On December 3, the CUNY Research Foundation (RF) informed the PSC leadership that CUNY department chair accounts had been activated, making $3,000 in funds available to chairs in each department. Chair accounts are a feature of the union contract ratified with PSC-CUNY in late 2019. It was considered a major contract victory for department chairs at the time.
Sounds like good news, right? The problem, according to union sources, is that activation of the funds came three months late, underscoring how the PSC must continually pressure CUNY administration to abide by the contract terms it agreed to.
In a January 2020 letter to department chairs then-PSC President Barbara Bowen explained the new contract feature: “Think of the account as a source to draw on for research support when, as a chair, you don’t have time to apply for outside grants or even internal grants such as PSC-CUNY Awards. Is there something that would support your own work while you are giving so much of your time to advance the careers of others? Use the funds to buy books, travel to an archive, hire a research assistant, buy a laptop for fieldwork, conduct qualitative research or provide other support.”
Her note also said that “$3,000 annually will be set aside in a CUNY Research Foundation account for your use on expenses allowable under the guidelines.”
While the eventual compliance by CUNY and the RF is welcome, union activists said management’s reluctance and chronic delays are indicative of a disappointing trend of CUNY falling behind schedule on its contractual obligations. In December 2020, Clarion reported that CUNY administration told the union it would delay across-the-board 2% raises to bargaining unit members, even though they were contractually mandated to go into effect November 15. This Spring, the union successfully defeated an attempt by the administration to delay contractually mandated equity raises for assistants to Higher Education Officers and lecturers.