A union representing over 30,000 CUNY faculty and staff launched a television and digital ad campaign on Monday opposing the possible layoffs of thousands of adjunct faculty and part-time staff working in the city public university system.
The ad, a 30-second-long video, features slow close-up shots of CUNY campus buildings and CUNY student faces briefly covered by sliding white and yellow text explaining how cuts to staffing and classes would further hurt communities hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic and prevent some students from graduating.
The novel coronavirus has disproportionally impacted poor communities of color in New York City, according to city data released in April, which revealed that Black and Hispanic New Yorkers die of complications caused by the virus nearly twice as much as white New Yorkers. The striking difference reflects long-time health and wealth disparities, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference a day before the preliminary draft of the findings were released.
Students of color make up roughly 72% of the CUNY student body, according to fall 2019 enrollment data, and the median household income for students is around $40,000. Nearly half of CUNY classes are taught by adjunct professors.
Due to new authority granted to the governor during this year’s state budget, Cuomo can now impose rolling budget modifications and unilaterally make cuts and without federal aid state spending could be cut by over $10 billion. To help make up for the state’s current $ 13 billion deficit, cuts to CUNY could be as high as $95.1 million.
Despite funding from the CARES Act, which allocated $237 million to CUNY to split equally for direct student aid and institutional needs stemming from the pandemic, some faculty and CUNY colleges are preparing for the worst. Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, John Jay College, and Queens College have all announced plans to make significant cuts to their adjunct faculty and part-time staff.
“There is no justification for the terminations of employment and, in many cases, of health insurance that CUNY colleges have announced,” said President of the Professional Staff Congress Barbara Bowen.“Taking such actions at any time would be alarming; doing so in the midst of a pandemic after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid is inexcusable. CUNY must do better.”
College administrations have until May 29 to decide whether to re-appoint adjuncts.