Students, Faculty and Staff,
Fourth-year Graduate Center Fellows have recently received messages from the PSC-GC leadership condemning the change made to the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) fellowship for 2019-20 and beyond. I write to clarify the reason for the change.
The WAC is the fifth-year service requirement for students admitted with the Graduate Center Fellowship. Before 2011, the WAC was a stand-alone fellowship requiring 15 hours of service per week, which students generally held for two years on a Graduate Assistantship A appointment. The Grad A appointment is the PSC-CUNY title that permits students to provide 450 hours of service during the work year and forbids students from supplemental adjunct employment at CUNY.
In 2011, the first cohort of Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellows started their fifth-year WAC assignments. With the express aim of allowing WAC Fellows to accept adjunct teaching in CUNY, in response to students’ experience of economic distress, the Provost’s Office converted the underlying Grad A assistantship into a Grad B assistantship, which is restricted to 7.5 hours per week, and a fellowship payment for an additional 7.5 hours per week. The total compensation students received would not change. This reconfiguration was made in consultation with the Central Office, which provided the funding, and was clearly laid out in documentation on our financial aid website.
Those arrangements held until the Fall of 2017, when the PSC-CUNY filed a grievance against the Graduate Center for “improper assignment of hours beyond those contractually mandated for Graduate Assistant Bs.” The PSC charged that WAC service hours should be limited to the 7.5 hours required by the Graduate Assistantship B, and that the fellowship payment was not an appropriate manner in which to compensate WACs for additional service. We in the Provost’s Office regretted this and so advised PSC leadership, because we knew that the practice being grieved was established to accommodate students’ wishes to earn additional money, over and above their tuition and fellowship awards.
The changes recently announced, which return the underlying fellowships from Grad Bs to Grad As, were made because we are obliged to obey the ruling of the grievance. We cannot unilaterally change the PSC contract to allow Grad As to teach as adjuncts: that is a matter for contractual bargaining. Nor can we unilaterally reduce the total WAC campus assignment from 15 to 7.5 hours; that undermines the very terms and conditions of Central’s funding of the WAC fellowship.
I don’t quarrel with the grievance itself or the ruling, but I regret it was filed in the first place, as the path taken in 2011 was intended for the good of students. It is for that reason—student welfare—that the amount awarded to students remains unchanged.
I hope that this message shines a light on my reasoning and the belief shared by me, David Olan, Anne Ellis, Phyllis Schulz, and everyone else in the Provost’s Office that sustaining students’ well-being and academic progress is our paramount concern.
Submitted on: OCT 11, 2018
Category: Provost's Office