James Davis

A NEW FIGHTER: James Davis, an English Professor who has served as chapter chair at Brooklyn College since 2015, has been elected President of the Professional Staff Congress after its previous leader Barbara Bowen announced her retirement. Mr. Davis called the opportunity to lead the union, which 30,000 employees at the City University of New York, 'a huge privilege.'

Brooklyn College Chapter Chair James Davis was elected President of the Professional Staff Congress after longtime President Barbara Bowen decided not to seek re-election.

His slate ran without opposition. Also on his team were First Vice-President Andrea Vásquez, who was re-elected. PSC Treasurer Sharon Persinger and Secretary Nivedita Majumdar decided not to run after serving for six years. Felicia Wharton was voted in as Treasurer and Penny Lewis, who is currently the PSC’s Vice President for Senior Colleges, was elected as Secretary.

Other Positions Filled

Members also elected a new executive council, as well as delegates for the New York State United Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.

The ballots were counted April 30, with Mr. Davis receiving 5,231 votes, according to the American Arbitration Association. Members were able to cast votes electronically on the AAA website, or through the mail. 

The union represents 30,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York. Mr. Davis said he was pleased by the returns, given the fact that his slate ran unopposed and members were still facing the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic.

“It’s a huge privilege to be able to serve in this role,” he said during a phone interview. “As somebody who cares about the labor movement in New York, it’s an enormous honor.”

He added that he looked forward to working with his fellow officers, calling them “resilient” with a “great proven track record.”

Virus on Their Minds

As CUNY employees and students face the prospect of returning to campuses full-time in the fall, a major focus for the union over the coming months will be addressing health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus.

Making gains for College Lab Technicians and Higher Education Officers, as well as dismantling the structure in which low-paid adjuncts teach the majority of students, are continued goals for the union, Mr. Davis said.

The PSC is also advocating the adoption of legislation called the New Deal for CUNY, which calls for free tuition, hiring 5,000 full-time faculty and addressing adjunct salaries.

The incoming president said that the union will continue advocating for increased public funding for CUNY, and fighting against “internalized austerity.”

Since 2015, he has been chapter chair at Brooklyn College, and has served on the PSC’s Executive Council since 2018. Mr. Davis also was on the bargaining committee for the last round of contract negotiations.

'Stake Out Your Principles'

During his time spent as chapter chair, the English Professor said he learned “a lot about humility and listening. I’ve also learned how to stake out your principles.”

“I think at the end of the day, what people care the most about are our students,” he added.

Ms. Bowen said that the new generation of leaders “will lead the PSC with integrity and vision.”

“As I approach the end of my term, what I’m most conscious of is what remains to be done. James Davis is more than up to the challenge,” she stated. “He will bring imagination, commitment and deep experience to the position.”

In a Twitter post, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez wrote that Mr. Davis was a Professor “with a long history of activism” and that he “looked forward” to working with the team to advance CUNY’s mission.

The incoming officers were expected to assume their roles May 25.


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