On Wednesday, October 30 at 4 pm, a delegation of Graduate Center students, including members of the The Adjunct Project and The Doctoral Students’ Council, met with Interim President Chase Robinson during his office hours to discuss the problems of late and missing pay that have plagued the CUNY system for years. The goals of the delegation were to bring the scope and severity of the problem to the President’s attention, request swift action on behalf of student workers who are missing pay for services rendered during the Fall 2013 semester, and devise a solution to ensure that student workers and all contingent academic laborers are paid on time every semester.
The delegation first presented President Robinson with three polls taken by The Adjunct Project regarding late pay: one for Graduate Assistants, one for students working in Adjunct titles who are paid directly by the CUNY colleges where they teach, and one for students working in Adjunct titles at CUNY community colleges who are paid through the Graduate Center. In response to the question, “When did you receive your first paycheck of the Fall 2013 semester?,” 88 of 199 students polled reported being paid later than the first pay period for their title, while 19 more reported not having been paid at all as of October 17.
Next, various students shared stories with the President regarding the impact late pay has had on them personally. Representatives also read stories submitted via email by others who could not attend the meeting. Students reported being forced to borrow money from family and friends, having to take cash advances on credit cards in order to pay rent, racking up large credit card bills for other essential expenses, and working extra hours at off-campus jobs in order to stay financially afloat while waiting to be paid by the University. Students also recounted that as a result of the financial strain, they experienced severe stress and their studies and general quality of life suffered, which one student said caused her to seek extended counseling.
After listening to the delegation’s report, President Robinson promised to seek immediate remuneration of students who are still owed money by the University. The Adjunct Project collected information to send to the President, which was submitted on Monday, November 4.
As for a long-term solution, the President suggested a meeting comprised of students; members of the payroll, human resources, and financial aid departments at the Graduate Center; and himself. The meeting would seek to improve and clarify current processes, which would then be communicated to equivalent offices on other CUNY campuses.
In a separate item, the delegation also presented the President with a 600-signature petition against the CUNY Board of Trustee’s draft policy on expressive activity that was recently leaked to the public. President Robinson said he was unaware whether or not the document represented current thinking among the Board, but he assured the delegation he would communicate the sentiments of Graduate Center students to the Board of Trustees at his next meeting with them.
Members of The Adjunct Project and The Doctoral Students’ Council are working diligently to ensure that these measures are carried out. If you are a Graduate Center student and need assistance getting paid, or if you would like to get involved in this or related projects, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or subscribe to the listserv by sending a message to email@example.com with SUBSCRIBE ADJUNCT-L in the body of the email.
UPDATE: On November 22nd, a group of students met with PSC officials to discuss possible next steps toward solving the problem of late pay. On December 4th, the Office of the Provost provided a status report to The Adjunct Project regarding individual student issues, all of which, to our knowledge, have either been resolved or are on a course to be resolved. On December 10th, the follow-up meeting with Interim President Robinson and GC Payroll, Financial Aid, and Human Resources staff will be held to discuss procedural means of ensuring that Graduate Assistants and Adjuncts are paid on time. In addition to these internal efforts, The Adjunct Project is currently organizing with representatives from other CUNY colleges to address this issue systemwide.