FEBRUARY 9, 1998 – VOLUME 1 NUMBER 1

Welcome to the 1st Issue of the Messenger

Why the Messenger?

Giuliani Calls for End to Open Admissions at CUNY by Brad Sigal

Workfare at CUNY by Keeanga Taylor

CUNYCard Not Happening this Year at CCNY by Rob Wallace

Kimmichazi Pilot? Christoph Kimmich Appointed Interim Chair of CUNY Board by Keith Higgenbotham, Hunter Envoy

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October 16, 2009 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

CCNY Clipboard

Graduate Student Council meeting

The Graduate Student Council is the elected representatives of graduate students at CCNY. Their first meeting of the semester will be February 10, at 6:00 pm in NAC 1/209. Graduate students are encouraged to attend and see how their representatives work.

Computer center

The Graduate Student Council will be opening a new computer resource center this semester in the NAC building. Stop by the council office at NAC 1/113 for more information.

Jobs available

The Graduate Student Council has jobs available this semester for the position of Office Aide. Bring your resume by the GSC office, NAC 1/113 to apply.

Defend remedial classes and open admissions

There will be meetings starting this week to begin a campaign to defend remedial programs and open admissions at City College. At the meeting we will discuss the new restrictions in the Education Department, and the new policies coming from the mayor and CUNY Board of Trustees. All concerned students are encouraged to get involved. Look for posters for meetings, or call x8179 for information on how to get involved.

“START 98” Campaign

NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group) is kicking off a new campaign this semester. It is called “START 98” which stands for “Students Taking Action to Reduce Tuition 98.”

In the last decade New York tuition has increase 154.4%, faster than any other state. New York elected officials have also cut financial aid, making it more difficult for New York’s working and middle class students to afford school. They want students to join the campaign, so look for their posters on campus or stop by the NYPIRG office in the NAC Building.

October 16, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Kimmichazi Pilot?

Christoph Kimmich Appointed Interim Chair of CUNY Board of Trustees

By Keith Higgenbotham
Reprinted from the Hunter Envoy

CUNY Board of Trustees Chairwoman Ann A. Paolucci announced on November 24, 1997 that the Board had appointed Dr. Christoph M. Kimmich as interim CUNY chancellor. Dr. Kimmich (pronounced Kimmick), who has served as Brooklyn College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs since 1989, became acting chancellor effective November 25.

Dr. Kimmich, who earned his Ph.D. from Oxford University, is a prominent expert in 20th century German political history and foreign policy. He joined the CUNY staff in 1973 and has been a Professor of History at Brooklyn College, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center’s history doctoral program since 1978. His curriculum vitae also lists several other prestigious scholarly honors—a Fulbright fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations and a visiting fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

According to a Board of Trustees press release, as Brooklyn College Provost, Dr. Kimmich has been responsible for all matters relating to academic affairs including academic program planning and policy, budget, departments and programs, support services, educational technology, the library and the faculty.

Praise from the Board for Kimmich reflected the unanimous vote for his appointment. “He’s a very good administrator. He’s a very good academic. He’s respected in the community,” said trustee Edith Everett.

Mizanoor Biswas, a graduate student in Economics at City College and the Board’s student representative, said, “Academics played a big role in the decision, and he had a very good record with academics.”

Paolucci said she expects Kimmich’s appointment will afford the Board an opportunity to focus their attention on academic matters. “We’re looking at academics as the most important thing on our agenda, and he has the credentials to get into that very quickly,” said Paolucci after the Kimmich appointment. “For phase two, we’re going to work on teacher education and look at remediation again, and try to do as much as possible as quickly as possible. Dr. Kimmich is very knowledgeable about these things.”

But Paolucci’s emphasis on accomplishing “as much as possible as quickly as possible” is raising the ire of board critics. They remember that Board members were previously quoted as saying that they were seeking an interim chancellor willing to go on “a suicide mission” to carry out controversial reforms aimed at improving the CUNY system academic programs. With the interim appointment limited to one year, these critics fear that Kimmich will be the Board’s “hatchet man” who will “clean house” and then leave a clean slate for the incoming permanent chancellor.

Kimmich supporters, on the other hand, think that the Rhodes scholar is an unlikely candidate for such a role. “He’s very thoughtful,” Nancy Hager, a former chairwoman of Brooklyn College’s faculty council, told the Daily News. “He’s not at all impulsive.”

As provost for academic affairs, Kimmich was at the center of a controversy earlier this year over proposed changes to the school’s core curriculum. The failed movement called Brooklyn Connections was seen by some on campus as weakening the school’s academic standards.

“Chris has been a decent guy with us,” said Ed Kent, a Brooklyn College Philosophy professor. “He gets the job done as an administrator. I would imagine that he would be a nonpolitical figure in this situation, trying to keep the university moving along.”

At the November 24th Board of Trustees meeting, Chairwoman Paolucci also announced the search committee for a permanent Chancellor. The membership will include Chairwoman Paolucci (as committee chair), Vice Chair Herman Badillo (as committee vice chair), and Trustees Kenneth E. Cook, Alfred B. Curtis, James P. Murphy, Nilda Soto Ruiz, John Morning, Mizanoor Biswas (Chairperson of the University Student Senate) and Sandi E. Cooper (Chair of the University Faculty Senate); Kingsborough Community College President Leon M. Goldstein and Brooklyn College President Vernon Lattin. University representation will be named at a later date, to be chosen in accordance with Board guidelines.

October 16, 2009 at 10:37 pm

CUNYCARD Not Happening This Year at CCNY

By Rob Wallace

In early October 1997 CUNY Central administrators set a moratorium on the implementation of CUNYCard on CUNY campuses. The moratorium was set in response to concerns over Citibank’s fair lending record. CUNYCard is a new high-tech ID card CUNY’s Board of Trustees contracted for from a consortium of companies led by Citibank and MCI for use by CUNY students, faculty, and staff. If implemented, the public university’s new card would include optional banking and phone card services from which Citibank and MCI can make money off of students.

As of late January the moratorium remains in effect and will stay so until, according to CUNY officials, CUNY completes a study of Citibank’s lending record.

The moratorium or “abeyance” on the high-tech ID card was announced in a letter Richard Rothbard, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Budget, Finance, and Information Services, sent to Citibank. The letter, dated October 9, asked Citibank provide adequate explanation for its discrimination against black customers. The letter appears to be a step backwards for proponents of the card including Rothbard. According to City College administrators and internal CUNY documents, Rothbard is spearheading efforts to implement the card at CUNY.

The letter, addressed to Citicorp vice presidents Terri Thomson and Gil Ruman, whom Rothbard addresses on a first name basis, begins, “I was most distressed to read in the October 7 New York Times, that a federal study named Citibank as the bank, in 1996, with the highest rejection rate for black New Yorkers seeking mortgages.”

The federal report on New York bank redlining, the practice of denying whole communities services based on the race or economics of the community members, was released by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) in early October.

According to the Daily News, the report, a survey of 48,000 mortgage applications in New York City, claimed Citibank three times more likely to reject black loan applicants than white. Even black applicants making over $54,960 a year were rejected 27% of the time in comparison to whites of that income level who were rejected only 8%. Incredibly, black applicants with high incomes were rejected more than whites who made less money. Of the 12 banks surveyed, the report claimed Citibank the worst redlining offender, rejecting blacks 30% of the time. The report showed Latinos suffered similar discrimination by the banks surveyed.

“This is an old story that must end,” Schumer told the Daily News. “Whether it is unintentional, subtle or blatant, race bias is the only plausible explanation for the mortgage denials.”

According to the Amsterdam News, Reverend Al Sharpton, the former mayoral candidate, called the practices “institutional racism.” Sharpton demanded that government deposits be removed from recalcitrant banks until the racist policies were corrected.

State Senator David Patterson told the Amsterdam News that it boggled his mind that black and Latino communities deposited millions of dollars with discriminatory banks like Citibank.

LIES, LIES, ALL LIES

In an October 16 reply to Rothbard, Thomson denied the charges against Citibank. “Citibank does not discriminate,” Thomson wrote. “We have a strong fair lending policy which states, `There is no place for discrimination in our business…’”

Thomson chastised CUNY officials for weakening: “We are very distressed that such a serious action, suspending activity on the CUNY card program, was taken based on a newspaper article reporting an elected official’s press conference.” But later in the same letter Thomson supports Citibank’s denials by citing an October 12 New York Post editorial attacking Schumer.
According to Thomson’s letter, Schumer used raw Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data only, but “HMDA data alone cannot be used to determine if discrimination occurred.” Moreover, Thomson claims, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Board both gave Citibank’s fair lending record a clean bill of health.

Thomson continued that “While the HMDA data does [sic] point out that African American and Hispanics are declined for credit more often Whites, it [sic] does not provide an analysis of the factors which contribute to the credit decision, such as an analysis of the factors which contribute to the credit decision.” According to Thomson those factors include the applicant’s amount of savings, down payment, past credit experience, length of employment, and the amount of loan requested in relationship to the property value.

Schumer’s office did not respond to Messenger queries. But while claiming improvements in loan rates to blacks from 30.4% to 22.3%, Thomson in effect admits the discrimination continues. Furthermore, regardless of possible adjunct causes—past credit experience and the like—blacks are rejected for loans by far more than whites. Redlining is redlining, for whatever cause. Finally, the mitigating causes are unlikely to explain a gap of 19% between rejection rates for blacks and whites making over $54,960.

A QUESTION OF  CONSTITUENCY

It seems clear why Rothbard felt obligated to set the moratorium on CUNYCard implementation. The CUNY student body is 200,000, primarily black, Latino, and immigrant students. It would have appeared damning if administrators of a university system composed largely of students of color continued to act as junior partners for a bank which discriminated against those students and their parents off-campus. And Rothbard declared so in his letter: “I have a responsibility to the University community…to assure that those with whom we do business do not discriminate as a matter of policy or procedure.” The CUNYCard contract obligates administrators help Citibank implement the card on CUNY campuses and market the bank and phone card portions of the card to students.

Several card opponents think it erroneous however to view Rothbard’s letter to Citibank as indicative of administrators’ good intentions. “The letter invites a skeptical interpretation,” Professor Peter Ranis of York College, a leading faculty opponent of CUNYCard, told the Messenger. “And that is, the Vice Chancellor was seeking an overwhelming and withering policy defense from Citibank so that CUNY Central could pell mell launch a final offensive against campus autonomy and due process in the implementation of CUNYCard,” stated Ranis.

“[The] letter is really an attempt by administrators to cover their butts. If there had been no federal report and no publicity about it, administrators would have kept right on implementing the card,” stated Keeanga Taylor, the CCNY Student Ombudsperson, to the Messenger.

In fact, Rothbard declared in no uncertain terms his continued allegiance to the project. Wrote Rothbard, “As you know, we have supported Citibank against various allegations we believed to be the result of misinformation, deliberate distortion, and private agendas. Those charges threatened, and continue to threaten, the successful implementation of the Board of Trustees-approved CUNYCard program, a program that we believe has offered, and continues to offer, enormous benefits to the students of the City University of New York.”

From what source this “misinformation,” and “distortion,” emanates Rothbard’s letter does not identify. Phone and e-mail messages left by the Messenger asking for comment on this point were not returned by Rothbard. But it seems clear Rothbard is referring to students, staff and faculty who have over the past two years organized against CUNYCard. Student and faculty groups and governments from across CUNY—like CCNY, Brooklyn, Queens, York, Hunter, BMCC, Staten Island, the Graduate Center, as well as the faculty union, the university-wide faculty senate and the CUNY-wide student senate—have issued proclamations against CUNYCard.

The charge of “misinformation” and “distortion” from CUNY administrators who worked in secrecy to implement the card is particularly galling to opponents. Furthermore, Rothbard labels efforts to block CUNYCard by students and faculty—whom he declares his constituency—as the outgrowth of “private agendas,” but declares the efforts of a private corporation like Citibank a public good. That begs a question. Who exactly does Rothbard’s work for?

GRADING CITIBANK

For some card opponents, the tone of measured consternation in which Rothbard’s letter to Citibank is written is not credible. “The important point that seems to be getting lost here is that Citibank has had a long record of discriminating against blacks and Latinos for decades. Administrators have known about Citibank’s record since the beginning and have only chosen to respond now when students have spoken out against CUNYCard and Citibank,” Ombudsperson Taylor points out.

Several recent and readily available studies have illustrated Citibank’s redlining. In a May 1996 report, New York City Public Advocate Mark Green showed Citibank had closed a slew of branches in low-income neighborhoods, many in New York’s black and Latino neighborhoods. Green accused Citibank of “financial segregation.” One Bronx councilwoman accused Citibank of “total insensitivity” to the neighborhoods she represents. One of the those branches closed was situated on 145th Street, only blocks from the City College campus.

A December 1994 study from the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs found black applicants were rejected four times more by Citibank than white applicants. A 1992 Federal Reserve Board study broke down Citibank lending rates by state. According to the Board, whites were granted loans from 4.2% to 30.6% more often than blacks. In New York state, whites’ applications were accepted 87.9% of the time, blacks’ only 69.3%, a differential of 18.6%. The California-Nevada Interfaith Committee on Community Reinvestment gave Citicorp, Citibank’s parent company, an “F” for its home improvement lending and refinancing policies for low-income residents, African Americans and Latinos.

October 16, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Workfare at CUNY

By Keeanga Taylor

In December of last year activists from several CUNY schools met at Hunter College and formed the Student Network Against Workfare (SNAW).  In the last two years over 14,000 CUNY students on public assistance have been forced to leave their studies in order to fulfill the work requirements of Mayor Giuliani’s so called “Work Experience Program” or WEP.  These jobs include cleaning streets and parks, often for less than minimum wage, and in deplorable working conditions.  Many WEP workers have complained about not having the proper uniforms or equipment to perform their jobs.  Those who work in the parks and in sanitation often do so without gloves or boots. WEP workers have complained about not having drinking water or access to bathrooms during their working hours.

Moreover, these jobs neither teach job skills nor lead to good jobs— at living wages, with job security, with job benefits or with chances for advancement.  In fact less than 10 percent of WEP participants find jobs.  Yet studies show that after two years of college 76 percent of public assistance recipients are off of public assistance and after four years, 87 percent are off and stay off over five years.  In New York City 75 percent of employers want at least two years of college experience.

In 1996 a bill was passed in the state legislature that would allow students who are on welfare and are obligated to perform workfare tasks be permitted to perform their WEP assignment on their campus or on a site in close proximity to their campus.  The implementation of this legislation is currently being held up by the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Labor.  But there are some who believe that the delay in allowing WEP students to work on campus is politically motivated.  In a recent meeting of campus administrators at the City College of New York (CCNY), Vice President Thomas Morales said he believed that, “politics were involved” in the decision to delay students from performing workfare on campus.  This is not far fetched considering Rudy Giuliani on a number of occasions has said of welfare recipients that work should come before college.

While many students who are on public assistance would welcome the opportunity to work on campus as opposed to having to travel far distances to other work sites (often leading to conflicts with class schedules), workfare on the campuses is really no solution to the dilemma that students on welfare face. There are three major problems with bringing workfare to CUNY campuses.

First, the number of WEP assignments on the campus would be drastically limited.  At CCNY if the WEP program ever begins the administration is looking at approximately 50 positions being available to the affected students.  Yet there are over 561 students on some form of public assistance at the college.  This is hardly a solution for the other 500 plus students who would not be eligible to work on campus.

Second, the WEP program as its implemented in the city at large has led to the displacement of thousands of city union workers.  While Giuliani has laid off over 24,000 city workers, his WEP program has absorbed over 38,000 welfare recipients into city jobs formerly held by union workers.  When union workers had these jobs they made good wages and received benefits.  Now the city gets the same jobs performed but for none of the cost.  There is no reason to believe that the same dynamic would not exists if workfare comes to CUNY.

The use of WEP labor on the campuses would weaken the unions that exists on the campuses.  When college administrators are given the choice between paying for union work on campus versus not having to pay for the labor of students on workfare, it is too tempting to take the free labor.

At CCNY the campus administration has already shown a willingness to opt for the cheap labor.  The administration employs prison day laborers for $27 a day with no benefits.  They do everything from cleaning the grounds of the campus to doing paint jobs inside the school.  So while it is written into the contract of District Council (DC) 37 union workers that only they be allowed to do that type of work on the campus, the college administration openly defies that stipulation.

While most schools, if workfare were to be implemented on the campuses, say that students would be doing work comparable to work-study positions, this still does nothing to protect clerical workers from being downsized and replaced by free workfare labor.

But the last reason why students should not be forced to perform workfare jobs is if workfare means to teach skills and expand work opportunities, and not just supply free labor to the city or to the campuses, then attending CUNY should qualify as fulfilling the work requirement.  It is for this reason that CUNY students should be exempted from having to perform workfare jobs no matter if they are on campus or anywhere else in the city.

This is precisely what SNAW is fighting for.  While there are several other welfare advocacy groups that do really good work and focus on lobbying and training students to be advocates, like the Welfare Rights Initiative at Hunter College,  SNAW is going to be an activist organization that looks to direct actions, demonstrations and other militant tactics and strategies in order to win workfare exemptions for college students.

SNAW wants to launch chapters on every CUNY campus this semester and work with any and all groups that want to fight to end workfare slavery for CUNY students. While some may think this too utopian, people should know that in California students facing the same dilemma organized and won the right to have their college credits and even study time count as their “work experience.” Simply put, students in California no longer have to drop out of school in order to perform menial tasks with no compensation.

SNAW will also be working with ACORN (Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now). ACORN is a grassroots organization that has committed its resources to trying to organize workfare workers into a union so that they can fight more effectively for real wages, health and safety guarantees. Last November ACORN opened up polling sites all over the city to allow welfare recipients vote on whether or not they wanted a union. Approximately 20,000 voted in favor of union formation and some two hundred voted against. All students who are currently performing workfare tasks should sign up for the union to insure that your voice is heard.

It is only through this grass roots organizing that we can put a permanent end to workfare in both the city and the campuses. Mayor Giuliani in his recent round of attacks on CUNY and the community colleges has given everyone in CUNY fair warning that none of us have any right to an education. He is willing to have aspiring college students thrown out of school to perform menial tasks where no advancement is possible. SNAW wants to be a part of a growing movement across the city to organize the unorganized and to fight alongside workfare workers for real jobs at real pay. If you are interested in starting a SNAW chapter on your campus please call 212-650-8179 or 8186.

October 16, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Giuliani Calls for End to Open Admissions at CUNY

By Brad Sigal

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has declared war on CUNY. After a year of attacks on Hostos and the community colleges, he explicitly called for the end of open admissions and a “return to higher standards” in the CUNY system. In announcing his budget proposal on Jan. 29, Giuliani called for eliminating all remedial classes from CUNY, which he acknowledged would decimate the community colleges, cutting the number of students by 75 percent. In his January 14 State of the City address, Mayor Giuliani called the open admissions policy a “failure” and the cause of a “destruction of standards.”

“This is a system that needs to be dramatically changed if we are going to help people and not give them false, phony expectations,” Giuliani said.

Open admissions is the 28 year-old policy that guarantees all graduating high school seniors a seat in a community college. Under the current plan a high school senior needs an 80 average to attain a seat in a senior college. Baruch College, which is held as a model by some Board of Trustee members, has a requirement of 1200 on the SAT. Before open admissions went into effect, CUNY’s students were overwhelmingly white. Open admissions transformed CUNY into the multinational, predominantly Black and Latino institution it is today.

Under the mayor’s plan there would be a required entrance exam for all applying to CUNY. There is currently a placement
exam for all incoming students, but this is used to determine whether incoming students will enter into a 4-year school or community college, and which remedial classes a student needs to take. The mayor’s plan would eliminate remedial classes entirely from CUNY, and would use the entrance exam to reject all students who need remediation.

According to Brooklyn College student Carolyn Connelly, who attended the Feb. 3 Board of Trustees committee meeting,  where these issues were discussed, “Remediation is the core of the open admissions policy. Even though many of the city’s high schools in poorer neighborhoods do not prepare students well for college, this should not be used against the students who went to those schools and need remediation but want to go to college.” She said, “Ending remediation at CUNY means that students at crappy high schools are punished for something that is not their fault and their future is essentially blocked.”

There was a mixed reaction at the January 27th Board of Trustees meeting. According to one of the primary opponents of open admissions Herman Badillo, there are enough votes to end the program. But Badillo doesn’t have the complete backing of the Board. Even Board chair Ann Paolucci publicly stated support for open admissions after the mayor’s State of the City speech; she was joined in that position by faculty representative Sandi Cooper and student representative Mizanoor Biswas.

Interim Chancellor Christopher Kimmich has taken a middle of the road stance on the issue. At the first Board meeting he presided over, Kimmich supported SAT requirements for senior colleges, using community colleges as tools for immersion, and using the same standards for admissions for both transfers students and freshman. On open admissions however, Chancellor Kimmich was vague. Kimmich said in the Hunter Envoy, “The mayor raises interesting ideas about the future of CUNY, and all ideas must be explored.”  When asked about this statement, Felipe Pichardo, a member of the CCNY Coalition, responded, “This ambivalence on open admissions can only be seen as opposition to open admissions and support for the mayor’s attack. It will take a firm commitment to defending the principles behind open admissions in order to defeat the mayor’s plans.”

Many students who heard about the plan voiced concern that it will transform CUNY into an elite institution. A Hostos student stated that he was the first in his family to attend college. While wanting improvement in education, he points out the successes of CUNY. “CUNY is a last chance for a lot of people. Where is my younger brother going to go?”

The Board isn’t expecting to make any decision until a draft of an entrance exam is made, but the mayor’s scathing attacks are causing a flurry of Board activity. The Board is having an open hearing on these issues on Tuesday, February 17 at CUNY’s 535 East 80th Street office at 3:00 pm. Students can speak at this hearing if they sign up by Friday, Feb. 13 with the Board secretary, whose number is 212-794-5447. Copies of the meeting’s agenda are reportedly available from student government offices.

October 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

Why the Messenger?

Why have we have chosen to call the graduate student newspaper the Messenger instead of something like Graduate News? The name Messenger has a history. A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen were two black radical activists starting early in the 20th century. They got their start publishing a newspaper here in Harlem called the Messenger. In the 19-teens and the 1920s, Randolph and Owen were socialists who supported the Russian revolution and actively supported the militant working class movement in the US. Randolph had a long career as leader of the Sleeping Car Porters’ Union, fighting against racial exclusion and discrimination in the American Federation of Labor (AFL). From the 1930s to the 1950s though, he devoted a great deal of energy to criticizing and organizing against the Communist Party’s efforts in the Black community. Despite Randolph’s later anti-communism, we chose the name Messenger in the spirit of Randolph’s earlier pro-socialist working class politics. Most importantly, we chose the name because Randolph was a student at City College when he was first exposed to Marxism and got involved in radical politics. We seek to carry on that tradition of exposing City College students in Harlem to critical thinking and activist politics.

October 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm Leave a comment

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