By KATE TAYLOR NOV. 4, 2015
Several dozen City University of New York faculty members were arrested on Wednesday when they blocked the entrance to the Midtown Manhattan building housing the administration’s offices as part of a demand for salary increases.
Several hundred faculty and professional staff members participated in the protest outside 205 East 42nd Street, which houses the central administration offices, said Barbara Bowen, the president of the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, the union representing the faculty and professional staff. They carried signs saying “CUNY Needs a Raise,” “Stop the War on CUNY” and “No More Excuses, Chancellor Milliken” — a reference to James B. Milliken.
Those who were arrested had locked arms and sat down in front of the building in a planned act of civil disobedience, refusing to move until either they received an “acceptable offer” or were arrested, Dr. Bowen said.
The exact number of people arrested and charged was not immediately available from the police on Wednesday evening.
CUNY’s roughly 25,000 faculty and professional staff members have been without a contract since 2010 and have had no salary increases in that time. On Wednesday, before the protest, the university made an offer for a six-year contract, beginning in 2010, which would include salary increases totaling 6 percent. The university described the contract in a news release as reflective of its “current fiscal condition and its ability to fund a new contract.”
But Dr. Bowen said the increases would not keep up with inflation and therefore represented a salary cut. “We feel that education at CUNY is endangered,” said Dr. Bowen, a professor of English at Queens College and CUNY’s Graduate Center. She said that salaries at CUNY were not competitive with other public universities in the region.
“CUNY’s secret has always been that it has attracted the first rank of faculty and staff,” she said.
“What has happened in this contract period and now with Chancellor Milliken’s failed offer is that that will not be possible anymore,” she added. “We think it’s depriving our students of what they need. We think it’s an attack on our students.”
Forty-five percent of CUNY’s $3.2 billion budget comes from the state and 10 percent from the city. The other 45 percent is financed by tuition. Its 275,000 degree-seeking students are mostly minorities, and most come from low-income backgrounds.
Michael Arena, director of communications at CUNY, said the university’s “dedicated faculty are deserving of a fair and equitable contract,” adding, “We will continue to work towards a successful resolution of contract negotiations.”
Elizabeth A. Harris and Ashley Southall contributed reporting.