Today begins the sixth annual week of the Professional Staff Congress's "Teach CUNY" project. The idea behind the project is to teach our students and colleagues the history of CUNY as a public institution serving the people of New York City.
My first lesson of the CUNY week happened at a friend's baby-shower on Friday night, when I learned from one of my esteemed and now retired colleagues that Queen Latifah once attended BMCC.
This year, everyone involved in teaching CUNY will be using the opportunity to learn from the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, drawing parallels the racist attack on public funding that became so apparent in majority Black New Orleans to the crisis in public funding for New York's majority minority CUNY, where tuition was once free. In honor of teach CUNY week, I suggest you read this balanced and suggestive response to the University's right-wing critics from Robert K. Fullinwider of the University of Maryland's Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, or peruse this fascinating article from The History Teacher"" about teaching the history of Open Admissions at Laguardia Community College, or this excellent essay on p. 11 of the PSC's Clarion by H. Bruce Franklin, "Under Attack for 150 Years."
The "Teach CUNY" project is also an example of the creative social movement politics of the current leadership of the PSC, the New Caucus, who came to power within CUNY in 2000. Unlike the conservative, do-nothing leadership of the previous decades, the New Caucus made an alliance with CUNY's students a key part of the union's priorities. Indeed, the New Caucus organized in 1995, the year when students all over New York united in protest of Pataki's and Giuliani's brutal cuts to CUNY's budget. Not only can we see this alliance between CUNY's union and its students with this educational event, but last week, the PSC went to Albany and convinced the legislature to fund CUNY's new budget without increasing tuition. It's nice to start CUNY week with a victory....and I hope it translates to a victory for the New Caucus in the union's upcoming election for union leadership.
The New Caucus is running for election against a combination of consevative malcontents and leftovers of the previous old-guard leadership. Elections start on April 3rd and end on April 24th. The lesson for me this "Cuny week" is at least partly, Vote New Caucus.