CUNY adjuncts are laid off due to budget cuts

Erik+McGregor+%7C+PSC

Erik McGregor | PSC

Ayse Kelce

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature withheld 20% of CUNY’s $2 billion budget due to expected tax revenue loss resulting in the job termination of around 3,000 CUNY adjunct professors.

“If enacted, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Budget plan would cripple community colleges at the City University of New York and undermine quality of instruction throughout the university,” Professional Staff Congress CUNY’s statement said about the budget cuts before they were enacted.

The layoffs resulted in a decrease in the number of classes offered and increase in class sizes for CUNY students. At the same time, adjunct professors are facing serious financial insecurities due to this decision.

“Individual colleges are now operating on month-to-month budgets, unheard of in a system that always has a fiscal year budget to work from,” Gothamist reported.

Kelsey Chatlosh, an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College and a Ph.D. student, voiced her concerns in an op-ed for Teen Vogue, “My undergraduate students at Brooklyn College of the CUNY sometimes gasp when I tell them how much I’m paid: about $27,000 annually before taxes. I work a full-time job for part-time pay with no job security,” Chatlosh wrote.”

The pay rates of adjuncts have long been a heated discussion, often led by the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY. However, with the latest layoffs, many adjunct professors have not only lost their income, but also their benefits such as health insurance.

The PSC also shared a list of insurance eligibility for the Fall 2020 semester. This is due to non-reappointment or a reduction of courses or hours in one or multiple campuses of adjunct faculty. At Baruch College 41 adjuncts lost their insurance.

Some state policymakers also took stance against the budget cuts and withholdings affecting CUNY, the largest urban public university system in the U.S.

“We don’t believe that budget cuts to either CUNY or SUNY are appropriate and we were gearing up to fight those cuts, even before this crisis, and we’re going to continue to be fighting those cuts during this crisis and after this crisis,” Sen. Andrew Gounardes said in a Zoom conference about a possible tuition freeze in May.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer also shared his policy plan to make CUNY community colleges free. The plan was supported by PSC CUNY and CUNY Rising, a community of students who are known to oppose tuition hikes and advocate for a free CUNY.

“This is a particularly difficult budget because there is no money and there is much fear and there is much stress,” Cuomo said in a press conference back in April about the possible budget cuts.

“Budget-setting is about making choices, and this budget, in the state with the highest income inequality in the country, represents a choice to advance the interests of the wealthiest New Yorkers at the expense of the poor and middle class,” Barbara Bowen, president of PSC, said.