Professor David Gerwin speaks at a PSC rally on the first day of the Spring 2024 semester. Photo: Holden Velasco

Queens College’s PSC Chapter Demands Rehiring of Professors, Passing of New Deal for CUNY

6 mins read

The Professional Staff Congress chapter is promoting activism among students and faculty members following the faculty layoffs last month. It is pushing to reverse the layoffs and help pass a New Deal for CUNY, which would invest $1.8 billion toward CUNY, give fair pay for adjuncts, repair buildings, and make the University free.

Founded in 1972, PSC is the union that “represents over 30,000 full- and part-time faculty at the City University of New York,” according to its website. Karen Weingarten, a professor in the English department at Queens College, is the PSC chair for the chapter on campus. Weingarten stressed the need for a new, just PSC contract; the central administration lobbying for more funding for CUNY, and greater transparency on decisions made regarding the budget.

Queens College lost, in addition to the 20+ “full-time substitute” faculty, the registrar, Director of Graduate Admissions, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum, Director and Associate Director of Counseling Services, a light designer for the theatre, a full-time professor teaching sculpture, and overseer for the general education curriculum.

“PSC’s vision for a fully funded CUNY will also be a better educational experience for students because a better paid and supported faculty leads to more stability for the university and a healthy educational environment,” Professor Weingarten said. 

The chapter led a rally for restoring the cuts on January 26th, calling out Queens College President Frank Wu on “austerity politics.” Thomas Lee, a chapter member for over a decade and an adjunct lecturer in the music department, led the rally with chants and music.

Lee, like his fellow union members, were shocked by how the college handled their task of reducing their budget deficit this fiscal year. “To know about these cuts when the President did, then take the (in)action of quietly not fully processing their hiring paperwork, and then direct the HR to send a cryptic non-reappointment automated message and have the chairs communicate the firing just two weeks before the semester is just cowardly.”

On January 17th, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that CUNY received $75 million — its largest grant in history — from the Simons Foundation for the Empire AI project. PSC was swift to call out a misallocation of funds. On February 7th, PSC members bargained at the 11th contract negotiation session, which ended sourly: CUNY management again refused to meet their demands.

PSC is collaborating with NYPIRG and the CUNY Rising Alliance — a coalition of students, workers, and communities for a fully funded CUNY — focusing on legislative advocacy and coalition building across the campuses. Lee is the faculty Campus Liaison for Spring 2024.

Omar Ahmed, a junior who is double majoring in Political Science and Economics, is the undergraduate Campus Liaison. Ahmed is in CUNY Rising Alliance’s base-building team and his job is cultivating a base of support at Queens College. 

Prior to becoming a liaison, Ahmed volunteered for several City Council candidates’ campaigns through the Working Families Party and joined one of NYPIRG’s lobbying events for a New Deal for CUNY.

“Higher Education Action Day” in Albany will be on February 28th, where students, faculty, and staff all are encouraged to “lobby for affordable high-quality, public education,” according to the event’s RSVP link. Additionally, PSC will hold a FUND CUNY Telethon, when they will call state representatives and urge them to sign on to a New Deal for CUNY. 

“It’s one thing to be able to go to a rally and sing chants, but it’s another to join a large body of students to face city and state representatives directly,” said Ahmed. “The voices of students carry more weight when we’re able to direct them towards the decision-makers.”

Lee underscored the necessity of student activism at CUNY, especially since higher education funding cuts are a widespread national issue. “It taps into aspects of racism, classism, income inequality, erosion of learning, privatization, and so much more.”

February 29th marks the one-year anniversary of the PSC contract expiration. “One Year Without a Contract” picket lines and demonstrations led by members will happen throughout CUNY campuses.

Ahmed hopes their combined efforts will inspire students and faculty alike to work towards causes that are important to them and to CUNY. He recalled a similar experience of his that further drove his dedication to activism: “I was part of the ‘Fix the MTA’ campaign, which, while unsuccessful at freezing fares across the city for a substantial period, successfully lobbied for a fare-free bus pilot program. This achievement has gone unnoticed despite setting an incredible precedent. It’s achievements like that which I hope will draw more people into activism.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog