ESA-hosted GC Students Assembly

Graduate Center Students Assembly
Monday, February 22

Conor Tomas Reed GC English
Lauren Spradlin GC Linguistics
Rachel Chapman GC Urban Ed
Sam Lewis PSC – CUNY
Luke Elliot-Negri PSC
Marc Kagan GC History
Chris Natoli GC Math
Marisa Holmes GC CUNY TV
Katya B GC EES & Geography
Sean GC History
Sheehan GC Anthropology
Becky Fullan GC English
Liz Goetz GC English
Esther Bernstein GC English
Jason Nielsen GC English
Danica Savonick GC English
Emily Brooks GC History


Share grievances, talk across departments

  • All disciplines
    • Cutting dissertation fellowships from 90 to 40
    • No tuition remission after five years
    • Full tuition remission for all graduate students and a livable stipend for all graduate students
  • Urban education
    • Cancelled faculty search (specifically to replace Jean Anyon)
  • Math
    • First year student without tuition remission
    • Another student teaching 3 classes and taking 4 because no stipend
  • Linguistics – departmental “top-outs,” 8 thousand discretionary dollars when some students only have $18,000
    • Are departments using top-outs? Can that money be used to support current students who are struggling?
    • Answers from Executive Committee – Diverse, appealing, NYC- only masters programs, potential recruitment tools, this is how linguistics has not had their faculty / budget cut
    • Has received Magnet fellowships each year
    • Five year time to degree – impossible
    • Emotional toll of living and working at CUNY
    • Lies from EOs – not being able to take a leave of absence
    • No student association
    • Advisor has pledged support for students who need to miss class to get a contract  
  • History
    • Not the most activist departmental history
    • Brooklyn College – noticeable increase in class sizes, huge increase in students not being able to get the classes they want
      • Students asking for overtallies
  • Sociology
    • Hiring a new central line position – ARC fellowship
    • Leslie McCaul (?)
    • Underfunding from state
    • People in administration making decisions about what gets cut
    • How are these decisions being made in the administration and how can students be involved in these conversations and decisions?
  • English
    • Availability of sixth year funding
  • Anthropology
    • Field work expectation – take a leave of absence (disenroll) check out, lose health care, lose access to resources (similar to linguistics)
    • Interested in striking
    • Anthropology has no regularly meeting student body, but interested in collective action
    • Possibility of job actions as students
    • Taylor Law – teachers can’t strike, but students can
    • Picketing, demonstrating, shutting down a building
  • Geography
    • Not aware of graduate student association
    • Students are part of research group – can student group pass resolution?
    • Would not vote for geography students to go on strike – does this push forward?
  • Psychology
    • Based at different campuses

How do we organize around those with different amounts of funding? Difficulties of organizing at CUNY, creating solidarity, outreach with students.

How do we address graduate student grievances? Are we students? workers? go through union? Is the way to address these issues to think about ourselves as employees? Differential stipends – lack of transparency. What is the way to organize most effectively around these issues? Some are stipend and some are employee.

How can we respond collectively? Professional Staff Congress – strike authorization, Doctoral Students Council, Graduate Students in University Faculty and Student Senate, Emergent Coalitions like CUNY Struggle and others around the city.

From English – there is a history and practice of people collaborating on a resolution and getting it passed. Cohere a sense of outrage and frustration. Resolutions needs to have actionable steps afterwards.

Is there a way that people in programs around the Grad Center could make public pledges within each department?

How can we do more that just reach out to the most radical layers?

Successful strikes require program by program, bases of cohesion.

English – create a resolution and bring it to ESA.

What would a strike campaign look like? (Resolutions)

  • In your program, would presenting a resolution about striking together seem viable?
  • Thinking about a strike fund to support those who would be most economically vulnerable.
  • People pledging together to take action as response.
  • Is this feasible?
  • What would a student strike look like?
    • Job or campus actions
    • Picket line
    • Walk out
    • Sick out
    • Conversation in the quad
    • One day action
  • What do you do for people who don’t have teaching requirements?
  • What do we do for research assistants?
  • These resolutions could be defined by each department
    • What do they want?
    • What would be possible?
  • Examples from English
    • Writing Across the Curriculum – on campus but not always with students
    • Research assistants
  • Logistics
    • What happens to a one day action if people don’t teach that day?
    • Students who come once a week or once a month
    • Pick a day when the most classes are, or highest enrollment
  • What is the deal with undergraduates? There needs to be broad consensus and support, and mechanism for true representation.
  • Need to strengthen organizing base
  • Resolutions as organizing tools
  • A resolution that all folks can sign on to
    • Popular assembly – bring people together to create a list of all-encompassing demands
  • March to Cuomo’s office
  • Mechanism for bringing undergraduate students into this
  • Undergraduate student option in strike authorization
  • How can we use what we’ve already been doing to move forward?
  • Resolutions in student associations can then go to department (involve full-time faculty) ask faculty to make direct pledges about how they will support students
  • Large, collective resolution


  • Strike fund? Asked Barbara Bowen. If we get to Taylor Law violation action there will be central fundraising beforehand.
    • Specifically to economically most vulnerable?
  • Strike authorization pledge and vote process (PSC)
  • Assessing variations in motivations
  • Think about one-on-one stuff in relation to department-by-department strike
  • Majority of workers in the building are also students
  • We could shut the building down without violating Taylor Law
  • Picking a day to shut down the building as students
  • Individual department resolutions working towards and influencing PSC contract, demands, strike
  • Recognizing limits of PSC in terms of strike
  • How does this student strike relate to PSC strike?
    • Push PSC contract further
    • Heterogeneous terrain
    • Undermine solidarity?
    • Supplementary?
  • PSC Pledge – individual action and alternative strike.
  • What we need to know from PSC – We want official word from PSC on seeking solidarity funds
  • How much energy should go into organizing with PSC or on our own?

What is the deal with all of the meetings this week?

  • Communication across events
  • Public google calendar that has everything – The Adjunct Project
    • Put google calendar on the screens
  • Do we need to have competing meetings?

Adjunct Project

  • What are your issues? How can we organize around it? How does a strike affect student visas, etc?
  • Union Pledge – seeking solidarity funds

CUNY Struggle – popular assembly – mobilize broad, mass struggle

  • Common demands – students, faculty, custodial staff,
  • If the strike is going to be successful, a quarter million students need to join the strike.
  • Working class students
  • Good contract is good for students.
  • Free higher education
  • Open admissions
  • Fixed amount for graduate students
  • Montreal – fought for free higher education, they didn’t get it, but they didn’t get cuts
    • Legacy of strikes in Quebec – tuition increases by a different mechanism
    • Structures that lasted beyond the strike

How to avoid small numbers?

  • Word resolutions and statements: If the majority of student groups sign on to this, then we will strike…

Getting people to show up?

  • Demonstrating/striking visibly – going somewhere and making presence known
  • Have students say, “I support this and will do my best to participate in a strike on [date]”
  • Hold ourselves, friends, and well-intentioned colleagues
  • Pledge mechanism – hit a certain number of students by a certain date, a one day strike will happen on X day
  • Having something to do – teach in or share in, make banners, activity
  • Reach out to professional students, not just doctoral students

How to get graduate students to think of themselves as a collective entity?

  • Strike talk – basis to think about ourselves as employees
  • Building collective consciousness

Further research

  • 10-841 – work-week? Stipends?
  • Do we have access to 501c3 to solicit donations? Tax-deductible funds.
  • What are the means by which we could (drum up the works?)

Impact – how to fuck things up in a productive way?

Strikes work when they make problems. For which people would we want to make the problem? What will hurt the university? Withholding labor? Participation as a student? What would hurt Cuomo and Milliken? What is the shadow university here? How public resources are being exploited for financial gain… Target the financialization. How can we do something other than symbolic actions?

Scale: Bad decisions at the GC level, lack of transparency vs. Cuomo – related problems

The riddle that is CUNY for organizing

Each program / school / campus has own particular issues

Coalitions: identifying particulars and universalizing

List of demands and solidarity in striking

CUNY’s centrality of New York City – having to turn in grades, tuition funds,

Concrete next steps

What do we want to build together? Beyond us as workers

One day student strike at the Graduate Center

GC – wide assembly interfacing with other college assemblies

Reaching out to other people who striked (struck) – airline workers

Communication across meetings  

Media campaign – possible future working group, contacting reporters


Outreach in departments – use official channels of communication

Next meetings

Wednesday, February 24 @ 12:30 & 6:15: Adjunct Project strike outreach to

GC programs, 4116

Thursday, March 3 @ 12:30 GC PSC chapter mtg C201

Saturday, March 12 – Popular Assembly, common actions, come together

on common demands – democratic forum, debate, discuss

Possible next meeting: Monday, March 14

Danica will reserve room and see about American Studies student group

$$ for coffee


People who want to be the provost  (3:30pm)

Tues. February 23           Senta Victoria Greene

                                         Stevenson Professor of Physics

                                         Vanderbilt University                                                                Rooms 9205/6

Thurs. February 25       John McCarthy

                                         Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and

                                         Dean of the Graduate School

                                         University of Massachusetts Amherst                                   Rooms 9205/6

Fri. February 26              William McClure

                                         Dean of Faculty, Division of Arts and Humanities

                                         Queens College/CUNY                                                             Rooms 9206/7

Fri. March 4                       Joy Connolly

                                         Dean for the Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

                                         New York University                                                                 Rooms 9204/5