No New Deal for CUNY: Cuomo Cuts Rescinded, Faculty Union Demands Action

PSC chair Barbara Bowen demands CUNY immediately remedy “punitive fiscal actions,” taken last year, in response to the state budget passed April 6. The budget restores some $26.2 million cut from CUNY’s in 2020 due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Those cuts were responsible for the nonappointment of 2,800 adjunct professors last June.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes, a Hunter graduate and co-sponsor of the New Deal for CUNY legislation, publicly praised the budget despite it not fulfilling the full-wishlist of the PSC and CUNY Rising Alliance. On Twitter he said the budget “is arguably the best higher ed budget passed under our current governor.”

Hunter PSC Chair Jennifer Gaboury also gave her approval. “We have more money than we’ve ever had under Governor Cuomo,” she said.

In a summary of the legislation shared with PSC members and The Athenian, Bowen called for CUNY to “immediately,” rehire “all adjunct faculty, adjunct CLTs and non-teaching adjuncts who were laid off in June 2020.” In addition to the funding restored in the bill, the CUNY system has received $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds via the CARES Act, American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act

That influx of money, though, has renewed calls for increased transparency by CUNY administrators in the distribution of funds.

“Where is that money going?” Lehman College professor Stuart Chen-Hayes asked. He echoed the sentiment of the PSC, that funds must be applied directly to support students, adjunct faculty and part time staff.

Chen-Hayes, who coordinates the school’s school counseling program, says drastic change is needed in response to CUNY’s culture of austerity, specifically when it comes to the laid off employees the PSC is demanding be rehired.

“Adjuncts have borne the brunt of this business model that has been taking over higher-ed,” Chen-Hayes said, continuing that model is to “hollow-out full time positions and we will get. All these other lines that don’t cost as much.”

Adjunct and part-time faculty make up 66% of Hunter College’s professors, according to the school’s website. Some 60% of adjunct professors, part-time faculty and staff members are not members of the PSC, according to Chen-Hayes. That lack of membership means little to no representation for those employees when dealing with CUNY administration.

As a vocal advocate for fundamental changes to the CUNY system, Chen-Hayes joined Rank and File Action, a splinter group of CUNY’s PSC that seeks to give voice to those who are not members of the PSC.

Rank and File Action members are using the hashtag #CUNYStrikeReady on Twitter to prepare members to take drastic action against “layoffs, austerity, stonewalling, and broken promises by the CUNY admin,” according to its digital brochure.

“They decided to hold on to the money and it’s better to lay off adjunct faculty,” Gaboury said of CUNY administration’s use of CARES Act funds. In July, the PSC sued CUNY over its non-use of CARES Act funds they claimed could have prevented the adjunct layoffs completely.

PSC ultimately lost that suit due to the presiding judge taking issue with each parties’ interpretation of specific language in the CARES Act.

Bowen’s email to PSC members stated “CUNY must not hoard these funds,” made available by the new budget, calling for “the hundreds of millions of dollars…to provide the resources urgently needed by students, faculty and staff.”

“I don’t want to see people mischaracterizing the situation we’re in to justify some of the changes that were made during the pandemic to make them permanent,” said Gaboury. “There’s lots of other staff too, who were laid off… where’d the cafeteria workers go?”

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