email@example.com if you want to come or for more info. It is also a great idea to set up these meetings in your own department!
Workplace Speed-up: We work more for less
Class size is specifically a primary concern in the Psychology Department. On average adjuncts in Psychology teach classes of 100-150 students with no additional compensation reflecting the increased workload associated with increasingly larger class size (as compared to the usual 35 person seminar class in other departments). This shows that our salaries assume the only working time we spend is during the actual class time while the work we do outside of the classroom is irrelevant to how we are being paid. This workplace speed-up is not particular to Psychology but instead the situation in Psychology is an indication of how the management of Hunter and CUNY campuses overall are restructuring the salary level and the working and educational conditions.
Outside of psychology at Hunter, adjuncts all over CUNY are looking at a speed up as the implementation of Pathways begins. Among other curriculum changes, Pathways promotes changing many 4-credit hour courses to 3-credit hour courses. This means faculty have to teach the same material in less time, and that in order to maintain a what is considered a “full” course load, faculty have to teach an entire additional course a semester.
This past week, colleagues from the English Department at Queensborough Community College (QCC) were repudiated as they voted “no” to complying with Pathway standards which would result in the reduction from four to three hours allotted to teaching composition English courses. In response, the vice-president of QCC, Karen Steele announced that all composition classes will be eliminated from the QCC English Department for the Fall 2013 semester which will result in the non-reappointment of all adjunct faculty as well as nearly three-quarters of the full-time faculty#. While full-time faculty in this case also will have to be let go, we see this as a frightening example of how adjuncts’ precarious working conditions make them even more vulnerable to retaliation for doing their best to teach under increasingly exploited conditions. It is furthermore only possible to fire so many adjuncts, because the University knows that as long as we’re not organized together, they can always find those of us struggling and desperate for work to replace those who have been fired. While the union’s only response has been to pursue legal means, we think a direct action requires direct action in response!
About this newsletter:
This newsletter is put out by adjuncts working together to collectively transform our working conditions. We do not use private e-mails or announce locations of meetings over mass e-mail because of the repression at Hunter and across CUNY, but welcome responses. We also want to meet up with as many other adjuncts and students as possible, so please do contact us firstname.lastname@example.org, and see our blog at adjunctsforliberation.blogspot.com. If you have a story, information, art, etc to contribute to the newsletter, please contact us at email@example.com.