With some colleges within the City University of New York already laying off adjunct professors as budget cuts loom, a faculty union hopes to convince CUNY to change course.
Starting on Monday, more New Yorkers will hear about the potential cuts in a television and digital ad paid for by the Professional Staff Congress, led by Professor Barbara Bowen.
“It’s a real crisis at CUNY because several colleges have announced that there will be hundreds of layoffs of instructors, and these are largely adjunct faculty who are on appointments of various lengths, but they've been absolutely critical to the university for decades,” Bowen said.
At John Jay College, just one branch of the CUNY system, more than 400 adjunct professors received notices this month that as of now, they would not be re-appointed. That’s not just a problem for adjuncts like Marie-Michelle Strah. It’s also an issue for students.
“When you have 40 percent of your courses are taught by adjuncts, you're immediately eliminating 40 percent of your courses," Strah, an adjunct at John Jay, said.
At the College of Staten Island, the plan calls for cutting the adjunct budget by 35%, according to Professor Michael Paris, chair of the political science department. He says it's the outcome of a process that has not been inclusive.
“Nothing we’ve said about protecting the integrity of our program and protecting our students has made one damn bit of difference,” Paris said.
The planned cuts could translate into fewer courses and larger classes.
“It’s a disaster for the students. The CUNY students as it stands now often can’t get into the courses they need in order to graduate," Bowen said.
CUNY’s budget outlook will depend on how the state makes an estimated $13 billion in cuts to compensate for plunging revenues because of the coronavirus crisis. A CUNY spokesman says the system is also facing cuts from the city and that federal support has “not materialized.”
The layoff notices went out to meet a May 15 labor deadline. The union then agreed to extend that deadline to May 29, when CUNY hopes the financial picture will be clearer and some cuts may be averted.
The union argues that CUNY has been too hasty to plan for cuts at all.
“It's a pre-emptive action based on an expectation of cuts, based on acceptance. Worse than the expectation is the acceptance that it’s OK to cut. No resistance," Bowen said.