RELATED COVERAGE: If You Have a Conflict About Your Time Sheet...
At Brooklyn College and other CUNY campuses this semester, HEOs and CLTs are being forced into rigid work schedules by the administration’s insistence on a new, oversimplified, inflexible time sheet procedure.
Much of the initial reaction of HEOs and CLTs has centered on two issues: First, the humiliation we feel being suddenly redefined by the University as non-professional assembly-line-type workers who can no longer be trusted, even under the direction of our supervisors, to organize our schedule variations so as to best manage our many responsibilities. Second, the difficulty – even the impossibility – many of us will now experience in carrying out all our regular duties, let alone any extra initiatives or responses to the myriad unpredictable situations that so often arise in an institution as complicated as
Inflexible to a Fault
At a joint meeting of the PSC’s CLT and HEO chapters on September 17, with a huge turnout, these concerns were amply and sometimes poignantly articulated. But it should be pointed out these are not just HEO or CLT problems; they could have a real impact on the faculty, on students, on teaching and on CUNY’s educational mission in general.
With the new time sheet, we have been told that any deviation from a standardized schedule must be proposed and justified in writing and signed by senior administrators in advance. But since such deviations are often impossible to anticipate and since the forms required for this are not adapted to short-term or frequent schedule variations, we are concerned that the flexibility many of us require to support instruction and meet varying other needs will be severely curtailed.
For those of us in libraries, IT centers, science labs, language labs, admissions, counseling, financial aid, etc., it is obvious the effect of these uncompromising arrangements will make it much harder to serve faculty and student needs. In some academic departments and areas where we support faculty and teaching directly, the results could be devastating. Faculty may find themselves running lab classes without us and doing their own setups and cleanups. Students at times may not have anyone to turn to when they need help. Department activities outside regular classes may have no one to set up or run them. Chairpersons and supervisors will find they no longer have the flexibility to assign us tasks according to the most pressing needs of their departments and offices.
Because the new time sheet allows only one meal break daily, those who cover day and night classes on the same day may have to skip either lunch or dinner. Because meal breaks will be compulsory and recorded, we will certainly not be inclined to extend our work time for free by eating a sandwich at our desks while we work, as so many of us do now. And where supervisors need to address some of these problems by temporarily reassigning HEO or CLT work schedules, they will find it takes up their own time repeatedly filling out the forms, writing justifications and seeking the approval and signatures of the appropriate vice presidents. We even worry that we personally, rather than the new system, may be blamed for depriving others of needed support, thereby diminishing collegiality and creating an enduring conflict of interest when decisions are to be made on our reappointments and promotions or reclassification.
With all these new scheduling strictures, it is not hard to imagine the kind of situations that will arise: Who will be able to take the extra time to set up an unusually complicated lab, or clean up the acid spilled just as one’s shift is ending, or come in at night to feed the lab rats because the assigned person is sick, or keep the registration tables staffed past quitting time when the lines are still long, or manage the stage lights at a theatrical or musical performance that runs late into the night, or keep a studio or a department library open extra hours before finals so students can finish up their projects and study, or stay late or even work over the weekend at home to finish a report that’s needed first thing Monday morning?
Why did CUNY do this? What were they thinking? Was this new system devised by non-educators who do not have the slightest idea how a university really works? Or, like Pathways and CUNYfirst, is it part of the trustees’ effort to impose systems that fulfill their need for consistency, order and control – whatever the educational consequences (and however sloppily executed)?
At the September 17 PSC meeting, people testified that some workshops and training sessions explaining the new system were run by lower-level administrators who could not answer questions or resolve the contradictions posed by such an ineptly designed time sheet. (Perhaps the vice presidents who should have been present, knowing none of this will work but not wishing to upset those above them, were in hiding.)
Insult to Injury
I have been a CLT at CUNY for a long time. I love my job – well, much of it anyway. As a professional with degrees and advanced skills who has believed in and felt a part of the University’s educational mission, I have gone out of my way to advance it even when this required, with the full knowledge of my chairperson, irregular or extra hours. I have known dozens and dozens of HEOs and CLTs over the years who did the same.
But here is where anger is overshadowed by a certain sadness: by discounting our professionalism and self-motivation, the University is implying we are no longer trusted and must be strictly controlled, diminishing our ability to support education in order to fulfill a senseless bureaucratic mandate. And so, with decreased respect – but not decreased workloads – and with this new time-sheet regime making everything we have to do more difficult, most of us will feel far less willing to undertake those extra initiatives that benefited the University in the past and, not unimportantly, yielded satisfaction and meaning in our jobs. What a loss that is both for CUNY and for us.
Stephen Margolies is Chief College Laboratory Technician in Brooklyn College’s Art Department.