Members of the Professional Staff Congress and students marched to Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson’s home on Thursday to deliver letters demanding 52 adjuncts who were laid off without healthcare be reinstated.

Around 100 protesters began by rallying outside of the college’s Bedford Avenue entrance and chanting, “Cut COVID, not CUNY,” and “I believe that we will win.”

Shoes filled with flowers left around the college’s gated entrance symbolized the 52 adjunct faculty that were laid off. 

Protesters also called for racial justice during the demonstration.

The rally was broadcast on zoom for those who could not attend the rally. 

This preceded a recent lawsuit filed by the PSC against CUNY over layoffs of 2,800 adjuncts because money from the CARES Act requires an effort to keep employees on the payroll as much as possible, which includes $132 million.

Selena James, a retiree from Flatlands who teaches part-time at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, attended the rally because she believed it was important to support the adjuncts who were laid off: “What affects one CUNY college affects all of us in terms of cuts,” said James.

“It’s been an easy reason to cut,” she said of Covid-19. “The ones cut are the ones most vulnerable, which is our black and brown people.”

James Davis, Brooklyn College Chair of the PSC, called for the money from the CARES Act to be used for the adjuncts. “The administration is neglecting and eviscerating the college and university,” said Davis. “We need them to go and get that money.”

Protesters also called for the NYPD to stay off campus. “We have an admin that doesn’t seem to care about our Black, Latino, and Muslim students,” said Jessica Johnson, who was previously a student government vice president at Brooklyn College. “They don’t mean us well, they mean us harm.” 

Johnson also said that it “makes no sense” to have NYPD on the Brooklyn College campus when there was already campus security.

Shoes filled with flowers in front of Brooklyn College representing 52 adjuncts who were laid off without healthcare Photo: Kevin Limiti for BK Reader

Daniel Vazquez Sanabria, a Puerto Rican and Latin Studies major, said that the administration was aware of these issues but didn’t do anything. “These issues in Brooklyn College are not new,” said Sanabria. “They are just responding to what is trending. We can’t take their little emails as wins because we are not winning.”

The BK Reader received a statement from CUNY about the adjunct layoffs which placed the blame on lack of funding from the federal government, calling their fiscal outlook due to Covid-19 “dim and uncertain.”

“This uncertainty is why we reached out to PSC leadership to seek a third extension to sending appointment letters, but they would not agree to it,” the statement read. “ As a result, colleges are informing a large number of adjunct professors that their reappointment for the Fall 2020 semester cannot be guaranteed. If the federal government acts as it should, and the fiscal outlook improves, many could be re-hired to teach in the fall.?”

President Anderson issued a statement about an anti-racist agenda at Brooklyn College that she was enacting, which included listening sessions and the implementation of a racial justice team. However, the statement did not address Thursdays protest or whether the 52 adjuncts laid off without healthcare would be reinstated. 

Protesters held a 52-second moment of silence at Anderson’s house, in tribute to the 52 adjuncts who were laid off without healthcare. 

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Kevin Limiti

Kevin Limiti is a journalist covering higher education, human rights, and information warfare among other things. His work has appeared in the Daily Dot, Chief Leader, Dateline: CUNY, and others. He enjoys...

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