How the proposed contract applies to grad students

The Graduate Center PSC chapter chair Luke Elliott-Negri wrote in an email to all Graduate Center members that the proposed contract “makes huge strides toward addressing key issues” for graduate students. This is simply false.

We are voting NO on this proposed contract. Here is why:

They claim: “this is a victory for adjuncts”

  • This is still not a living wage. This contract would only bring us to $5.5K in 2022, with no possibility for increase afterwards.
  • This modest gain comes from the creation of extra work for adjuncts. We will be mandated to hold a weekly office hour on campus for each 3-credit course we teach.
    • While the union leadership claims this is work that we are already performing and not getting paid for, the facts are much less rose-tinted. The proposal clearly states that up to six of these hours may be used each semester for whatever management wants.
    • Exploitation of our labor is already commonplace: At City Tech, all writing tutoring has been cut from the budget for the general student population. They’re asking English faculty (including part-timers) to pick up the slack and volunteer time to help students in all class with writing.
    • Last week, the Chancellor already put out a statement in which the additional required hours were touted as a path to the “professionalization of the adjunct faculty.” In other words, management is eagerly looking forward to tasking their more than 12,000 adjuncts with duties ranging from advising to required workshops.
    • When confronted with these facts, our chapter chair himself had to admit it during the 10/25 chapter meeting: “There are all kinds of opportunities for abuse in the contract.”
  • So yes – it’s a little bit more money for adjuncts, but it’s also more work. The “71% raise” advertised is deceptive. If you consider the hourly wage: the proposed contract would only raise our hourly wage from $71.59 to $91.67 in 2022. So that’s a 28% increase over three years.

They claim: “This is a victory for graduate students”

  • With this proposed contract, students who receive 5-year GCF, who hold Grad Assistant positions (like GAB or GAD) and who work as College Lab Technicians (CLT) and Non-Teaching Adjuncts (NTA), will only receive the 2% across-the-board raise. Since inflation in New York State is higher than 2% this proposed contract is essentially a pay cut. A long way from the 10% increase advertised.

They claim: “Tuition remissions for the 6th and 7th year”

  • The tuition remission only applies to students who will work as adjuncts or grad assistants during their 6th and 7th year. Other students won’t be eligible.
  • International students and students who live out of state (like in NJ or Connecticut) are not eligible for resident rates, so they will still have to pay $2,430 in tuition per year.
  • Students who have not yet reached Level III by this time will still have to pay between $3,750 (residents) and $11,350 (nonresidents) in tuition.

They claim: “access to health insurance for the unfunded students”

  • The proposed contract does not offer any guarantee as to how many students will benefit from this and under which conditions. We want health insurance for all admitted students without restriction. This proposed contract is unlikely to reduce the inequality in learning conditions among doctoral students at the Grad Center.

They claim: “doctoral students will be able to bring in approximately $50,000 annually.”

  • What the proposed contract does is increase the number of courses that students who have a five-year fellowship can teach as adjuncts on the top of their fellowship requirements. But who can possibly teach four classes every semester and keep up with their graduate work? This number of $50,000 is an insult for those of us who also experience disabilities or have care obligations.
  • It is also deceptive, because of the large budget cuts happening across CUNY. Who will be able to secure all these teaching gigs as the crisis worsens? At BMCC, 300 classes have been canceled for spring 2020. Queens College has just cut 30 sections of a required core English course. Similar cuts are taking place at other campuses.

They claim: “Students will now be able to receive Grad Assistant positions for more than 5 years”

  • Again, this is very deceptive. Changing the maximum years of GAB eligibility doesn’t actually change the guaranteed length of funding. The GAB fellowship offer is still 5 years. There is no guarantee ANYONE would actually get additional years of graduate assistant time. Only that we are legally allowed to.

Vote NO on the PSC-CUNY Contract Proposal!