Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Insanity at CUNY: Silencing Dissidents in the Name of "Democracy"

Chief among the reasons for beginning this blog was our concern that “Sue” O’Malley’s lawsuit was but the opening move in a systematic effort to stiffle and silence opposition to the New Caucus radicals who control our faculty union. Of late, the PSC has agreed to a new contract with CUNY, one which delivers de facto pay cuts, and does nothing regarding teaching loads or substantive benefits.

Despite the suspicious timing of the contract ratification process—in the dog days of summer—many of our colleagues have pleaded for a free, frank and full discussion of the contract before it is approved. But true to form, the leadership has dismissed their objections and denied them access to modes of communication paid for by their own dues.

The PSC’s curious, but characteristic, insistence on conformity and censorship has now been noticed in the pages of Inside Higher Education:

Revolt in the Adjunct Ranks

“When the current leaders of the faculty union at the City University of New York were elected in 2000, they ousted their predecessors with a vow to be more activist and to deliver more for faculty members, including part timers. Since then, the union leaders have indeed been activist and politically vocal, drawing regular criticism from professors who would prefer to see the Professional Staff Congress take a more moderate stance.

But in an unusual reversal that points to some of the tensions in academic labor over how to balance the needs of full-time and part-time professors, the union (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) is facing intense criticism from those whom it pledged to help: the part timers who lack the pay or job security of those on the tenure track. Some part-time professors are organizing to urge the entire union membership to reject a contract recently negotiated by the union.

The dissident part timers charge that the contract — by failing to achieve anything in the way of job security for most part timers and by calling for the same percentage increase wages for most full-time and part-time professors, even though the former enjoy much higher salaries — effectively adds to the inequality between those on and off the tenure track. Adding to the controversy is anger from part timers who say that the union’s leaders are blocking them from communicating their concerns to the union’s full membership.

The union leaders told the critics of the contract that they could not distribute their views in the union newspaper (it was too late for the deadline, they said) or use e-mail to the entire membership because the union leaders have voted to endorse the contract, making that stance official policy even before the membership votes.

Because adopting a contract is one of the union activities that requires a membership vote, this has infuriated many adjuncts and some others — even some who think the new contract was the best the union could hope for. Some critics have noted that they are shocked that the union would block its own members from sending e-mail to the union’s list of member names, when union leaders boasted that one of their contract gains was the right to do union business on CUNY computer networks.”

Despite the bully-boy efforts of Steve London, the PSC’s First Vice-President, and his henchman Peter Hogness, censor-in-chief of the union’s newspaper The Clarion, the dissidents have been able to get some media coverage. The most welcoming, and best circulated, venue for alternate views has been The Patriot Returns! Little wonder, then, that Barbara and “Sue” have been trying their best to shut Sharad Kharkanis and his newsletter down. Heaven forbid that faculty members could disagree with these “dear leaders.”


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