Professional Staff Congress | 61 Broadway, 15th Floor, NYC 10006 | 212-354-1252 |212-PSC-CUNY | email@example.com | AFT Local #2334
Faculty United to Stabilize Employment
If excessive workload is the hidden cost of underfunding at CUNY, the unmistakable cost is the replacement of a full-time, tenured faculty with underpaid part-timers. In the mid-1970s, when enrollment was about as high as it is today, CUNY had nearly 5,000 more full-time faculty. CUNY management’s ill-conceived response to years of budget-cutting was to save money on the University’s core work –- teaching -– by underpaying a huge number of its faculty. In the Spring 2009 semester, CUNY’s faculty was 7,047 full-time and 8,794 part-time. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the CUNY ads on the subway, but the truth is that the majority of CUNY faculty are part-timers.
And none of the nearly 9,000 teaching adjuncts has a guarantee that they will have a job from one year to the next. That means that thousands of our students also have no guarantee that their instructor will be available after the end of the semester to write a recommendation, offer advice on career choices or serve as a role model and mentor. It means that many academic departments have to go through a time-consuming hiring or re-hiring process every semester. And it means that thousands of adjuncts cannot make a commitment to full participation in the life of the University because they are not paid to do so and never know when their time at CUNY will end.
The initiative on stabilizing the faculty workforce seeks, in a modest way, to address the issue of contingency for the faculty. The problem is complex, involving questions of selection and evaluation of adjuncts as well as the needs of departments for some flexibility in course assignments. But I am convinced that a better practice can be developed, one that offers stability to departments, dignity to the adjunct faculty who have kept the University afloat in tough times, and continuity of instruction to our students. Working on a small number of campuses, PSC activists are beginning to discuss what that practice might be, and the results of their work could have ramifications throughout CUNY and beyond.
-- PSC President Barbara Bowen (originally published in the September 2009 issue of the Clarion)