ABOUT RIGHTS AND BENEFITS
FOR FACULTY UNDER THE
by Clarion Staff/ Nov. '05
Who is covered by 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.
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.
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.
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.
Am I entitled to sick leave?
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.
I have or want to have children.
What are my rights and benefits?
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.
What is a teaching observation, and
can my teaching be observed without notice?
(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.
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.
Should I keep my own file of my
work, to begin preparing for reappointment, certification or tenure?
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.
What are evaluation conferences and
how often can I be evaluated?
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.
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).
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.
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.
As an untenured faculty member, is
it wise for me to be involved in the union?
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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