Budget concerns prompt CUNY to put off 2% salary increase for faculty and staff

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez speaks about how providing free food to hungry students is one of CUNY’s top priorities at the Borough of Manhattan Community College Dec. 11. ( Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

CUNY full-time faculty, adjunct faculty and staffers were dealt another blow this year after the city’s public university system quietly decided to defer a promised 2% annual salary increase. 

Last year, leadership from the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, and CUNY settled on a five-year-long contract that would increase adjunct pay by up to 71% through three different means; an hourly pay rate increase by 2%, securing paid office hours and increased hourly rate based on a single-pay rate scheduled to start in 2022. PSC represents over 30,000 full-time and part-time adjunct faculty and staff at CUNY and the CUNY Research Foundation. 

As part of the agreement, full-time faculty, adjuncts and staff should receive their 2% salary increase retroactively for the first two years of the contract–2018 and 2019–and until the contract’s end in 2022. This year, the 2% salary increase was scheduled to start on November 15. But the increase never came for faculty and staff and worked out to be a pay cut already struggling adjuncts. 

Union leadership has taken steps to begin the grievance process outlined in their contract with CUNY in order to stop the delay and is “exploring and open to all legal action” to stop the delay, said Bowen. 

“At a time when there is tremendous economic stress, not having income that you expect is very serious,” PSC President Barbara Bowen told amNewYork Metro. “There are members who are counting on that increase to pay their bills.”

The delay comes at a time when teachers are facing unprecedented challenges caused by the shuttering of classrooms and shift to fully online classes. Although Bowen could not give an exact number on the extra hours PSC members are working on average, she said many have reported working at least 50% harder to make classes work during the school year amid a pandemic. 

For many instructors, going remote meant completely reimagining their courses from syllabi to grading scale to attendance policy.

Youngmin Seo, an anthropology and urban studies adjunct at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, said he had to start from scratch when it came to planning his fall semester classes. 

Normally, the bulk of the work for his urban studies class requires that his students spend hours out in the field observing New Yorkers inside of restaurants, businesses or on public transit. But that work has been off the table for months since businesses still have caps on the number of people are allowed inside and reopened restaurants have since been shuttered. 

Although reimagining classwork was challenging, a bigger and more constant challenge for Seo is trying to properly evaluate students even as they experience personal disruptions due to the pandemic that make it harder to log into lectures on time or turn in assignments.

“I’ve had three students this semester contract COVID and more than 10 students with a family member who had COVID,” said Seo. “They are dealing with hardship, depression and other mental blockages.” 

CUNY blamed the delay on the economic hardships facing the system due to the pandemic and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s temporary withholding of 20% state funds for college aid and tuition assistance warning that if the federal government does not supply the state with additional stimulus funds the held fund could become a permanent cut.  

“CUNY is extremely grateful for the work our employees have done throughout the pandemic, but the federal government’s failure to provide the resources needed by states, local governments and public universities to weather the economic impact of the health crisis requires action that will affect staff at all levels of the University,” said CUNY spokesperson Frank Sobrino. “The measures the University is taking, including furloughs for senior leadership, are necessary to ensure CUNY is able to continue providing a first-rate public higher education to all New Yorkers, regardless of means or background.” 


Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the PSC contract ended in 2021 and the delay only impacted adjuncts and staffers.

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