Santa Claus and Guns!!!

Dear Commons Community,

The Huffington Post is reporting that an Arizona gun club is offering a chance for children and their families to pose for photos with Santa while holding pistols and military-style rifles.

One image shows Santa in a wingback chair with a snowflake background, a Christmas tree behind him and flanked by an $80,000 machine gun and a tripod-mounted rifle. Next to Santa is a man standing behind a boy, who is holding an unloaded AR-15 with an attached grenade launcher.

It was less than a year ago that nineteen people were shot, six of them fatally, during an open meeting that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding with members of her constituency in a  Tucson supermarket parking lot.  You would think that there would be a modicum of sensitivity to say nothing about the message of “peace on earth” that the Christmas season is suppose to bring.


Maureen Dowd on “My Man Newt”!

Dear Commons Community,

In her New York Times column today, Maureen Dowd analyzes Newt Gingrich’s candidacy and new found popularity in the Republican presidential primary.  With tongue in cheek, her main point is that Newt maybe the ideal man to fix Washington’s dysfunction since he is the one who made it so dysfunctional.  In a word, “He broke it so he should own it.”

In comparing him to the rest of the Republican field:

“next to Romney, Gingrich seems authentic. Next to Herman Cain, Gingrich seems faithful. Next to Jon Huntsman, Gingrich seems conservative. Next to Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, Gingrich actually does look like an intellectual.”

In looking at his past hypocrisy:

“Gingrich was part of the House Republican mob trying to impeach Bill Clinton for hiding his affair with a young government staffer, even as Newt himself was hiding his affair with a young government staffer…. Gingrich has excoriated Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for dragging the country into a financial spiral and now demands that Freddie Mac be broken up. But it turns out that he was on contract with Freddie for six years and paid $1.6 million to $1.8 million (yacht trips and Tiffany’s bling for everyone!) …He risibly rationalized his deal, saying he was giving the mortgage company advice as a prestigious historian rather than a hired gun.”

Well worth the read!


CUNY Board of Trustees Approves Tuition Increase!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night the CUNY Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition while students and faculty waged a peaceful demonstration outside of Baruch College.  The vote by the Trustees raises tuition at the rate of $150. per semester for the next four years. The present tuition for full-time undergraduates is $5,130 per year and by 2015-16 , tuition will rise to  $6,330 with about $500 a year in additional fees.  The vote was 15 to 1 with the only dissenting vote coming from the student representative on the Board of Trustees.

Chancellor  Goldstein said that the increase was intended, in part, for “the protection of our faculty and staff from the kinds of layoffs that other public higher education systems have experienced in recent years,” which he said would be unavoidable otherwise.

Below is University Faculty Senate representative Sandi Cooper’s account of the Trustees meeting.



Dear colleagues

To capture the full flavor of the board of Trustees meeting, you really need to watch the podcast, particularly the opening speeches by the Chair of the Board and the Chancellor.  I really urge you to do that.

At the outset of the meeting, following Chair Schmidt’s reading of the standard statement regarding the Board’s interest in hearing the public at the prescribed fora (public hearings, borough hearing, letters) he read the statement against disruptive audience members, promising they would be removed.

Prof Bill Crain (CCNY) stood up, moved forward to break through the rope separating the huge rectangular table of trustees, chancellery and presidents from the audience.  He yelled loudly that the Board syould take responsibility for the police violence against students on Monday, Nov 21 and was hustled out of the room by plain clothes security guards.

In his remarks the chancellor went to great lengths to defend the tuition policy and emphasized the amount of aid to be available to poor students for whom anything beyond the full TAP award would be covered by a designated $5 million fund.  He reported that about 100,000 students attended CUNY for free at present (this via a combination of TAP, Pell, stafford loans, CUNY guaranteed loans, scholarships from private funds)

Vice Chancellor Allan Dobrin summarized the chronology of the confrontation between students and CUNY police on Monday 11/21, concluding that no major injuries or beatings by police were recorded on any video.  The 15 arrests were for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, refusing to leave the premises of the Baruch lobby.

The Chancellor added that CUNY will bring in an outside consultant group that specializes in dealing with situations such as last Mondays to suggest ways that CUNY might improve its handling of protests.

Trustee Beal who presided over the Monday hearing on Nov 21 (attended by Beal, Foster, di Martino from the appointed trustees as well at the student and faculty trustee) corrected the remarks made by some of the speakers who were “confused” about the tuition or health care issue.  Trustee Pantaleo enthusiastically praised the Chancellor for managing to preserve CUNY, to grow the faculty and to serve so many students (including 100,000 who attend without paying tuition) amidst one of the gravest fiscal crises in recent memory.  Unlike numerous other universities, there were no mass layoffs, departmental closings, firing of faculty or staff.

Several trustees avowed their commitment to providing access to excellence.

Trustee Wiesenfeld decided to introduce a hook — by stating that one of CUNY’s biggest problems was an individual who whipped up anger and rancor and who wanted to capitalize on the Occupy Wall St events — the head of the PSC, Barbara Bowen.

Ths opening session concluded with an encomium by Benno Schmidt on the brilliant success of Matthew Goldstein for over a decade in turning around a sinking ship, and for putting into place the kind of reforms that his owncommission has proposed in 1999 — including suggestions that led to the compact.

The rest of the meeting was the usual business — voting positively on everything on the calendar.  The student trustee who votes voted no on the tuition increase and abstained on the increases for the professional doctoral programs. (There was a promise that the GC would degray the tuition overage for students who could not manage it)

Thus the asking budget for next year was approved — both operational and capital;  the by law changes were approved; the retrenchment guidelines will move to the Manual of General Policy from the by laws; the academic proposals were approved including a Letter of Intent from CSI to create another Doctor of Nursing Practice despite anger from graduate school faculty leadership that its authority over doctoral programs is being sidelined again –an argument that carries no weight with the chancellor’s staff;  an interesting possible change regarding child care facilities would allow non matric students and some faculty to enroll children IF the needs of matriculated students were met.

This is NOT meant to be a verbatim minute but rather a report of what seemed to be highlights to me.



Sandi E. Cooper, Chair

University Faculty Senate — CUNY


Baruch College Cancelling Classes Tomorrow (Monday) Evening!

Dear Commons Community,

In anticipation of protests during tomorrow night’s meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, Baruch College president, Mitchel Wallerstein, has cancelled all classes that begin after 3:00 pm tomorrow, Monday, November 28th.  The classes have been rescheduled for Friday, December 2nd.

These actions are being taken “to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff during the period surrounding the meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees in the Newman Vertical Campus on Monday afternoon. For this reason, student presence in the Vertical Campus after 3:00 p.m. will be limited only to those completing a class already in progress and initial access will be granted only to those with an urgent and legitimate need to be in the building. We are determined to avoid any repetition of the regrettable events that occurred in the narrow confines of the NVC lobby during the CUNY Board’s public hearing last Monday.”

The full text of President Wallerstein’s message appears below.


The College has decided to re-schedule all classes occurring in the Newman Vertical Campus (NVC) only that begin after 3:00 p.m. on Monday, November 28, 2011. These classes will be re-scheduled for Friday, December 2nd in the same room and at the same time. Existing Friday afternoon sections will be rescheduled. Please check the college registrar web page, which will be updated by Monday morning, or the instructor’s Blackboard account, for the latest scheduling information.

All administrative staff who work in the NVC only are also being granted administrative leave, beginning at 3 p.m. on Monday. Individual unit managers and division directors are authorized, however, to move essential personnel to a different work location as they deem necessary.

These actions are being taken to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff during the period surrounding the meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees in the Newman Vertical Campus on Monday afternoon. For this reason, student presence in the Vertical Campus after 3:00 p.m. will be limited only to those completing a class already in progress and initial access will be granted only to those with an urgent and legitimate need to be in the building. We are determined to avoid any repetition of the regrettable events that occurred in the narrow confines of the NVC lobby during the CUNY Board’s public hearing last Monday.

It is indeed fortunate that no Baruch students were arrested last week, and that none of those who were arrested was seriously injured. According to the information reaching me, all of these individuals were charged with a misdemeanor; and contrary to certain information in circulation, no one has subsequently been denied access to any Baruch College facility.

I want to restate again my commitment to the right of free expression on the Baruch College campus. Until such time as we are able to obtain an outdoor public plaza, we will work to identify other public spaces where members of the Baruch College community can gather to express their views in a peaceful and orderly fashion.

Mitchel Wallerstein

President, Baruch College

U.S. Supreme Court Healthcare Battle Brewing – Two Justices Asked to Step Aside!

Dear Commons Community,

The constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation will
surely be the most watched activity of the U.S. Supreme Court this coming
year.  Besides the usual battle lines of right versus left leaning opinions is the question of conflicts of interest of Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan.

The Huffington Post is reporting that Democrats are calling for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself because of his wife’s involvement with several groups that opposed the health care overhaul. As stated in the article:

“From what we have already seen, the line between your impartiality and you and your wife’s financial stake in the overturn of health care reform is blurred,” 74 Democrats wrote Thomas in February …

One lawmaker who signed the letter, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said she feels even more strongly now that Thomas has a conflict. She wants the Justice Department to investigate Thomas for omitting his wife’s employers, including the Heritage Foundation and the tea-party linked Liberty Central, from his annual financial disclosure reports.

Republicans meanwhile have serious concerns about Elena Kagan’s involvement because she was solicitor general during the crafting of the healthcare legislation.

“Republican lawmakers recently have stepped up their effort against Kagan, complaining that the Justice Department has not fully revealed Kagan’s involvement in planning the response to challenges to the law..

‘The public has a right to know both the full extent of Justice Kagan’s involvement with this legislation while she was solicitor general, as well as her previously stated views and opinions about the legislation while she was serving as solicitor general,’ the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said Tuesday in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.”

Neither Justice Thomas or Kagan have given any indication that they will recuse themselves from the case.




Mexican Students in New York City Have Extraordinary High Drop-Out Rates!

Dear Commons Community.

The NY Times has a troubling article on the drop-out rate of Mexican students in New York City based on an analysis of the latest US Census data by CUNY’s own Andrew A. Beveridge and Susan Weber-Stoger, demographers at Queens College. Forty-one percent of all Mexicans between ages 16 and 19 in the city have dropped out of school.  No other major immigrant group has a drop-out rate higher than 20 percent, and the overall rate for the city is less than 9 percent.  The article goes on to state:

“This crisis endures at the college level. Among Mexican immigrants 19 to 23 who do not have a college degree, only 6 percent are enrolled. That is a fraction of the rates among other major immigrant groups and the native-born population.

Moreover, these rates are significantly worse than those of the broader Mexican immigrant population in the United States.

The problem is especially unsettling because Mexicans are the fastest-growing major immigrant group in the city, officially numbering about 183,200, according to the Census Bureau, up from about 33,600 in 1990. Experts say the actual figure is far larger, given high levels of illegal immigrants.”

The reasons for the high drop-out rate are attributed to a number of factors including language, fear of deportation, and the need to seek employment but do not explain why the rate is so much higher in New York City than other parts of the country.



Happy Thanksgiving from New York – 2011!!!

Dear Commons Community,

Even in difficult economic times, first and foremost, we remember to give thanks for all we have in this country.  We remember the original meaning of Thanksgiving as established by the Pilgrims.

And we take the children and grandchildren to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!


Disruptions and Arrests at CUNY Board Hearing II

Dear Commons Community,

More information and video have become available on the confrontations that occurred on Monday evening at Baruch College during a CUNY Board of Trustees hearing on tuition increases.  Below is a message from CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.  There are also a number of videos at youtube on the events.  Here are several links:

We are going to hear a lot more about this considering that on Monday, November 28th, the CUNY Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on the tuition measure.



A Message from Chancellor Matthew Goldstein Regarding the November 21 Board of Trustees Public Hearing

November 22, 2011 | News from the Chancellor

You may have seen reports in the media about events related to the public hearing of the CUNY Board of Trustees on Monday, November 21, 2011, at Baruch College.  I write to offer some clarification regarding those events.

First, permit me to provide background about the public hearing itself.  The CUNY Board of Trustees holds a public hearing approximately one week prior to its scheduled board meetings in order to provide the public and interested constituencies an opportunity to speak to items on the board agenda.

Those who wish to speak must give notification at least one (business) day in advance of the hearing.  They are then signed in to speak and are asked to submit written statements, a summary of which are submitted to all trustees prior to the board meeting.

For the November 21 hearing, 95 people signed up to speak.  Speakers are permitted three minutes each for their remarks, and arrangements were made to accommodate all signed-in speakers.  At the hearing, a total of 65 people spoke, and the hearing lasted nearly four hours.   Faculty, staff and students spoke at the hearing and were in the audience.  The trustees and members of the chancellery in attendance were prepared to remain at the hearing for as long as there were speakers.

Many of the speakers commented on the need for funding health benefits for eligible adjuncts and acknowledged that the CUNY administration will be including a program of support in the proposed 2013 University budget request to the State and City of New York.  At the September 26, 2011, meeting of the Board of Trustees, I announced my support to seek financing for this compelling need and indicated that I would ask the board to endorse the request on November 28.

Other speakers focused on the multi-year tuition plan approved this past summer for both CUNY and SUNY after many years of consideration by the State of New York through the Executive and the State Legislature.  The law includes a rational tuition policy, operational stability through a maintenance-of-effort requirement, assurances that funding derived from tuition will be directed to the University’s budget, and financial aid coverage for students eligible to receive Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) support.
There were speakers both pro and con on the $300 per year tuition increase proposal from 2013 through 2016 for full-time resident students.

Second, that afternoon, a group primarily comprising students marched from Madison Park to Baruch College.  As they arrived at the college, the hearing room had already filled with those who had signed up to speak. I am advised that the students were directed to an overflow room in the college, which was equipped with a video feed of the hearing.   Students were also informed that they would have an opportunity to enter the hearing room as speakers began to leave and space became available.  They declined to remain in the overflow room.

As more students began to accumulate in the lobby, entrance to and exit from the lobby became blocked.  Several students sat down, further hindering the flow of other students attending classes.  Public safety officials advised the students a number of times that they must proceed to the overflow room or leave the lobby.  The students did not leave the lobby or access the overflow room; rather, more students entered the lobby.  When public safety officials determined that the number of people in the lobby was causing a danger to public safety, they made several announcements asking students to leave or use the overflow room.  Only after students did not comply did officers move forward to remove students from the lobby.  I have seen no evidence that public safety officers used their batons to hurt or strike students.  While there were New York City police officers outside of the college building, CUNY chose to use its own public safety officers inside the building.  They acted commendably under difficult circumstances.

Several students refused to leave the lobby, and a total of 15 arrests were made for trespass and/or disorderly conduct.  At the Board of Trustees meeting on November 28, we expect that there will be additional people seeking access, and we will adjust security procedures as appropriate.   We will post any significant changes on the CUNY homepage.

As I noted in a statement distributed and posted on October 14, “At CUNY we deeply value the exchange of ideas and the participation of the citizenry in the shaping of public policy.  We are also mindful of the need to respect the interests of all members of our communities.  We must ensure that expressions of protest do not infringe on others’ rights.”

These are the principles that inform our approach to public safety on our campuses and at events such as the public hearing.  The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is paramount.  In addition, we must be sure that the business of the University is not disrupted.  Students must be able to access their classes, and buildings, libraries, and labs must remain open for student and faculty use.

The very purpose of our public hearings is to encourage participation and feedback by members of the University community and the public.  We are committed to that process, just as we are committed to the safe operation of our educational programs.

We are deeply committed to ensuring that all CUNY students continue to have access to a high-quality education.  All of us at the University understand that CUNY students face pressing financial issues and lead complex lives that most frequently involve juggling family and work responsibilities with their academic course load.   Many currently receive state, federal, city and employer financial aid.   All of CUNY’s colleges and professional schools are involved in extensive fundraising campaigns to raise student scholarship support.  We will continue to do everything we can to assist students in securing available aid and achieving their educational goals.

Thank you for your support.

Disruption and Arrests at CUNY Board Hearing!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

Below is a an email sent by Sandi Cooper describing last night’s CUNY Board of Trustees meeting at Baruch College.



Nearly 100 speakers signed up to address items on the Board’s calendar (to be voted 11-28-11) and about 65-70 spoke.   A number who were signed up were thrown out of the hearing by security before the reached the podium because of “disruptive” behavior, including a human microphone that attacked the basic authority of the Board to make policy for a people’s university.  The meeting lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

The three issues raised most frequently:

1) The rational tuition policy

Students, from community college through the Graduate School attacked the concept of a rational tuition policy as well as the size of the increases ($300 per year for 5 years);  many reminded the Board and Chancellery Staff present that CUNY had once been free.  Some described unbearable hardships and many predicted that students would have to drop out in significant numbers because the offset funding (TAP, Pell, etc) were not available to many just above the poverty line.

Speakers in support of the tuition increase were exclusively members of college administrations — provosts, vice presidents for finance, for student affairs, for administration.

2) Adjunct health care benefits    

Powerful testimony by adjuncts whose lives depended on health coverage — literally:  cancer survivors, immune-suppressant medications following a kidney transplant;  medications to treat Type 1 diabetes;  medication for lung diseases contracted after 9/11 for faculty at BMCC  people with disabilities who nevertheless taught heavy loads as adjuncts to make ends meet.   There was praise for the Chancellery for including a funding request to cover this item in the asking budget and requests that CUNY follow through in Albany with negotiations to keep this item afloat.  SUNY part time faculty are covered.  There was concern that lobbying for this item might not be a whole-hearted affair.

3)  Changes to the By Laws

PSC officers observed that while some changes had been made to the original draft of the bylaws to meet PSC concerns, there were two articles that still threatened a major shift in CUNY — found in Art VI and XI, including such items as concentrating more power in the chancellor’s hands about what kind of appointments can be made;   de-listing previous job descriptions and titles and adding one that is not in the contract, removing job qualifications in some cases

In the meeting there were frequent students disruptions until many were forced to leave by security.  Outside the building and in the lobby an ongoing demonstration (which I did not see, but received e mails about) led to some scuffles and arrests.   I am awaiting a promised video taking during the police ejection of students sitting in in the entry hall.  CUNY officials deny violence;  students claim otherwise.  Some were arrested, handcuffed and either pushed or beaten with batons (maybe the video will show).

The meeting was not the usual perfunctory performance.


Sandi E. Cooper, Chair

University Faculty Senate—CUNY