FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Fight at Brooklyn College

by ANDY PIASCIK

As has happened at so many colleges and universities around the country, administrators at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York are moving to eviscerate a program that for years has provided invaluable educational opportunities for working class students. The college’s plan to dramatically scale back the Graduate Center for Worker Education is one of the latest efforts to curtail examination of working class issues done in a way designed to provide students with activist skills.

This development will no doubt be familiar to anyone involved in or aware of similar programs around the country that have recently been killed or are struggling mightily to survive. Among the principles behind the trend to eliminate such programs, two stand out: first, that college and graduate school should be the exclusive province of the well-to-do; and second, that education should serve the interests of the business class. Rarely do proponents openly enunciate those principles, however, and such is the case at Brooklyn College.

So, for example, management advocates of the suggested changes justify the proposed move of the Graduate Center from Manhattan to Brooklyn in the name of consolidation, glossing over the fact that there are far more union halls and working class jobs in Manhattan. In addition, administrative criticisms that the program does not meet the standards of a labor studies program conveniently ignore the fact that the program is not, never was, and does not aspire to be a labor studies program. As for the rationale for cutting evening classes to a grand total of one, and that scheduled for 6 PM in a program long geared toward students who traditionally have things to do during the day like, say, work – well, apparently no one was able to come up with a good cover for that one.

Many of the program’s students belong to unions some of whom have gone on to leadership positions in their locals. Some are rank and file union members, while others are employed by workers centers and similar organizations. Others who may not fall into any of those categories are nonetheless activists and writers who advocate for working class concerns via articles, in-depth studies, research papers while also participating in organizations and coalitions resisting austerity. The need for the program’s continuation in its present form – or, better still, its expansion – is obvious, as the devastating impact of the radical upward redistribution of wealth of recent decades is especially pronounced in New York City. Institutions with rich working class traditions such as CUNY and Brooklyn College should be in the forefront in the fight against such trends, not in the business of accommodating corporate elites.

The Graduate Center also offers its students, not to mention residents of the city as a whole, an ongoing series of events that deepen their understanding of crucial issues. Earlier this year, for example, it hosted the annual conference of the Labor and Working Class History Association which was the largest in LAWCHA’s history. The program also hosts a regular schedule of forums featuring accomplished scholars, writers and activists that, from this author’s experiences, are always well-attended and lively. Of particular note is the regular inclusion of guest speakers who are rarely invited to mainstream venues, including union halls.

As adjunct teachers in the Graduate Center have been fired, the performance of the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress, has been seriously lacking – some in the program have described it as collusive – despite the PSC’s progressive reputation. Rather than taking up teacher firings as a collective issue that is part of a concerted campaign, PSC staffers have instead approached cases on a one by one basis, with predictably poor results. With a few exceptions, the union’s staff has also looked askance at the growing resistance to management’s plan to eviscerate the program.

That resistance has been spearheaded by the Committee of Concerned Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff. Formed earlier this year, the Committee has reached out to academics, union members, students throughout the CUNY system and other New Yorkers with a petition that has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures. It has also held several public actions the most recent was a spirited rally at the main Brooklyn College campus on October 3rd. The Committee’s petition can be viewed at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/save-brooklyn-college and the group can be reached at committeeofconcerned@gmail.com. Go to www.workereddefense.org for updates and other information.

Andy Piascik is a long-time activist who writes for Counterpunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

Andy Piascik is an award-winning author who writes for Z Magazine, CounterPunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at andypiascik@yahoo.com.

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail