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Vol. 26, No.1 October 11, 2005
The scene : a rip-off of the movie Reds---the hall was decked out in red, with red banner flags identifying each campus (and obstructing some views, we hear).
The star : need we ask? Pyongyang-style pre-meeting festivities had photos of the Dear Leader in action, projected onto a massive on-stage screen. And once the affair got underway, even the PSC's own Stanley Aronowitz privately blasted the focus on "top-down oratory." (Of course, the "Guv'nor" didn't get invited to speak, which might explain his reaction.)
The goal: Overcoming "the agenda exposed in Hurricane Katrina." What?! Those who naively thought PSC officials got full released time to negotiate a contract were re-educated: negotiations can't succeed unless the "political culture" changes. Sounds to us like the Dear Leader's looking for an excuse when her illegal strike comes up empty.
How can CUNY professors help? Do less of what they're paid for (teaching and scholarship) and more to help the union---since, as Battlin' Barb recently reminded us, the whole fight is about maximizing her power. So, we need "to reorder our priorities": defer writing projects, spend an hour less on grading each week for the next month, and distribute leaflets in class time to persuade students to support an illegal strike.
What will CUNY profs get in exchange? They'll "expand what it means to be an academic." They sure will. To be a CUNY academic will now mean to be a prisoner, when the Taylor Law kicks in and the PSC's executive leadership heads off to jail. And those profs who follow the Dear Leader's advice to shirk their duties could find their definition of a CUNY academic expanded to mean unemployed.
What about the adjuncts? Things got a little off script when the promised Q+A session finally began (more than two hours after the affair started, and long after many in attendance had departed --- tired of being pounded with bad political rhetoric ). Angry adjuncts grilled the Dear Leader: Why have they not received what they were promised in exchange for their votes---(a) increased salaries; (b) seniority rights; (c) health insurance, etc.? The Dear Leader's response: trust me. Questioning adjuncts quickly got the real message: they were only good to get the Dear Leader elected!
What's the big message from this overblown meeting? On Nov. 3, the Executive Committee will authorize a strike referendum, and the Dear Leader wants CUNY faculty to follow her over the cliff.
LET THEM EAT CAKE!
Making a surprise guest appearance as the PSC's Marie Antoinette: Hunter College picket captain "Radical Ros" Petchesky.
Petchesky announced that she would take time from her other peculiar causes (such as "Feminists for Kucinich" or exposing the alleged pro-life conspiracy behind ultrasounds) to serve as a PSC "picket captain." The Dear Leader has tasked picket captains with browbeating undecided or untenured faculty into supporting the illegal strike.
Picket Captain Petchesky conceded that adjuncts, HEOs, and CLTs might have trouble finding common cause with her. She is, after all, a distinguished professor (and – not so subtly – "better" than them).
So "Radical Ros" reached out, asking the audience to feel her pain. Even with a d.p.'s salary of $118,000, plus a reduced teaching load, Battlin' Barb's mismanagement of the Welfare Fund meant that "Radical Ros" had to fire her dentist of the last 20 years. (Gasp!)
It gets worse: because of her insufficient $118,000 salary, said she, "I am worried that I might have to move out of my apartment in Manhattan" on the pricey Upper West Side (The tragedy! )
The (Overly Expensive) Serenity of W. 87 Street
Maybe Picket Captain Petchesky has stumbled onto the PSC's Strike Slogan:
Save Red Ros' Luxury Apartment!
Playing the role of Trotsky, the revolutionary leader who's not quite going to make it to the Promised Land : PSC VP Steve "Foggy" London. Based on his Cooper Union role, all the rumors we've been hearing about tensions between Foggy and the Dear Leader ring true.
Like a Politburo session for a discredited apparatchik, Foggy had to introduce his one-time rival through a humiliating display of fawning public allegiance.
The Dear Leader, hailed Foggy, is "nimble, focused, and tenacious." The most divisive leader this side of George Bush is uniquely "able to maintain unity and solidarity among our diverse constituency." A union head who's a textbook example of a closed-minded ideologue is "a leader who knows how to listen to the membership."
And so on and on, for long, painful minutes. At least Foggy heeded the Dear Leader's call for sacrifice---with his introduction, he sacrificed his pride.
Although . . . based on Foggy's performance in the Q+A session, maybe the Dear Leader was right in reducing his role. A few issues back, The Patriot Returns revealed that the union leadership lied when it claimed the adjunct portion of the Welfare Fund was in balance. Shifting funds to cover 1% adjunct pay raises and the adjunct costs helped to explain why full-time faculty have lost things like the dental and life insurance benefits. "It's not so," said the PSC!
And then, as the Dear Leader scowled over his shoulder from her perch next to him on the podium, Foggy veered off script. Adjunct health care, he admitted in the Q+A session, costs $5M. CUNY has only provided $2.8M. And so $2.2M in adjunct health care has been covered by taking money out of the general fund. Looks like The Patriot Returns has been right all along.
Foggy shouldn't feel too badly. When the PSC executive committee was introduced, at least he got applause---unlike the tepid greeting for CUNY's Queen of Released Time, the Unsinkable Susan O'Malley. Announcement of the Queen's name barely drew a murmur from the audience. Off with their heads!
WHO SHOWED UP?
The Dear Leader recently sent around a mass e-mail: "The Cooper Union Great Hall was standing-room-only."
Well, yes, but who was there? PSC officials made sure to kick out the media at the start, so there would be no independent count.
But the hall was filled to capacity . . . unfortunately, it was mostly filled with the loud empty rhetoric that has taken the place of good union leadership; and its echoes are more threatening and dangerous every day!
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.