At CUNY, the union contract guarantees junior faculty 24 hours of reassigned time for scholarship and creative work. If you’re working toward tenure, it’s your right to use this time – and junior faculty have done so in a variety of ways.
Julie George took her reassigned time in small chunks, over four semesters, so she could continue teaching political science classes at Queens College while making steady progress on her book on the politics of ethnic separatism in Russia and the republic of Georgia.
For Karen Strassler, being able to take a full semester off from teaching anthropology at Queens College made it much easier to finish the manuscript for her first book on how popular photography helped create a national identity in postcolonial Java.
“It was incredibly helpful to be able to work on the manuscript in a sustained and intensive way for four months,” Strassler wrote via e-mail from Indonesia where she is currently doing research.
At City Tech, Huseyin Yuce says reassigned time reduced his Math Department teaching load enough during his fourth year on the tenure clock for him to publish one paper and submit another.
Yuce, George and Strassler have all received tenure and promotion to associate professor, in recent years. While they used their junior faculty reassigned time in different ways, all three scholars say they received strong support from their departments in how they chose to structure it.
“My chair was excellent,” George recalled. “She made it very clear that I could use my reassigned time in whatever way I wanted and whenever I wanted.”
But junior faculty sometimes face obstacles in using their reassigned time, and are sometimes wrongly told that it is up to administrators whether they can use it. “It’s an entitlement, not an option,” emphasizes PSC Director of Contract Enforcement Debra Bergen. “It’s important that people know what their rights are.”
The contract states clearly that junior faculty “must be granted reassigned time provided under this agreement.” In scheduling the use of this time, the contract says department chairs “should give full consideration to the wishes of the individual faculty member, the nature of the work that the individual proposes to perform during the reassigned time, and the instructional needs of the department.”
City Tech Chapter Chair Bob Cermele emphasized to Clarion that while a junior faculty member’s choice of reassigned time “should meet the needs of the department,” it should not be expected to be scheduled “for the convenience” of the department.
Senior faculty and union activists advise junior faculty to take the initiative, and be both proactive and flexible in working out a plan with their department chair.
“It really should be a close consultation with the department chair who will hopefully be supportive though the process,” added Howard Meltzer, chair of BMCC’s Department of Music and Art.
As an example of that kind of collaboration, City Tech’s Yuce described to Clarion how his Math Department chair would ask him to take reassigned time during the spring semester when enrollment drops and fewer class sections need to be taught. Yuce said he largely accommodated this request because the momentum he built up from doing his research work during the spring on fourth order differential equations carried over into the summer months as well.
Making a Case
For junior faculty, Cermele added, it’s best to write out a detailed plan for how one intends to use her or his reassigned time and present it to the department chair. “It’s harder to argue with the written word,” Cermele said.
Meltzer said department chairs can also help junior faculty by making sure their reassigned time is not consumed by a disproportionate share of committee work. “These are not departmental packhorses that should be loaded down with every task that tenured faculty decide they no longer want to do,” said Meltzer who received tenure in 2008.
The junior faculty reassigned time provision was first won in contract negotiations in 2002, and was expanded four years later. “Why should time for research be a luxury, unthinkable at CUNY?” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “It took a campaign by the entire membership and two contracts with incremental changes, but eventually we won both the conceptual and the material victory: CUNY faculty are entitled to time for research, just as other faculty are.”
Untenured faculty appointed as librarians are entitled to 450 clock hours of reassigned time and counselors 525 clock hours. These hours may be scheduled in one semester or one academic year or allocated as agreed upon between the faculty and the department chair during the first five years of service.
The 24 hours of junior faculty reassigned time is “a remarkable step forward,” says Julie George, and the benefits of supporting junior faculty in their use of this time is clear: “It allows you to relax and think, which is when faculty do their most productive work.”
If you have questions, talk to your campus grievance counselor, or call 212-354-1252.