By M.A. Rahman
Published: April 18th, 2019
Organizers and staff members of the CUNY-wide Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union demonstrated on West Quad lawn in support of adjuncts seeking a $7,000 per course salary before it abruptly ended as Campus Public Safety arrived.
Proponents at the event called for an increase in adjunct pay, as the current typical salary of $3,500 per each three-credit course does not sustain professors enough to meet the basic cost of living expenses in NYC.
James Davis, Chair the BC-chapter PSC, and organizer of the BC kickball event says that he was looking to gain an increase in pay for both adjuncts and tenured staff alike, however, the day’s event was deliberately closer to raising awareness to the former’s plight.
“It really devalues our work,” Davis said, suggesting the low salaries paid to adjuncts are becoming a deeply exploitative means of labor and show how much the administration values paying educators for their work appropriately.
Featured at the demonstration at BC were pickets, shirts advocating for a “7K wage,” and a game kickball played by faculty members presumably venting their frustrations on the ball, likened to one of the main culprits the PSC see as responsible for their circumstance as indicated by an invitation for the event: Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“Feeling frustrated? Take your frustration out the old-fashioned way! With kickball on the East Quad in solidarity with your colleagues and students,” the PSC flyer said with a picture of the Governor’s face superimposed on a ball kicked by a figure representing the PSC.
“Over the years, CUNY has been hired more and more people on these lines that were never intended to be a living,” said Meg Feeley, an English adjunct lecturer from Kingsborough since 2002, describing CUNY’s traditionally view that adjunct positions were a supplementary job rather than a full-time means for one sustaining the ever demanding living needs in NYC.
Feeley, who is also a General Officer of the PSC Executive Council, believes that the reliance of health insurance provided by CUNY that many adjuncts are entitled to should be an indication that adjunct generally depends on such work as the primary means of income now.
“We do all the work that [tenured] professors do, all the same responsibilities,” Feeley added indignantly, noting her own dire situation resulting in her accepting a job as an adjunct, who found herself in this precarious position due to an ailing health condition and as a single mother.
“We have to change gears,” says Davis, in regards to the recently released state budget cycle which he says yielded a ‘crummy result’ for members of the PSC and now calls for an increase in pressure toward the State Legislatures for a more favorable deal with the union.
Support for the event on-campus became gradually more apparent as banners could be seen being hung off both Boylan and Ingersoll buildings with students occasionally joining in to play ball.
“I didn’t realize what it’s about until I jumped in, it’s a shame really what’s going on with their [adjuncts] salaries,” said one anonymous graduate student that partook in a game of kickball.
Professors and adjuncts across the CUNY system were present to show their solidarity with the struggles including BC Chair of the Film department, Alexandra Juhasz proudly adorning a shirt and picket in hand in support of the 7K movement.
Eventually, the event was halted as a public safety officer arrived citing no sporting activities might be played on the campus field.
“We’re definitely gonna have to do a lot more than just some kickball games,” Davis said looking forward.