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CUNY Union Forms Human Chain to Shield Adjuncts From Mass Layoffs

June 24, 2020

By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY – Over 100 PSC CUNY members formed a social distancing line from the CUNY Central Office on 42nd Street to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to protest the impending layoffs of possibly thousands of adjunct professors, and hundreds more joined the protest via a virtual speak out. 

This is the second time in recent weeks that PSC members have taken to the streets despite the Covid-19 pandemic to demonstrate their strong opposition to CUNY’s proposed budgetary cuts in the wake of the coronavirus recession. And they’ll be continuing their demonstration with a march and rally on Saturday, June 27, from Brooklyn Borough Hall to City Hall. 

The union’s president, Barbara Bowen, participated in the socially distanced chain to protest against cuts and layoffs. 

She noted that next week, June 30, is the deadline for the CUNY Board of Trustees to notify part-time faculty and staff about whether they will have an appointment next term. 


“We have 12,000 part-timers, who are the majority of the teaching force, and they are going to hear on Tuesday whether they will have jobs in the Fall or not,” said Bowen.

Bowen emphasized that there has to be an alternative to the plan to layoff adjuncts, who’ll be at jeopardy of losing their health care coverage. 

“The CUNY administration and the governor’s office, and the city and the federal government should be standing up and investing in exactly the institutions that serve the communities that have been hardest hit by Covid-19, the communities of color that are crying out for justice—this is an opportunity to do it and they have to do it now.” 

The onset of the economic recession due to the coronavirus has left no business sector in the city untouched, including higher education. But even before Covid-19 hit New York, CUNY was already experiencing a decline in state aid. Indeed, since 2011, state aid to CUNY, adjusted for inflation, declined by five percent, while tuition has risen from $5,130 to $6,930 for a full-time student at a four-year CUNY school, according to The Nation

That’s why the New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, has proposed a number of recommendations to shore up CUNY’s funding. For example, he’s recommending an increase in funding from both the state and city. For Fiscal Year 2020, the State should provide CUNY with its requested $137.7 million and the City should provide an additional $108.2 million to ensure it can cover mandatory cost increases and finance strategic investments, according to the Public Advocate. 

And on the federal level, the federal government should strengthen and expand the Pell Grant Program in order to ensure a key source of tuition funding for CUNY students. 

While Bowen believes that more money can be generated from state revenues in the form of higher taxation for very wealthy New Yorkers, those earning $1 million or more in income annually, the U.S. Senate should be passing the fourth round of stimulus funding that the U.S. House has already passed.

“We also need additional stimulus money in the fourth stimulus bill which is being held up in the Senate. That bill has $67 billion for New York State and city governments. That must be moved, it’s being help up just to punish states that have their fiscal year ending on June 30,” said Bowen. 

Layoffs from the economic recession have been staggering, which is why Bowen noted that she is proud her members took a stand outside the Governor’s office. 

“We’re not the only story in the city of layoffs, but we’re one of the ones that’s really fighting back. We refuse to normalize cuts and layoffs just because there’s been an enormous budget crisis, which we do not minimize, but budgets represent decisions, political and moral decisions, and we are demanding a different decision.” 

June 24, 2020

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