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