Students, faculty, and staff at Brooklyn College rallied outside the school’s Midwood campus on July 2 calling school administrators to reinstate 52 recently laid off adjunct professors who are set to lose their healthcare coverage during the pandemic — which, one professor said, was an example of anti-Black policies at the college.
“Austerity is anti-Black,” said Jean Eddy Saint Paul, one of nine full Black professors at the college. “I kindly ask the administration of Brooklyn College to reverse their harmful policy against adjuncts.”
Several dozen protesters attended the gathering at the campus’s Bedford Avenue gates, which culminated in a march to president Michelle Anderson’s Ditmas Park house where they delivered a letter outlining their demands.
The layoffs come amid sweeping budget cuts to the public university system due to a massive budget shortfall due to the pandemic — which some claim will reach $13.3 Billion in lost tax revenue.
Brooklyn College’s layoffs are among the highest in the 25-campus CUNY system, according to the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents CUNY teachers.
Faculty and staff are pushing for the school system to tap into the millions of dollars allotted to them in the federal CARES coronavirus relief act to preserve adjuncts’ jobs — although the federal program mandates a significant portion of the money go directly to students.
“Now is the moment for CUNY leaders to pursue the $132 Million in the federal CARES act allocated to the university system pandemic response in order to keep people on payroll,” said Saint Paul, a sociology professor.
Students also called for the NYPD to be removed from campus and to leave security up to the school’s existing public safety department.
“We have an administration that does not seem to care about its Black, Latino, and Muslim students,” said Jessica Jones, the past vice president of Brooklyn College’s student government. “The fact that we allow NYPD on our campus when we have perfectly good campus security makes no sense to me — that you would endanger our lives like that on a constant basis.”
In a statement, CUNY said its fiscal outlook is uncertain absent more federal funding, and noted that they reached out to the Professional Staff Congress regarding a third extension on appointment letters, which the union would not agree to, resulting in scores of professors being informed that their reappointment in the fall was not guaranteed.
If enough federal funding is secured, many of the professors could be re-hired, a CUNY spokesperson said, but that remains uncertain.
“Unfortunately, CUNY is not immune to the challenges and uncertainties engendered by the COVID-19 crisis, and in the absence of federal funding, our fiscal outlook is dim and uncertain,” the statement reads. “If the federal government acts as it should, and the fiscal outlook improves, many could be re-hired in the fall.”