CUNY General Assembly Minutes – 10/14/11
IMPORTANT: These minutes are not comprehensive. Please leave comments fill in anything that might have been left out
Opening Remarks from one of the facilitators: One of the things that we hope to accomplish in the first CUNY-wide General Assembly is to begin having an earnest dialogue about our grievances, about what is broken in this system, to begin think about how we can start organizing to change these things. This initial meeting is also about articulating what we would like to see out of this CUNY-wide General Assembly in the future and how we can begin organizing at our respective campuses.
First agenda item: “Shout Outs” to the different schools who were present. Rounds were made and everyone did indeed shout outwardly in support of the various schools present.
Second agenda item: Explaining the Process. We then went over the various hand signals that were important to understanding and participating in the process.
The question was then posed whether we should break into groups from the various schools or whether we should plan together: Overwhelmingly it was decided that we should stay together for this General Assembly.
<<at this point it begins to rain, so we all move to crowd under the awning. We struggle to hear each other under the awning and it is decided that we should try to go inside. The security guards will not let in non-Hunter students, seemingly in direct violation of our rights as CUNY students to have access to any of the campuses and their resources. Security says that our assembly would “disrupt the everyday business of the school”. There is a widespread discontent. We continue the conversation outside in the rain. There seems to be consensus that it is an absolutely unacceptable outcome and that we intend to fight CUNY on this.>>
Third Agenda point: To open the floor for proposals of further agenda items…
-Proposed: an agenda point on direct actions
-Statement: It is Awesome that we are coming together as a CUNY-wide GA. One of the political challenges of the CUNY system is that we are so divided and disparately spread. I hope that we can cultivate a solidarity here and come together to “wreak joyful havoc” with the definite goal of enacting changes!
-Proposed: An agenda point particularly devoted to airing grievances (Large show of twinkle fingers – everyone seems to have grievances to air! Hell yes we do.)
-Proposed: that we coordinate the GA through the blog.
-Proposed: that we discuss the network infrastructure of the group (i.e. the technological support that we may use to coordinate our various campus groups and our CUNY-wide GA).
-Proposed: to discuss weekly walk-outs.
-Proposed: organize with adjuncts, and the importance of doing so outside the existing channels of power.
-Proposed: that an important agenda item is the upcoming legislation on Tuition Raises.
-Students from John Jay propose to reflect on last weeks walk out.
-Proposed: an agenda item to talk about next week’s meeting
-Proposed: an agenda point about fostering dialogue with and between unions at CUNY
-Proposed: an agenda point to discuss what ought to be the relationship between the CUNY-wide GA and Occupy Wall Street.
-Propsed: an agenda point effects of Gentrification at CUNY (And the question of the surveillance of Muslim students).
At this pint the facilitator proposes that we condense the proposed agenda points into two categories of “grievances” and “actions” (Note: in retrospect this was probably not the best idea as many of these crucial points raised in this section of the meeting were note returned to).
Fourth Agenda point: Airing of Grievances
-It is brought up that the problems facing CUNY are old problems not new problems. And that indeed many groups have been fighting these battles for a long time. One of the important things to keep in mind is that at the heart of the problems facing CUNY is a long-term erosion of the original values on which the school was founded. As a public education facility it is intended to be a service available to all. Up until fairly recently schooling was free for all at such an institution…
-Another centrally important point is that of the precarious position of Adjunct professors! Unacceptable that CUNY is trying to deprive them/us of healthcare.
-Not only is this is a public institution. It is our institution. And it is unacceptable that we have been barred the right to entry and use of the premises for our meeting. That we have been relegated to the outdoors and the rain. The turnstiles should be ripped out!!! And there should be no police in the schools!!!
-It is central for our movement that we continue to identify and critique the relationship between our particular struggles and grievances and the workings of capitalism more broadly. The adjunct (two-tier teaching) system, for example, should be understood within the broader context of the flexibilization and casualization of work in America and abroad. We are not just fighting the CUNY administration or the state of City of New York, we are fighting Neoliberalism and we are fighting Capitalism. Its not just the 99% against the 1%, it is class war (that they have waged against us for years) and class struggle (perpetually ongoing).
-Grievance: There is no affordable nutritional food available at Hunter or in the surrounding areas! How are we supposed to think well and be health if we cannot eat well. Food and Tuition are too expensive!
– What we are fighting for is free printing! And printers that print on both sides!
-Chancellor Goldstein: it is a problem that he has a salary of $400,000/year while the students struggling and are paying more and more every year to attend this public institution. The large salaries of the executive staff of university is rancid in the context of the gutting of the City University educational system. How can we tolerate that traditionally marginalized communities of color are being progressively squeezed out of the educational system by the tuition increases, while these executives are getting paid more and more every year. Public Education should not be run like a private business.
-There are issues within our movement that need to be addressed: e.g. it is a problem that at this CUNY-wide GA it is predominantly Hunter students (perhaps we should rotate the CUNY-wide GA from week to week between the campuses). – Also, the point is raised that simply replicating what is going on at OWS here is perhaps not a good idea. For one thing our purposes are different (occupation of public space, versus radically changing a public institution) and perhaps we need a different organizational/communicative structure.
-It is not merely CUNY students who matter in this debate, but also all of those who are currently being excluded from CUNY. Indeed exclusion is perhaps the most important point at the heart of the problems of CUNY today.
-It is objected that instead of blaming the cops and simply scapegoating the administration, we need to have a more serious analysis and critique of how power is structured and money is allocated in this institution. Simply calling police officers pigs for doing their job is not going to help us to understand how power functions in this institution. And it will ultimately lead us to a superficial politics of incidental conflicts when what we need is deep structural change of the university system.
-CUNY students have the right to the schools financial information. It is recommended that we all familiarize ourselves with this, so as to better be able to identify the terrain of the battlefield.
-Gripe! That education has become industrialized: we are treated alternatingly as units of knowledge consumption or as assembly line knowledge workers who must produces certain arbitrary units within a given time frame. This leads inevitably to mediocrity and the degradation of the quality of education.
-Regarding the tuition hike: The important date to remember is November 21st, when the administration will be officially approving this tuition hike. If nothing else it is essential that we organize together around this point. (This should really be our first point of order. It should be what we begin organizing at the various campuses for, and it should be what we bring to the city-wide GA on Saturday Oct 15th as an issue that other universities could help us organize against). (The tuition is set to rise another $1,500 over five years! We must prevent this racist and classist attack on public education).
-Grievance: The University is not a democratic institution. Its governance structures are opaque and unaccountable to its students. This is unacceptable. This doesn’t correspond even the most liberal measures of representative democracy, let alone the kinds of direct democracy and radical democracy that we might hope to aspire towards. The suggestion is raised that we should strive to interrupt the running of CUNY and demand/enact a redress of this democratic deficit.
-Tuition hike represents a gentrification f the university system that we as a community must resist!
Fifth agenda point: Actions (that the group can potentially consider in the long run)
-Strategies for making board meeting more accountable: participation, disruption, infiltration, occupation.
-URGENT: need to organize November 21st actions to petition the tuition hike.
-The idea of having a point group for organizing the CUNY-wide General Assembly from now on. It is proposed that only one student from each school would be on such a committee and that we perhaps limit it to a rotating cast of 4 or 5, simply dedicated to the task of organizing the GA logistically.
-Question of working with existing student associations.
-It is proposed that there should be a Working Group on Student Walk-Outs. ( apint person is appointed)
-An important point is raised that Queens College students were left largely unaware of this meeting (further testimony our fragmentation and the need for cohesion and organization, and perhaps such a committee of 4 or 5 tasked with better organizing the CUNY-Wide Assemblies).
-It is stated that (and informally consensus seems to have been achieved) that the CUNY-wide Assemblies should not be organized by the Students United group.
-Regarding whatever actions we take: if we want to actually achieve that our demands be met there is an utmost importance of solidarity! “We must know each other intimately” (chuckles from the crowd, and some twinkle fingers). But the underlying point is fundamental: Solidarity and Trust are key for the expansion of this movement.
-There is a concern raised about the freely –floating nature of General Assembly style meetings which often do not permit for the kinds of concerted planning that we will need for our actions, for our organizing and for our specifically CUNY needs.
-The question of when and under what form we meet next: after a vote it is decided that the next meeting will be a Hunter General Assembly to which other school are also invited @ 4pm next Friday. Same place.
ANNOUNCEMENT: NEXT HUNTER GENERAL ASSEMBLY (To Which Other CUNY Schools Are Invited To Participate) WILL MEET AT 4PM NEXT FRIDAY, Oct 21st.