October 21, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – This week, public university faculty on both coasts are seriously contemplating devastating strike actions — and the increasing “de-professionalization” of higher learning is driving them to it.
Educators in New York and California say they don’t want to walk out later this fall, but many feel that years of stagnant wages, coupled with an increasing reliance on part-time instructors, as well as mounting attacks on unions, tenure and academic freedom, leaves them little choice.
“From the students’ point of view, they still have someone teaching them — but many have no idea that [instructors] are being underpaid and their work is being disrespected,” California Faculty Association [CFA] President Jennifer Eagan recently told LaborPress.
Over the last several years, the California State University system [CSU] and the City University of New York [CUNY] have seen essential funding dry up like puddles of rainwater under a hot summer sun. But instead of fighting for more state funding, academics on both sides of the country charge that university bureaucrats have hired more administrators and shifted class loads onto low-paid adjuncts who struggle to pay the rent – in addition to never knowing if they'll still have a job after the semester ends.
“That undermines the whole profession,” Professional Staff Congress [PSC] President Barbara Bowen told LaborPress on Tuesday. “We’ve certainly seen that at CUNY.”
CUNY professors haven’t seen a raise in six years, but in addition to pushing for long overdue raises, the PSC is also seeking a better balance between full-time and part-time instructors, while also making sure adjuncts are granted longer appointments and are paid for office hours.
“We have terrific people, some with PhDs that could be full-time, but the bottom has dropped out of funding,” Bowen said.
A strike authorization vote is already underway in California and will continue through October 28. Angry CFA members are demanding a five-percent general salary increase. Administrators are stuck at two-percent.
“We all know that the Chancellor’s 2-percent is simply not enough to make teaching in the CSU sustainable,” Eagan said in a statement.
Planning for a PSC strike authorization vote is still underway. The union will take up the matter at a November 19 meeting. Several teach-in events and other actions are slated ahead the assembly, however.
“The longterm solution is a state-by-state investment in public education and you cannot do that on the cheap,” Bowen said.
Despite ongoing budget cuts, enrollment at CUNY schools is at an all-time high.