Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Inadequate Agreement

The prior posting expressed concern that the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty union at the City University of New York (of which I am a very reluctant member) had apparently taken pains to delay availing to its membership an actual copy of the new negotiated contract (which must be ratified by the membership in order to be effective).

After nearly 3 weeks, PSC has finally posted the proposed agreement on its website. It is easy to see why PSC was in no apparent hurry to apprise its membership of the actual verbiage of what it negotiated. I have just read through it and my preliminary specific comments at this point (not that there won't be any more at a later point) are as follows:

A. It is not really a brand new contract in the same sense as a 2006 automobile just purchased from the dealer last week is brand new. Our "new contract," if ratified (I personally am inclined to vote "Nay"), would be a Memorandum of Agreement that modifies and continues to the extent not modified two Memoranda of Understanding (economic and non-economic); which, in turn, modify and continue, to the extent not modified, the old 1996 - 2000 Contract.

While legally speaking, a modified contract is just as effective and binding and kosher as a "brand new" contract, the universal practical experience has long been that a "brand new" contract with too many modifications can be a nightmare to administer and interpret, and is subject to more misunderstanding than a "brand new" contract just driven off the showroom floor.

B. Paragraph 15(a), which provides for the "Adjunct Professional Development Fund," establishes a scheme whereby the PSC and not CUNY makes the approve/reject decisions on applications from Adjunct faculty members for funding. This is a double-edged sword. The upside is obvious, but the downside is that PSC politics may yet play a significant role in the allocations from the Fund. Also, I just get this sense that CUNY is washing its hands of the Adjunct development issues. I like the prospect of Adjuncts being subsidized in their professional development, but I am very very wary over how this would work in practice, given the foregoing concerns.

C. Paragraph 15(e) reads: "Communication Resources for Adjuncts: On campuses where capacity exists, teaching adjunct instructional staff will be provided with a CUNY e-mail address. The colleges will use their best efforts to provide teaching adjunct instructional staff with voicemail and, where feasible, to include them in department directories."

What the paragraph DOES NOT require is that Adjuncts be given ACCESS to the computer system so that they can read their e-mail correspondence; all the colleges are required to do is assign a CUNY e-mail ADDRESS to each Adjunct. An e-mail address without meaningful access is totally useless. Yet, many Adjunct faculty members currently do not have any meaningful access to their campus's computer resources.

I am not very comfortable with this proposed agreement. As I said, I am inclined to vote against it.


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