Three Things We Can Do Right Now

Updated: November 30, 2016
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A Message from Barbara Bowen, PSC President

Many of us feel shattered and threatened by the result of the election last week. Violence of all kinds suddenly seems much closer-violence against the climate and against other nation-states, but also against women, people of color, the poor, Muslims, immigrants, Jews, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, transgender and transsexual people and others. Political discourse, as Toni Morrison writes, has been "shredded by an unreason and hatred so deep that vulgar abuse seems normal."

And the implications of the election are only just beginning to unfold. We can expect that civil liberties, academic freedom, public education and union rights will also come under attack. Incidents of racism and anti-Semitism whose proponents have explicitly linked their actions to Trump have already occurred on college campuses.

Such attacks must not happen at CUNY-to anyone. I know that not all PSC members agreed with the union's position on the election. But I am confident that all PSC members join me in believing that there is no place for hatred on a university campus, especially when the university is CUNY. CUNY was founded on the principle that "the children of the whole people" are entitled to a free college education of the highest quality. That principle is more important now than ever.

The worst mistake we could make at this moment is to believe that we are powerless. We are not powerless. We have each other, we have work we believe in, and we have a union. As PSC members, we can organize to ensure that our colleagues and students are not targets of abuse or violence; we can organize to demand that a university based on the aspirations of New York's immigrant communities receives the resources it needs.

"This is precisely the time when artists go to work," Toni Morrison continues, quoting a friend. It is precisely the time when teachers and scholars and unionists go to work too. Here are three things we can do right now:

1. We can make sure that colleagues are not alone. If you, as a faculty or professional staff member, experience harassment or intimidation in your CUNY workplace, call the PSC right away and ask for a contract enforcement counselor. If you witness such events, do not remain silent. Stand with your colleagues and urge them to call the union for support. The assumption should be that there will be no such incidents at CUNY, but if they do occur we want to document them-and we want to support you.

2. We can sign this open letter to CUNY students and take a public stand against all forms of bigotry and hatred. Pledge that you will stand with our students and that you will create safe spaces for critical thinking. The PSC will publish the names added to the petition each day and will share the letter publicly. Feel free to use your own social media networks to support it. (I thank the colleagues at Kingsborough Community College who generated the letter on which the union's letter is based. Their letter gathered more than 100 faculty signatures in a matter of days.)

3. We can reaffirm our commitment to building the power the PSC will need in the next four years. It is almost certain that a case on the rights of public-sector unions will come before a newly constituted Supreme Court. The PSC has already begun to prepare. If you are not already a PSC member, click here to join. If you are ready to talk to other members about maintaining the union's strength, click here to let us know.

These actions are just the start. Plans are in the works for PSC campus teach-ins, a public forum, discussions with student leaders representing vulnerable groups, and other actions. As always, I welcome your suggestions and ideas.

As educators and unionists, we have a precious resource. We will not waste it.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY