CUNY PSC Union to join students at Monday’s Trustees meeting

Professional Staff Congress (PSC) President Barbara Bowen has responded to a call for support by urging all union members to join students in an informational picket and demonstration at Board of Trustees meeting schedule for Monday, November 28 at 4:00 at Baruch College. She also described last Mondays Board hearing as “anything but open” and condemned “any attempt to restrict those rights or to intimidate protesters through overwhelming police presence, unjust use of police force, or limited access to University space.”

I am pleased that activist students at the Grad Center turned to the PSC for support. We were there in support at the Board hearing last Monday, and we plan to be there in support again. The best chance for making real political change at CUNY lies in forming an alliance among faculty, staff, students and other workers at the University. It’s exciting to see that begin to develop.

The PSC is planning to mobilize our members in an informational picket and demonstration outside the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, November 28 in defense of CUNY students, in defense of the right to peaceful protest, and in support of the other positions the PSC has taken on issues before the Board. I urge all PSC members to join us in this action. In particular, the PSC officers call on members who are experienced activists to attend the demonstration and show support for students who wish to engage in peaceful protest.

I understand that there have been some reports of a PSC training for marshals on Friday. Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide such training, as our office is closed that day for the Thanksgiving holiday. We do, however, ask all faculty and staff members who wish to provide support to contact our associate executive director, Naomi Zauderer, at by 10:00 a.m. Monday so we can be in touch with you about plans.

The informational picket and demonstration will take place at Baruch College, starting at 4:00 on Monday, November 28. All are invited to join.

Prior to last Monday’s meeting, and anticipating CUNY’s response to student protest, I called on Chancellor Goldstein directly not to allow a violent response to non-violent student protest. As the hearing began, PSC officers counted the number of people in the room—180—and noted that the official capacity of the room was 300. The room was not full, as some University reports have claimed. I specifically asked CUNY Security to allow more people to come up and was told that would not be allowed.

The PSC reiterates its call for the democratic rights of students and workers to express themselves peacefuly and in open assembly to be respected. We condemn any attempt to restrict those rights or to intimidate protesters through overwhelming police presence, unjust use of police force, or limited access to University space. I was there on Monday; I saw the wall of blue as you walked down the hallway to speak out at your own university. I saw the guards confiscating cups of tea because they were “open containers” and could contain “suspicious liquids.” And I saw the absolute refusal of CUNY personnel to allow students to go upstairs to the hearing room once the hearing had begun. The atmosphere was anything but open.

Universities above all must enable free speech and dissent. Please join the PSC in standing up for this principle, for our students and for ourselves on Monday.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen

The text of the original call for support, which also cited an additional Board agenda item of $15 million for additional security forces, is available below:

Hello Dr. Bowen and Dr. Fabricant,

I am writing not as Labor Relations Co-coordinator for the Adjunct Project, but as a member of the Graduate Center General Assembly, and the loosely-affiliated group of students known as #occupyCUNY. At last night’s assembly, our group consensed upon a resolution that I would like to share with you.

The General Assembly of the CUNY Graduate Center formally asks the PSC to mobilize its own members fully and to contact the city’s other major unions for a mass labor, student, and community demonstration at Baruch College on November 28th in defense of CUNY students, in defense of the right to protest peaceably, in defense of public education, and against tuition hikes and police brutality.

In particular, we highlight the egregious proposal to spend $15 million of CUNY’s funds to purchase unarmed security guard services while increasing tuition and threatening adjunct healthcare (see below). That this item was added to the November 28th Board of Trustees meeting agenda on the same day that campus security violently attacked and arrested students who were protesting tuition hikes demonstrates the Board of Trustees’ ruthlessness in privatizing public education and suppressing free speech by any means necessary. Therefore, we urgently and formally request that the PSC initiate a massive mobilization in full force to defend public higher education and workers’ rights for all, in support of and in coordination with student-led actions to be determined by our assemblies that will take place at Baruch College on November 28th.

In your recent statement to PSC members, you stated that: “The City University has a proud history of student activism and protest. Some of its most important advances have occurred because of collective action by students, faculty and staff. We have made it clear to the university that violent response to non-violent students protest is not acceptable. Students, faculty and staff must be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly. We call on the university to conduct a full investigation of the police conduct last night. The results of the investigation should be immediately made public.”

As students of the City University of New York and members of the Professional Staff Congress, we call on you to truly realize your words in this statement and mobilize massively and immediately to defend CUNY students’ right to peacefully protest, and we call on you to condemn–not simply investigate–police brutality at our university.

With sincerity and in solidarity,

Alyson K. Spurgas


The afore-mentioned agenda item:

RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York
authorize the General Counsel to execute a contract on behalf of the
University to purchase unarmed security guard services. The contract shall
be awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder after public
advertisement and sealed bidding by the College pursuant to law and
University regulations. The contract shall be available for use by the
constituent colleges, and the total estimated annual cost shall not exceed
$15,000,000, chargeable to the appropriate colleges’ FAS codes. The
contract term shall be five (5) years, from January 2012 through December
2017. The contract shall be subject to approval as to form by the
University Office of General Counsel.