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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT RIGHTS AND BENEFITS

FOR FACULTY UNDER THE
PSC/CUNY CONTRACT


Compiled by Clarion Staff/ Nov. '05

1.      Who is covered by the contract?

The contract provides rights and benefits to all members of the CUNY “instructional staff,” except those in management titles, such as deans.  The term “instructional staff,” as used in the contract, includes all full-time and part-time faculty, graduate assistants, Higher Education Officers (HEOs), College Lab Technicians (CLTs) and others such as registrars and research associates.  Article 1 of the contract lists all the covered positions.  The diversity of our membership and the range of our positions throughout the University energizes the union: PSC members have a rich understanding of the way the University works and together generate a powerful vision of what a university can be.   

2.      I’ve heard colleagues mention HEOs and CLTs; what do these positions involve? 

HEOs, or Higher Education Officers, work on every campus and in a huge variety of areas: many are administrators of college programs; others work directly with students, providing counseling on academic issues; and others staff the admissions and financial aid offices.  CLTs, College Lab Technicians, are also employed on every campus; they are members of academic departments in the sciences, information technology, theater, art and other areas, where they provide technical expertise in support of teaching and research.       

3.      When do I move up in salary?

One of the most important things the PSC has won in the contract has been a series of salary steps that provide advances in salary with increased seniority.  Article 24 of the contract shows the salary schedule for each position.  The contract requires that faculty receive a “movement in schedule” (placement on the next higher salary step within rank) on January 1 of each year following completion of at least ten full months of service.  At the top of most of the salary schedules, there are two special steps for which the movement in schedule normally takes longer—a maximum of five and two years, respectively.  What about increases won through negotiations?  In addition to the salary steps, the PSC also negotiates with University management for across-the-board salary increases to raise the entire salary scale.  Such raises are applied to everyone the union represents and to each salary step.  We are currently in negotiations, pressing for salary increases.        

4.      When do I have to be notified of reappointment to my faculty position?

Article 10 of the contract spells out the dates by which faculty must be notified of reappointment at CUNY.  In your first year of service as an Instructor, a Lecturer or a tenure-track faculty member, you must receive notice of whether you have been reappointed for a second year on or before April 1.  In your second year and later, the notification date for Instructors and tenure-track faculty moves up to December 1.  For Lecturers it remains April 1.  Annual reappointments are made until you are considered for tenure; or as Lecturers, for certification.  Faculty in the Lecturer title earn a “Certificate of Continuous Employment” rather than tenure.  Article 12 details the process for receiving certification, after five years of continuous full-time service.     

5.      Am I entitled to sick leave?   

Yes.  The contract provides for paid sick leave, called “Temporary Disability Leave,” in Article 16.  Beginning with the first full calendar month of service, all full-time employees covered by the contract begin accruing 20 calendar days of paid sick leave during each year of service.  A maximum of 160 sick days can be accumulated.  If you do need to take time off for illness, you should contact your department chair in advance, if possible, to facilitate the chair’s arranging coverage for your classes.  Check for what the procedures are on your campus.  You may also hear of people on “Travia leave,” a special feature of the contract related to sick leave (and named for the state legislator who supported it).  Article 16 provides for instructional staff to use accumulated sick days in their final semester after filing for retirement by taking a leave with full pay and benefits up to a maximum of one semester.   

6.      I have or want to have children.  What are my rights and benefits?

Currently, CUNY does not provide paid parental leave.  To take paid time off for childbirth, mothers may use their sick leave, which includes coverage for “pregnancy, complications of pregnancy and childbirth.”  The federal Family Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, for fathers and adoptive parents as well as mothers.  FMLA leave is without pay, but it does provide for the continuation of health insurance.  In addition, CUNY opts to allow the FMLA to run concurrently with sick leave, so that time you take under sick leave is deducted from your 12 weeks of FMLA leave.  The contract does, however, provide for unpaid childcare leaves for up to one year, upon application to the college president.  But such leaves are without health insurance and other benefits.  For childcare the benefits are also minimal.  CUNY provides no childcare subsidies or facilities for faculty, although you may take a pre-tax deduction for eligible dependent care expenses.  With the arrival of a new cohort of younger employees, childbirth and childcare issues have emerged as an urgent issue for the union; junior faculty have organized through the PSC to win progress in these areas through contract negotiations. 

7.      What is a teaching observation, and can my teaching be observed without notice? 

The contract (Article 18) provides for a series of observations of your teaching so that you will have a record of satisfactory performance in the classroom when you are considered for reappointment and tenure.  A teaching observation is also an opportunity to have a real discussion with a senior colleague about your teaching and to seek guidance in a collegial setting.  Each department designates a panel of faculty members, usually senior faculty, to observe the classes of untenured and other faculty.  As an untenured faculty member, you have to be observed in the classroom at least once during each semester.  Your class cannot be observed without notice, and the contract requires that you be given no less than 24-hours’ notice prior to being observed.  Usually the colleague observing your class proposes a few possible dates, and you reach agreement on the date.   A conference is held after the observation, and a written report of the conference by the observer is included in your personnel file.  You have the right to respond in writing to the evaluation. 

8.      What kind of personnel files are maintained about my work at CUNY and do I have a right to see them?  

As Article 19 explains, there are two personnel files for every employee covered by the contract.  One, your “personal file,” contains information about your professional accomplishments, reports of teaching observations and other information.  The contents of this file are open to you, and you should examine and initial the file least once a year.    Nothing can be placed in this file until you have been provided with an opportunity to read it and attach any comments you wish.  You must initial all documents before they are placed in the file as evidence of having seen the document.  If you refuse to initial a document, a statement must be affixed to the document stating that you have refused.  You have the right to examine this file at any time.  The second file, the “administration file,” is open only to the committee and individuals responsible for recommending you for reappointment, promotion and tenure.  This file may contain only materials requested by your college or supplied by you in connection with your employment, promotion or tenure.  

9.      Should I keep my own file of my work, to begin preparing for reappointment, certification or tenure?

Yes.  Almost everyone on the faculty would advise you to start now, compiling a file for yourself of everything you’ve done professionally since beginning your CUNY career.  Make it a habit to file a copy of everything you publish, your syllabi, course descriptions and sample course assignments, letters or evaluations from students about your teaching, invitations to speak at professional conferences, letters of commendation by colleagues and other relevant material.  When the time comes to prepare your material for tenure, you will have everything at hand.  Even if you decide not to use everything, the file will be useful to draw on in preparation. 

10.  What are evaluation conferences and how often can I be evaluated?   

Teaching faculty who are non-tenured are required by the contract (Article 18) to be evaluated at least once each year by the department chair or a member of the departmental Personnel and Budget Committee assigned by the Chair.  The annual evaluation conference is one of the most important opportunities you have to discuss frankly with your chair how you are progressing toward tenure or, for Lecturers, certification.  The chair is responsible for providing you with guidance.  Within ten working days after the annual evaluation, you must be given a written record of the discussion, for inclusion in your personal file.   

11.  I keep hearing about “the P & B”—what is it? 

The “P & B” is the Department Personnel and Budget Committee.  It’s the elected body in your department responsible for recommending candidates for appointment, reappointment, promotion and tenure in the department.  The function of the P & B Committee is governed by the CUNY Bylaws (Sections 9.2 and 9.8), rather than the contract.  Most campuses also have a “College-wide P & B,” an elected committee, including chairs of all departments and campus administration, that votes to recommend to the president candidates throughout the college for appointment, reappointment, promotion and tenure.  (Section 8.9 of the Bylaws). 

12.  What do I do if I think my rights have been violated or if I’m given information that sounds different from what is provided here?

Contact the PSC chapter chair or grievance counselor on your campus.  In any case, it’s a good idea to contact the chapter chair and introduce yourself as a new member.  If you cannot reach a campus-based union representative, call the PSC office and ask for a grievance counselor.  As Article 20 states, there is a 30-day time limit on filing grievances, so it’s essential, if you do have a grievance, that you act quickly.  A grievance is a claim that there has been a breach or improper application of the contract or an arbitrary, discriminatory or improper application of the Bylaws.  Many times, however, problems can be resolved through an informal procedure, with which the grievance counselor can help you.  All conversations of this nature with the chapter chair and grievance counselor are strictly confidential.   

13.  What is the Welfare Fund?  And how do the Welfare Fund benefits (dental, vision and prescription) work?

The Welfare Fund is a supplemental benefit fund supported by contributions from the employer, as detailed in Article 26 of the contract.  The PSC negotiates with University management for increased contributions to the Welfare Fund.  Health insurance is provided by the New York City Employee Benefits Program, but your supplemental benefits—such as prescription drug coverage, and plans for dental and optical coverage—are provided by the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund.  The prescription drug plan provides for discounts on all prescriptions, with different copayments for generic and brand-name drugs.  As a new employee, you should have received two drug coverage cards, one from the NYC Employee Benefits Program for special categories of long-term drug therapy (psychotropic, injectable, chemotherapy and asthma); and one from the Welfare Fund for all other prescriptions.  By presenting the appropriate card at the pharmacy or using the mail-order prescription plan, you receive substantial discounts on your prescriptions—some drugs cost you just $5.  The Welfare Fund also offers a discount dental plan, with an optional rider for an enhanced program.  On both the basic and the enhanced plan, simple examinations and cleanings are free at participating dentists, of whom there are 6,000 in the NY metropolitan area.  Call the Welfare Fund at 212-354-5230 for more information about the dental plan and the other benefits, such as subsidies for eyeglasses and contact lenses.     

14.  As an untenured faculty member, is it wise for me to be involved in the union? 

Absolutely.  The PSC is a vital, respected part of the CUNY community.  The vast majority of full-time faculty are PSC members, and colleagues from every rank in the University are open and active union participants.  Further, your right to participate in union activities is protected by law and by the contract itself, in Article 8.  Obviously, as a new faculty member you will want to dedicate yourself to your teaching and research, but participation in the union can enlarge your intellectual and professional—and social!—life.  Being active in the union gives you an alternative way to understand the University: from the point of view of those who work here; as a political entity, necessarily engaged with the politics of City and State; as a community with the richness of 20 campuses and thousands of faculty.  By participating in the union on your campus you form valuable relationships with people within and beyond your own department.  The union belongs to all of us; your participation will help to determine how it defines itself for the  struggles of your faculty generation. 

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