The Fight at Brooklyn College


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.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: An Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!