The greatest challenge ahead of Dean Hubbard, newly-appointed executive director at the Professional Staff Congress, will be to help the City University of New York overcome decades of underfunding, he contended.
“The CUNY system can be a shining example of how a public institution can lead a city out of an economic crisis if properly supported,” he said.
Mr. Hubbard began working for the PSC last month after the retirement of Deborah Bell, who served as executive director for nearly two decades, retired. He will oversee the union’s operations, serves as a liaison between the PSC’s elected officers and staff, and participate in collective bargaining.
Key Transit-Union Jobs
He first became involved in the labor movement in 1983, and has previously worked as the director of collective bargaining at the Amalgamated Transit Union, senior counsel for strategic research at the Transport Workers Union and as labor director of the Sierra Club.
Teaching for three years at CUNY’s former Murphy Institute (now the School of Labor and Urban Studies) sparked his interest in fighting for the CUNY community.
“I was very inspired by my colleagues at the Murphy Institute, and by many of the students who were front-line workers educating themselves about the issues affecting workers,” he said.
PSC President Barbara Bowen said that she and her team were “thrilled” to have Mr. Hubbard’s decades of social-justice and labor experience on tap as the union fights for workplace safety, ensuring all members working in-person can receive COVID vaccinations, and pushing back against budget cuts.
Vaccine Eligibility Issue
Although the majority of CUNY classes were conducted remotely this past fall, about 600 staffers worked in-person. The union has pressed the Governor’s Office to clarify whether Higher Education Officers, Lab Assistants and other professional staff working in-person were eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, particularly before in-person classes resume in the fall on a full-time basis.
The union’s major focus is ensuring the adoption of the New Deal for CUNY legislation, which was proposed by CUNY Rising Alliance, a coalition of higher-education advocates that includes the PSC and student unions. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Karines Reyes, and was introduced Feb. 5.
“This is the moment to reject austerity for the public sector,” Ms. Bowen said. “The pandemic has shown us the deadly consequences of hollowing out the public sector. So for these proposals, it’s critical to have an executive director who can hold all of those pieces together.”
The New Deal for CUNY calls for a series of reforms to improve the quality of education for the public-university system’s predominantly black and Latino students, notably by making tuition free for students—just as it was prior to 1976—a change that would cost an estimated $796 million.
Bring on 5,000 Staffers
The legislation would require CUNY to hire 5,000 full-time faculty, in order to address the disproportionately high number of classes taught by adjuncts. (About 60 percent of classes at CUNY have been taught by part-time staff.) It also called on the public-university system to address the low pay scale for part-timers.
Additional mental-health counselors would be hired under the New Deal. While the International Accreditation of Counseling Services recommends one counselor for every 1,000 students on campus, CUNY’s ratio was 1:2,700. These changes would be phased in over a five-year period, according to the bill.
“I am really grateful that the PSC has asked me to take on this role, especially at a time of such significant transition,” Mr. Hubbard said. “I would like to ensure that the PSC continues as a fighting, democratic union, particularly for black and brown New Yorkers.”
We depend on the support of readers like you to help keep our publication strong and independent. Join us.