Academic Freedom Blog City University of New York CUNY Faculty

A Letter to the CUNY Chancellor


In March, Rachel Ida Buff revealed an Academe Blog submit recounting the attacks by the Canary Mission and others on school at Kingsborough Group School. In response to the assault, a gaggle of college, employees, and graduate students decided to greet the incoming chancellor, Felix Matos (a “veteran” administrator in the system, having served as head of Hostos Group School after which Queens School before being appointed to his new job as chief of the complete CUNY system), with this message. It is an example of the means educational communities can respond to the ideological warfare undertaken by teams resembling the Canary Mission, Turning Point, USA, and others. It’s a demand for administrative accountability to proclaim, implement, and shield the rules of academic freedom and free speech on our campuses.

Pricey Chancellor Matos:

Hooked up [and below] you can find a letter of welcome, and want/hope, from Concerned Members of the CUNY Group, thrilled together with your appointment and in search of help as we take up the troublesome work of securing educational freedom on our campuses.  You realize CUNY properly. You understand, and embody, our shared want for the college because it have to be, and you’re conversant in CUNY’s struggles in achieving that imaginative and prescient. We ship this letter with great confidence in you and your management; with provides of help as you see fit, and with a request for a gathering to talk about how we’d work collectively to safe CUNY’s long lasting and all the time precarious commitment to full educational freedom (and of course the associated proper to protest).  We all know that you simply recognize these rules to be as necessary as they’re troublesome to achieve and maintain.  We stand prepared to work with you.  We are all out there as school, employees, and students from across a variety of campuses and disciplines, eager to sustain a rich, public and democratic CUNY as a space for open dialogue, troublesome conversations and the daring train of academic freedom.

Why we write

We write to welcome you, President Felix Matos, as Chancellor of the CUNY system.  You’re an educational chief and mental who is aware of intimately the workings of the four-year and group schools.  Given your document, we rely on you to shield what these schools symbolize for many who train and study in them and, beyond that, for the health and well-being of democracy in our metropolis, state, and nation.  We write because we are school who witness and, for some, face the menace of censorship in addition to the sluggish erosion of help for important studies, whether or not targeted on gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, or race.

We write to name on our new Chancellor to lead in ways that shield the soul of CUNY from threats, inner and external.  In the current climate, we expertise cumulative waves of challenges to our educational health and democracy: when the NYPD infiltrates Muslim American scholar groups, when gender/ladies’s research experience cuts and shrinking assets, when African American and Latinx packages are being merged, when standing with Palestine is taken into account anti-Semitic, when most of our school are underpaid, insecure adjuncts, when some student-faculty-staff opinions are being silenced and the core parts of their educating and relations with college students and research are being eroded.  We write to ask our Chancellor to heed and shield not solely our fiscal well-being however the integrity of all that’s CUNY – a space for democratic change of concepts and imagination.

The democratic mission

The CUNY system is unique in the United States: a publicly-funded municipal community of two- and four-year schools and a graduate middle designed to serve a remarkably numerous inhabitants that now consists of veterans, undocumented students, those formerly incarcerated, those coming from foster care and people with disabilities, the meals insecure, and staff from casual and formal labor markets, in addition to the more “traditional” students from working-class, poor, and immigrant families.  As an assemblage of concepts, conversations, movements, aesthetics and deep civic engagements, over the years, CUNY has educated scores of NYC politicians and civic leaders, in addition to nationally and internationally-acclaimed artists, poets, scholars, scientists and activists. It has additionally educated unusual residents about how to participate in and shield democracy.  Indeed, it is no overstatement to say that CUNY is an concept that provokes the imagination for a vibrant public life.

CUNY’s educational undertaking has all the time aimed to present analysis of social buildings, including buildings of discrimination.  Its aim is to open new prospects of understanding for college kids who experience them, to train them to read the world in order to change the world.  This is not a mission of radicalization, but a coaching for participation in democracy. The curriculum has explored civil rights, staff’ actions, welfare coverage, and immigrant justice and, more just lately, gender and sexuality, racial justice and incarceration, and anti-Muslim racism in the US and transnationally—all from numerous points of view–as well as critically analyzing the US and its allies changing political and financial roles in the world.

From its beautiful palette of “diversities,” CUNY has been a website during which traditionally “dangerous ideas” have been allowed to breathe, be debated, experimented with, revised, and typically kneaded into struggles for the collective good.  These once “dangerous ideas” have birthed vital educational transformations of nationwide and international prominence – together with the as soon as harmful concepts of open admissions and free tuition (an concept that’s returning to the common imagination and touchdown in the very middle of the Democratic presidential platform); the city university system as a website of deep (if uneven) desegregation, across strains of sophistication, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, gender, sexualities, immigration, incarceration standing, and (dis)talents.  Our history of academic imagination, political braveness and resistance and our relentless want for instructional justice remains inspiring immediately.

The mission beneath siege

In the present day the CUNY mission, historic and modern, teeters on a precarious ledge. CUNY, like most establishments of upper schooling, is lease by damaged promises: a retreat from open admissions and free tuition; an overreliance on highly exploited adjuncts; racial/class/linguistic stratification within and throughout our establishments.  The University for “all of the children of the city” is racially/economically/linguistically stratified, with extra elite establishments (the four-year schools and the Graduate Middle) far whiter and wealthier than the group schools and remaining four-year establishments.  The CUNY school has been deeply adjunctified.  There are 7600 full-time school members and 12,000 part-time school members, with part time school educating 61% of the courses in the four-year schools and 47% in the group schools.  There are 275,000 full time students. Government administrative positions have swelled while administrative employees positions are being reduce.

There is a new emphasis as properly on the vocational facet of upper schooling, typically framed as the antithesis of the liberal arts dedication to educating “critical thinking.” Directors herald partnerships with business that provide “careers” for group school graduates at call facilities whereas questioning the value of programs that train college students how to read critically the world during which they reside (and during which such jobs are all they will hope to find).  There ought to be no need to select between vocational coaching and coaching for democracy; indeed, crucial thinkers, those uncovered to humanities, social and natural sciences, languages and the arts, historical past, literature, political principle and sociology, are the ones most ready to deal with challenges in artistic and novel ways at their workplaces, at house, and in social and civic life. They are additionally most frequently innovators in politics, science, and the arts; it is they who present the management and inspiration for enthusiastic about making the world a greater place.

In this context, there has emerged a new set of threats to our mental life; one which echoes the Pink Scares of the 1940s at City School.  In the present day the assaults are draped in the language of anti-Semitism, mockingly concentrating on a variety of Jewish as well as other school who help Palestinian justice. This is not only occurring right here at CUNY, however nationally.  As neoliberalism saturates greater schooling with its eye only on the bottom line, it is essential that we attend to the censorship that creeps via the academy, one donor/trustee/school member/scholar/department/membership at a time.  Maybe we’re more weak as state funding for greater schooling shrinks. However we must keep in mind the history of CCNY in the 1930s and 1940s, a hotbed for censorship, surveillance and school dismissals, motivated by anti-communist, anti-progressive, anti-labor interests. CUNY cannot be weak once more to those that would impede educational freedom on these grounds.

The teachings of historical past

It is exactly the position CUNY has played as a center for crucial considering throughout racial/class/linguistic strains that has made the system a goal for conservative assault.  Predictably, with each flourish of instructional democracy, critique, and risk, has come an assault – typically daring, typically delicate; typically in the Day by day Information and typically in the type of an inner grievance, a FOIA request, an ethics cost, or a denial of tenure.  The choreography of radical risk and threats to it is painfully predictable.

And but, by way of it all, as economic well-being and stability for our sprawling establishment remain chronically precarious, the ethos of academic risk, a tough and bold educational vision, echoes at the moment because it has traditionally, across the CUNY campuses. With too many fiscal mother and father, caught in fights between state and metropolis, corporate calls for and group needs, CUNY seeks to be open to all of the youngsters of the metropolis of New York. And on this basic wrestle, CUNY is in fact by no means fairly what it yearns to be; crammed with contradiction and pressure.  But CUNY is a wrestle, and we know you consider it is value the battle.

What is to be executed?

We aren’t asking you as the new Chancellor to fix all of CUNY’s problems at the start of your tenure.  We’re asking as an alternative, that you simply may pursue the following four duties as you assume office:

1.    Publicly affirm the protections of free speech and educational freedom for all school, employees, and students, including safety of the right to protest—a right that has been traditionally protected at CUNY.
2.    Ask the Board of Trustees to affirm those rights.
three.    Meet with those who really feel underneath siege to speak about what sorts of safety they want in the present circumstances.
4.    Convene a committee to draft a coverage on free speech and educational freedom that applies to all members of the group and that recommends types of secure and secure employment as the means to assure protection of these rights.

We thank you on your time and a spotlight to these issues, Chancellor Matos.

Involved Members of the CUNY Group