September 23, 2008 | CUNY Matters Columns
In April, the University celebrated when John Matteson, associate professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for his book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. (Matteson is the fourth CUNY Pulitzer winner since 1999.) In describing his research on Bronson Alcott to the CUNY Board of Trustees, Matteson said, “Bronson Alcott reminded me that the work that I do as a teacher, the work that we together do as a university, is and ought to be a sacred task, one that not only enriches minds but restores and cultivates spirits.”
In turn, Matteson’s exemplary work, and his passionate dedication to it, reminds us that the University’s academic enterprise—its “sacred task”—is sustained and deepened by the outstanding efforts of thousands of scholar-teachers across its 23 colleges and professional schools.
CUNY’s top priority continues to be the hiring of more full-time faculty. This year, we have been pleased to add 280 new full-time positions, most of which were at our senior colleges. The addition of these talented faculty members marks significant progress in our goal to increase our faculty ranks; for example, Queens College alone had 45 new hires, while John Jay College of Criminal Justice added 42 positions.
I am also very pleased that the University has reached an agreement with the Professional Staff Congress (PSC). The 2007-2010 contract extends important provisions to faculty and instructional staff in order to encourage their success at CUNY and to foster a sense of community in our workplace.
The contract calls for across-the-board salary increases, as well as additional increases to top steps and salary ranges. Of particular note, the top step for a professor’s salary was increased by more than 13 percent over the term of the contract. Such increases assist the University in retaining experienced faculty and in recruiting new faculty. As faculty retirements increase at CUNY and across the country, and universities use endowment and other funding to recruit faculty, the competition for top faculty intensifies. To that end, the contract calls for an additional $2.25 million for a recruitment and retention fund, consistent with CUNY and PSC priorities.
In addition, the contract addresses significant leave issues for families and colleagues. Full-time faculty will be able to use up to three days of sick leave to care for an ill family member, and the University will establish a Dedicated Sick Leave and Sick Bank policy so that full-time faculty can donate leave either into a bank or directly to a critically ill colleague who may have exhausted his/her own leave balances. Our agreement also calls for the creation of a fund to provide a parental-leave benefit for full-time employees to care for newborn or newly adopted child, a provision that will continue to be discussed and pursued with the state.
The work of our adjunct instructors, which is essential to the University, is also recognized in the contract. Adjuncts will be able to count substitute service immediately preceded and followed by adjunct service as continuous service for the requisite time needed to be eligible for tuition remission, health insurance benefits, and advancement within the salary schedule. I am also pleased that, outside of the collective bargaining agreement, CUNY is creating 100 full-time lecturer lines (50 for spring 2009 and 50 for academic year 2009-2010) for adjuncts who have served for several years, acknowledging their dedicated service to the University.
The University has also given increased attention to its doctoral students, who are often employed by CUNY and are integral to maintaining a healthy faculty pipeline.
For many years, together with the leadership of the Graduate Center, we have advocated greater support for aspiring Ph.D.s.
Apart from the contract, the University reached an agreement with New York State and the PSC to provide health insurance benefits to eligible doctoral students (those working as graduate assistants or
adjuncts and represented by the PSC). I am delighted that beginning in spring 2009, an affordable health insurance plan will be available to such doctoral students and their families.
I am grateful to all of those involved in the collective bargaining negotiations and our other agreements. CUNY’s faculty are the lifeblood of the University, helping students to advance their knowledge and their professional aspirations, contributing original research to their field, and serving as a resource to our communities, both local and global. To every faculty member who, as Professor Matteson said, “enriches minds” and “restores and cultivates spirits,” I extend my sincere appreciation.