4/11/2016 ESA Meeting Minutes

Present: Meira Levinson, Esther Bernstein, Liz Goetz, Conor Tomas Reed, Paul Hebert, Jason Nielsen, Alec Magnet, Briana Brickley, Hilarie Ashton, Meg Williams (Hunter)

Revels: Spring 2016 Revels theme is “Star Wars.” Call for volunteers!
When: Friday, May 13, 4:00pm.
Full day schedule is:
–Open Executive Committee Meeting
4:15-4:45pm–Poetry Reading

Revels Poetry Reading as fundraiser: Liz and Conor suggested that the Poetry Reading at the beginning of Revels might be used as a fundraiser for a potential English Program strike fund. Similar events at other universities, such as a poetry reading fundraiser at Cooper Union where students passed around a hat for collection, were valuable not only in raising money, but also in giving students a visible, tangible sense of active participation and unity.

Vote on changes to Diversity Committee: Following discussion at the March 7 meeting when the Diversity Committee reported on difficulties in coordinating activities separately from other committees, it was proposed that each committee have one member who will be Diversity Liaison, and will form the student contingent of the program Diversity Committee. Students elected to the Diversity Committee on the 2016 ballot will help smooth this transition.


  • The Diversity Committee, in its current structure, can still do liaison work to other ESA committees, without the official change suggested above.
  • Conor raised the suggestion that the Diversity Committee organize educational and discussion-oriented programming (reading & discussion groups) to re-imbue the term “diversity” with meaning and get back to basic questions, such as what does diversity mean in OUR program, now, & work towards collective definitions.
  • Liz emphasized the value of having specific students who are responsible for checking in with committees such as Faculty Membership, Recruitment, Friday Forum, etc. regarding diversity efforts.
  • Other student thoughts on the matter that had been communicated via earlier listserv discussion were compiled and distributed at the ESA meeting, to supplement the conversation of those present in person. Among these documents was the 2013 Open Letter on Diversity. [see attached documents below]
  • It was noted that the Diversity Committee was going to meet on April 15 to discuss its own goals for future work; it would be productive to table the vote regarding changes to the Diversity Committee’s structure until after the current Diversity Committee met and reported back to the rest of the ESA.
  • 6 students voted to table the vote, 1 abstained.

Report on Executive Committee’s response to CUNY Solidarity Resolution: Following discussion of points enumerated below (in report from the Executive Committee meeting), Conor and other organizers of the resolution plan to present a revised resolution to the Executive Committee.

Committee Reports:
Friday Forum
This semester we publicized the Friday forum proposal deadline and helped answer questions about proposals due April 1. We particularly encouraged 2pm proposals. We will be meeting with the full faculty committee soon to review the proposals.

There is nothing new to report since the Recruitment Committee’s Open House event. Our duties are done for the year.

We are currently debating on a stamp for the books! We’ve received lots of donations (thank you, everyone!) and several students have taken advantage of the notebook check-out system and used some of the library books already. We still need to mark them, but we’re keeping close watch on the notebook and check-outs in the meantime.

We will be meeting this Friday, 4/15, and after that will have more info for everyone about our longer term plans & goals.

The Elections Committee has solicited nominations for the coming year’s ESA committees, and contacted nominees to notify them of their nominations and asking them to accept/decline and rank. We will be putting together the ballot over the next week, with the goal of opening voting the following week. We have also been in conversation with the co-chairs about potential changes to by-laws that might go on the ballot, which will be under discussion in this meeting.

A technical update: we have decided to use Google Forms for the election itself as well as the nominations this year (since we can no longer use Opinio); this has the advantage of allowing us to require people to log into a Google account in order to vote, limiting people to one set of votes each. (Note: this has previous presented a difficulty for Elections Committees, since we have no had the means to require people to log into any account in order to vote.) Because this system will require that people have Google accounts in order to vote, we will be including instructions for creating a Google account in the email with the ballot.

Placement met with faculty 4-5 pm on the same day as the ESA meeting. Alec gave a report at the ESA meeting: some things might be falling between the cracks–i.e. What is the program purview as vs. Career Planning office; many students may not be aware of currently-existing resources, and that these could be better streamlined & made accessible through more publication (e.g. email in spring or fall giving the Placement listserv info & listing all events for the year) and through putting much of the resource material & info online (program website; ESA site). Students on the committee suggested further workshops, especially ones that scaffold/break down the market process, & scaffolded workshops addressing such steps rather than 1 or 2 big, catch-all events. Faculty on the committee suggested connecting students with alumni for advice and mentorship, and beginning such work by gathering lists of alumni who might be helpful here.

Separately, Amanda Licastro put together that amazing packet of materials. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1chG2LrMRDtyN2isnr3GM4-Uqogk-sRtlc9Fw-ODDqPo/edit?usp=sharing

The Website Committee continues to work on creating an ethic of access for the ESA website. Presently, we are using an accessibility frame to assess the functionality and usability of the website. We will be inviting folks to share their experiences accessing our site, similar sites within the commons, and similar sites outside the commons as we think about how to make our site accessible.

We are using a participatory design approach, which is one of the reasons we’ll be inviting people to join us in assessing the accessibility of our site. After we have a better understanding of the barriers people experience when they try to access the website, we will gather and create resources on access/accessibility that will help our community create accessible content for our website, e.g., post rich image descriptions that go beyond the alt tag and video captions, which are skills that will also serve people beyond their tenure at the GC.

An accessible website will help us better engage with our audience, which includes present and prospective students. Using an ethic of access to re-evaluate our website is a process approach to access, in that access is plastic. We hope to create a recursive process that invites change, growth, and disruption as technologies change. We hope to move away from the retrofit approach to access, which Jay Dolomage explains in the following manner, “we retro-fit our structures for access, we add ramps at the sides of buildings and accommodations to the standard curriculum—still, disability can never come in the front door.”  We do not want access to our website experienced as an afterthought.

Executive Committee
Ongoing Effects of the Budget Shortfall on the English Program:

  • Mario listed some of the ways that the GC budget shortfall was addressed, including not replacing some administrative positions; EO summer salary reductions; faculty travel grant reductions; 68 course units were cut (1.1 million dollars); a reduction in number of new students admitted (54 students = 914,000 dollars); 25 grad B assistant positions cut (500,000 dollars).
  • GC dissertation year fellowships were maintained this year. In 2016, 90 dissertation awards were given and 80-90 pre-dissertation research grant awards were given. English students did well: 9 students won dissertation awards and a significant number of students won smaller research grant awards.
  • The English program has 54 course units for next year.
  • At an open meeting with President Chase Robinson and Provost Louise Lennihan earlier in the week, President Robinson mentioned 2.4 million in further cuts at the Graduate Center next year. No further details mentioned yet about how or where those cuts would occur.

Admissions discussion

  • Continued discussion about trying to secure permission to increase the number of first-round offers in future years (based on data from previous years about acceptance rates). Carrie’s hard work was acknowledged and commended by others.


  • Mario is meeting with faculty and students on the placement committee next week.
  • Mario and Nancy advised that a work-study student is gathering information on students who have graduated in the last 8-10 years (since 2008-2010) to update where students have jobs (tenure-track or otherwise) and to see connections between jobs students have in relation to what they studied.
  • The question of “what constitutes a placement” was raised (ie a student might have a job while still at the GC, and that has not been considered a placement, while the same job held by a graduate is considered a placement).
  • Mario mentioned a survey done by students in fall 2015 on the placement committee and suggested communication issues (for example: services that are available or workshops that are offered that students might not know about).
  • Suggestion was raised to remind or advise students in spring semester to start preparing job materials for the fall. Another suggestion made for workshops geared towards 3rd or 4th years students. Ammiel will hold job market workshop in May.

Comprehensive Exam

  • Continued discussion about the revised draft for the new first year comprehensive exam. The Executive Committee largely supported the new exam, but concerns were raised about specific aspects of the draft. Mario is taking comments back to the Curriculum Committee. If possible, the committee will revise and submit to the Executive Committee before the final meeting of the semester.

ESA CUNY Solidarity Resolution: Respect Student and Adjunct Demands

  • The ESA CUNY Solidarity Resolution was presented to the Executive Committee for discussion. Faculty expressed support for students, but raised concerns about specific points in the resolution.
  • Possibility raised that faculty might support particular points on the resolution and suggestion was made to focus on 1 or 2 demands. A question was raised about the capacity of Executive Committee to endorse a resolution which addresses larger issues given that the role of the committee is towards program academic matters.
  • Students stated that resolution is presented as, in part, a symbolic show of support for students in the English program (respective to various positions students have as contingent labor – some with fellowships, others as adjuncts, etc.) and also in context of other efforts by students and faculty in other programs or parts of the GC.

No Committee Report:

Editorial Committee; Curriculum Committee; Alumni; Faculty Membership; Course Assessment