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The Bountiful Table:

Generous Pay Raises for 80th
Street and College Presidents;
Crumbs for Faculty and Staff

Below is a press release from the PSC distributed before a December 5th Press Conference on the steps of City Hall.  The press conference was called by the PSC in response to CUNY Executive pay hikes and in anticipation of a hearing by the Higher Education Committee of the City Council later that same morning.

 

CUNY Trustees Invest in
Executives, Not Students

 

NEW YORK, December 5—At a time when City University of New York is desperately short of funds, senior college tuition has soared by 25 percent, classes are so large that learning is impaired, and cement is literally falling off campus buildings, the Board of Trustees allocated as much as $100,000 for executive salaries.  That is the wrong investment, according to the Professional Staff Congress, the union of CUNY’s faculty and staff.

 

The press conference immediately precedes a hearing on the issue before the City Council Higher Education Committee, Chaired by Barron.  He said: “I am outraged that they gave themselves raises. This is very untimely and insensitive. This money could be better used for students in their pursuit of academic excellence. This is another example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

 

The Trustees’ decision—made just four months after raising tuition—shortchanges students, said PSC President Barbara Bowen. The $2.1 million also could have funded 2,625 scholarships to cover the cost of the senior college tuition increase or 7,000 scholarships to cover the cost of the community college tuition increase. Bowen said: “The money that was spent on executive pay increases could have gone to reducing class size or buying books for the libraries or even basic necessities that we lack at CUNY like chalk and paper. When our students are paying more, they shouldn’t be getting less.”

 

Tommy Wang, a student at Hunter College who demonstrated before the December 1 CUNY Board of Trustees meeting protesting the executive salary hikes and tuition increase, said: “I feel like they’re [CUNY Board of Trustees] taking money out of our pockets and directly putting it into theirs. It is hurting people of color, women of color, low income and immigrant students; they are the first ones that are going to be pushed out of the university because of the increased costs.”

 

Tamieka Byer, another Hunter College student agreed: “I feel like I’m being suckered by the Board of Trustees.  One minute they are telling us that CUNY has no money and they have to hike up our tuition and the next minute they’re giving themselves raises and that’s our money!” 

 

The University funded these raises, in part, out of efficiencies that include a hiring-freeze on non-teaching personnel. These “efficiencies” mean a speed-up in work for the faculty and staff as well as diminished services for students. Instead the Board gave the Chancellor a 40-percent raise. Others in the chancellery received raises of 6 to 19 percent. College presidents received raises of 3 to 9 percent.

 

The decision to increase management salaries was made without a formal public hearing and sufficient opportunity for the public to comment and deliberate. The Board of Trustees bypassed the normal process for public hearings in advance. The Trustees justified the 40 percent raise for the Chancellor by arguing that his former salary of $250,000 plus a $90,000 housing allowance and a car was not competitive and that he had not received a raise in four years. However, the Chancellor’s housing allowance is more than twice the amount of a typical beginning professor’s salary. Nor is there a housing allowance for faculty.

 

Nancy Romer, professor of psychology at Brooklyn College said, “It takes a lot of chutzpah for the administration to be grabbing money for themselves, with the argument that they have to attract the best at the top.” While management claims its raises are justified by CUNY’s improved performance, Romer said, “our faculty and staff are the people who are on the line, serving the students, getting the grants—yet some of them don’t have the resources to live a middle-class life.”

 

The majority of CUNY courses are taught by part-time faculty, many of whose salaries are less than a living wage. For example, an adjunct lecturer teaching a full-course load would make about $27,196 a year. The vast majority earn much less.

 

The current contract for faculty and professional staff at CUNY expired a year ago. The faculty and staff have not yet received any offer of a wage increase. Bowen said. “Management argues that you need to pay people well to attract the best—so why don’t they apply that principle to the faculty and staff?”