Monday, May 6, 2013

Response from Psych Department and Event Reminder

Reminder: Tomorrow (Tuesday May 7th) "office hours" action and speak out in response to poor working conditions of all workers and students, and in particular with regards to the mistreatment in psychology. The event is on the 1st Floor of HW Lobby and begins at 4PM! EVERY ADJUNCT/PRECARIOUS WORKER/STUDENT welcome!

In response to our recent letter to the Psychology Department Chair, Vanya Quinones-Jenab, about the working conditions of contingent teaching staff in the Department we received an email on Thursday, which was -- to say the least -- underwhelming in its recognition of our dire conditions.

The basic premise of the response was to reject our concerns by
  1. referring to other bad practices (e.g. pointing to the fact that other colleges and departments also treat their adjuncts poorly, by e.g. not providing any or sufficient office space),
  2. referring to the collective bargaining agreement and the union's failure to provide us a contract that would allow the demands we put forward as a way of refuting any responsibility for what goes on in the department, or 
  3. by merely justifying and normalizing the bad practices of the department (i.e. by suggesting that a class size of 275 students taught by adjuncts and GTFs is considered normal).
The issue which had brought on our writing a letter, the threat to academic freedom in an environment of paradigm policing connected to contingent faculty's job insecurity, was glossed over and disregarded entirely.

While nothing in the response was surprising, but rather in line with the dismissive approach and utter lack of regard for the contributions of contingent faculty in the department from management, it shows the urgent need for us to continue organizing and fighting independently against our bad contract and our increasingly normalized difficult working conditions.

Finally, the letter ended with a general disregard of adjuncts' PERCEPTION OF REALITY by employing THE TRUTH, at least from management's perspective:
I truly regret that you consider that our department visualizes your existence as 'paradoxically invisible.' This is far from the truth—and your perception at least this time is far from the reality." 
A fight over defining truth and reality is at the core of political struggle and quite honestly this response letter makes us concerned about what kind of reality the Department finds itself in. Apparently, the version of truth that exploits and disciplines adjuncts and GTFs is not an issue or concern to the Department. We beg to differ.

We are excited about the event tomorrow and to continue to expose publicly the absurdity of what is going on in the Psychology Department as just one example of what is going on at our campus and beyond and through this continue our struggle.

In Struggle,
Psychology Adjuncts and Hunter Teaches

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Demand Letter to Psychology & Action 5/7

Dear fellow adjuncts,
Over the last few weeks, adjuncts in the psychology department (which has 120 adjuncts making up 80% of faculty) drafted the following letter in cooperation with adjuncts in Hunter Teaches from other departments and in conversation with students. The letter lists our demands around working conditions, and also demands a meeting before the end of next week and a response to this letter by Monday May 6th. We know it is a short amount of time, but we figure since adjuncts are often given less than a week notice to either teach a class, or to find another job if their class is cancelled, the department can find a half hour to meet with us in 10 days!

On Tuesday May 7 at 4 PM-6PM we will be having a special "office hours" on HW 1st floor lobby to discuss the response from the department and next steps. We will also be having a short rally and speak out for other adjuncts, students, and other workers to make their problems and demands public and to give us an opportunity to work together.

We are publicizing this letter as widely as possible so management knows they can no longer hide behind our isolation and precarity. We're too exploited to be scared, and too desperate to be intimidated. All we can do is organize.

Please send the letter below to any other adjunct, faculty, student, worker, and friend you have, and bring them out May 7!

From: The Basement Adjunct Office, M151, Hunter College

May 1, 2013 
To: Dr. Vanya Quinones-Jenab, Department Chair, Hunter College Psychology 
Cc: Jennifer J. Raab, President, Hunter College 
As a group of dedicated faculty in your Department, we are writing you this letter from the basement adjunct office M151 -- the space where the Psychology Department has placed the vast majority of its teaching force -- to bring a number of concerns and demands to the attention of the department. 
We have addressed our concerns to the department before, regarding the rapidly increasing class sizes that make the conditions of teaching in the Department difficult and alienating. It also further isolates us from connecting with our colleagues and students. While we teach the majority of students in Psychology, our necessary existence is invisible.

Most recently, we have become very wary of the dire situation of academic freedom for adjuncts in the face of the teaching evaluation process carried out by full-time faculty. 
  • We are deeply concerned about a number of issues in the Psychology Department: Based on several recent accounts, the adjunct teaching evaluation process reveals a pattern of paradigm policing. It forces adjuncts to conform to certain more prevalent positivist paradigms within the field, which especially impedes the academic freedom of adjuncts who lack job security. 
  • The growing class sizes with up to 1000 students (i.e. “Jumbo Class”) leading to our roles as teachers to be that of disciplining students rather than providing meaningful teaching-learning conditions that our students deserve. 
  • As the majority of teaching faculty in the department, our existence is paradoxically invisible. The basement office is not only impractical for meeting with thousands of students we teach, but is also degrading, unsafe, and trivializes our contributions to the department. 
  • The complete lack of inclusion of adjunct faculty in the important decision-making processes in the department.  
In relation to our concerns, we have a list of demands to begin to address the issues that we see most pressing. We are aware, however, that our conditions in the Department are connected to our overall conditions as contingent faculty, which cut across all CUNY campuses.

WE DEMAND:
  • A DEPARTMENT MEETING: at the latest by May 16, 2013. 
  • FAIR TEACHING EVALUATION PROCESS: The evaluation should be based on a PEER review of a mix of adjuncts, students, and full-time faculty. 
  • OFFICE SPACE: Guaranteed SPACE for each adjunct, including functional, accessible office rooms with access to appropriate printing and copying facilities in the department. By next semester, at least one desk for each adjunct. As an intermediate demand, at least one desk for every three adjuncts. 
  • JOB SECURITY: 3 year-contracts for ALL adjuncts IMMEDIATELY. 
  • PARTICIPATION IN DECISION MAKING: The inclusion of adjunct faculty in important decision making processes in the department, including allowing adjuncts to be part of curriculum development. 
We request that you respond to this letter by Monday, May 6th, 11pm to address our concerns, demands, and call for a meeting. 
Psychology adjuncts in solidarity with many other adjuncts who can’t speak out because of fear for retaliation