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Long commuting times for some CUNY professors

Queens College students, who commute to school, must face the horrors of public transportation on a daily basis, fueling stress even before school starts.

Imagine commuting to QC from New Jersey, Maryland or Vermont. For some professors, it was and is the reality.

A study this year from the University of Montreal’s School of Industrial Relations found that long commuting times can lead to stress, burnout and even cynicism toward a job.

Elizabeth Hendrey, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said many factors determine a person’s decision where to live.

“We believe that all of our faculty are committed to providing the best possible education to our students under any circumstances,” Hendrey said.

Alfredo Morabia and Yan Zheng, professors in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department, conduct yearly surveys measuring commuting patterns of the QC community.

In 2011, they found the average commute time for teaching staff was 50 minutes, while students took 47 minutes travelling to or from school.

Some professors commute from outside New York for their passion of educating.

For Michael Krasner, a QC political science professor, that passion trumps personal comfort.

“I love my job and my colleagues are pretty special,” Krasner said.

Commuting from Westminister West, Vt., Krasner travels three and half to five hours each way, covering 209 to 220 miles to teach. His longest trip was on Merrit Parkway on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I continued driving, listening to the increasingly horrifying reports until the news came that the bridges had been closed so I turned around and drove back to Vermont,” Krasner said.

Krasner made this journey to New York on a regular basis until his wife became concerned with his health.

“As I got older, it became harder and harder to make the drive and my wife, who is generally much smarter and more sensible than me, said that if I insisted on continuing to teach we would have to live in New York during the academic year or at least commute together. So we’ve done a combination of those two,” Krasner said.

The two spend most of their time in New York during the academic year.

Patricia Rachal, chairperson of the political science department, said there were difficulties in balancing a long commute with responsibilities outside of the classroom.

“Ideally, faculty live close enough to campus to engage fully in all types of academic and extra-curricular activities, including spending significant time engaging with students outside of the classroom. So the further the commute, the more complex it becomes the juggle of teaching, service, research obligations and more spontaneous interactions,” Rachal said.

Since 2010, professors are working without a contract or pay raises, which includes leaving professors with long commutes without help.

Krasner said this failure on the part of CUNY has not affected his decisions about his commute. However, he noted the impact on the student body and faculty.

“The failure of CUNY to make any kind of offer to the faculty and staff union is a threat to the quality of education at Queens and CUNY generally as it reduces our ability to attract good faculty and also undermines the morale of existing faculty,” Krasner said.

Rachal said the lack of a contract, while expenses in New York City increase, could influence current and future staff’s commuter plans.

“Certainly the cost of living in the New York metropolitan area affects faculty decisions on where to live and those decisions also reflect the financial impact of working without pay raises and a new contract for five-plus years now,” Rachal said.

Phil Vallone

Phil is a junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Journalism. He is also a Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2013. He covers events and activism at CUNY. After graduating, he plans to cover politics and activism around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @philvallone or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/journophil. Contact him at philvallo[at]theknightnews.com

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