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Making Progress at City Tech: Gains in Support for Course Load Equity

By John Tarleton
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City Tech’s full-time faculty have long been frustrated by the requirement that they teach a larger course load – currently 24 credit hours per year – than their peers at CUNY’s other senior colleges, where 21 credit hours is the rule.

This spring the campus PSC chapter organized the largest expression of that discontent to date, with a petition drive calling for action on course load equity. Chapter activists canvassed their colleagues, visiting departments throughout the campus. By the end of the semester, 325 of City Tech’s 400 full-time faculty had signed the petition.

MEETING

When members of the PSC chapter executive committee met with City Tech President Russell Hotzler in May, 2012, they received some long-awaited news – Hotzler agreed to request funding for the course load change in his annual budget request to the CUNY Central Office.

“As City Tech has developed programmatically, it has also been moving towards a workload comparable with that of other senior colleges,” Hotzler told Clarion. “I fully support this effort and trust that through collective bargaining a comparable workload will be attained.”

Chapter members lauded Hotzler’s announcement but noted that their work is not done. “There is one other hurdle,” said PSC Chapter Chair Bob Cermele. “We have to get CUNY to agree and then they have to get the State to agree. It’s on us to follow up and keep the pressure on until this is done.”

Associate Professor of English Carole Harris, who spearheaded the petition drive, said the 16 members of the chapter executive committee who met with Hotzler took a collaborative approach, asking him to back this reform in order to strengthen City Tech for the future.

“We wanted to support him in this request,” said Harris, who thanked Hotzler for bringing more than 150 new tenure track faculty to City Tech since becoming president in 2004. “He hired us and we are asking him to invest in us,” Harris added.

The delegation was joined by PSC President Barbara Bowen and First VP Steve London, who attended to show the support of the union as a whole.

Harris described to Hotzler and other top City Tech officials how the petition campaign was conducted on a face-to-face basis, with all signatures gathered in person following one-on-one conversations.

“Each signature is a story of a conversation we had with someone,” said Reneta Lansiquot, an assistant professor of English who helped gather nearly 100 signatures across a number of departments.

During the meeting, chapter members emphasized to Hotzler that the 24-credit rule interferes with their scholarship, makes it more difficult to fill new faculty lines and reduces the amount of time they can spend with students.

“It’s also a matter of basic respect for the faculty and our students,” said Associate Professor of Sociology Costas Panayotakis.

STUDENTS

Lansiquot attended City Tech as an undergraduate from 2001 to 2003 when City Tech had a 27-credit course load that subsequently was reduced to 24 credits in 2006 through a collective bargaining agreement. She recalled how many of her friends at that time did not receive adequate guidance because their teachers were carrying such a large course load. Now a faculty member, she says the shortage of faculty time for students continues to be a problem and leads to many City Tech students taking more classes than they need to graduate.

“Inequity in course load needs to be removed,” Lansiquot said. “It discriminates against both faculty and students at City Tech.”