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April 3: Forum on Racial Justice and CUNY – 6:00-8:30pm @ PSC-CUNY HQ

CUNY remains one of the most diverse college systems in the country. Yet black and Latino students are now far less likely than they were before 2009 to be enrolled in a CUNY senior college, particularly those in the top tier, where student outcomes in terms of retention and graduation are far higher than they are at the community

– Treschan, Lazar, and Apurva Mehrotra. Unintended Impacts: Fewer Black and Latino Freshmen at CUNY Senior Colleges After the Recession. Community Service Society of New York, May 2012.

Recent reports have brought to the fore, again, the racio-economic inequities that exist within, and reproduced by, higher education institutions. These reports are specifically  about the City University of New York (CUNY).

On Wednesday April 3rd the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY and The Public Science Project are jointly sponsoring a Forum on Racial Justice and CUNY. The event promises to be an exciting dialogue on student and faculty diversity at CUNY.

The event will be held at:

61 Broadway on the 16th floor, 6:00 – 8:30 PM (Meeting Hall of the PSC).

Speakers include:
Frank Deale, Professor, CUNY School of Law;
David Jones, President of the Community Service Society;
Ann Cook, Co-founder, Urban Academy Laboratory;
Angelo Falcon, President/Founder of the National Institute of Latino Policy; and
Barbara Bowen, President of the PSC and Associate Professor, Queens College.

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center in Social Psychology and Urban Education; and
Edwin Mayorga, a student in the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education at the GC.

Forum facilitator:
Paul Washington, HEO Associate at Medgar Evers College and Chair of the PSC Committee on CUNY and Race.

Relevant Reports

CUNY Ad Hoc Committee on Strengthening Faculty Diversity. Building on a Strong Foundation: A Strategy for Enhancing CUNY’s Leadership in the Areas of Faculty Diversity and Inclusion. City University of New York, 2012.
Falcon, Angelo. The Vanishing Puerto Rican Student at the City University of New York. National Institute for Latino Policy, August 14, 2012.
Treschan, Lazar, and Apurva Mehrotra. Unintended Impacts: Fewer Black and Latino Freshmen at CUNY Senior Colleges After the Recession. Community Service Society of New York, May 2012.

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Ravitch references a good friend’s act of educational courage

In a recent blog post Diane Ravtich ponders How Teachers Can Stop the Organized Attack on Teaching. In her discussion she stresses the importance of collective action and refers to the courageous act my good friend, Sam Coleman, took in order to help his whole school stand up against the New York City Department of Educations merit pay experiment, the Bonus Plan. I was deeply honored when Sam asked me to co-write this story for the book Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education. You can read what we co-wrote on The Answer Sheet blog of the Washington Post, but what I wanted to share here were three key lessons that we wrote in the conclusion of that chapter.

1. The Power of Process.

Sam’s story is a wonderful model for change based on a process of reflection, analysis, and action—an approach Brazilian thinker Paolo Freire described as liberation. Sam’s act of courage began with his reflection on the injustices that are present in the “trees and forest” of the educational landscape. Through inquiry with others, analysis and broader action emerge.

2. The promises and pitfalls of teacher unions and teacher unionism.

Historically, unions have been central to improving work conditions. Unfortunately, the promise of tackling issues beyond contract bargaining has been limited.  Perhaps most frustratingly, unions will sometimes limit their own democratic process in order to appease management, make deals with politicians, and keep particular leaders in power rather than organizing members to engage in these struggles and to engage with the communities we serve in respectful and responsive ways.

Still, we remain hopeful, as grassroots organizing by educators in places like Chicago and Milwaukee,  have led to the election of more justice-oriented union leaders. We believe that understanding how unions operate and moving them toward social justice unionism will greatly affect the depth of analysis and the power of action by educators.

Being from New York City, we are particularly hopeful of the emerging social justice-oriented caucus within the United Federation of Teachers, the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE).

3. We Must Be in This Together! 

Living and working in tough times, educators are in a vulnerable position, but stories like Sam’s raise hope. Sam’s story illustrates how powerful and necessary it is to stand up and stand together for a more just world. Sam’s act of courage should refuel those of us committed to defending and transforming public education. There are many parents, youth, and education workers, out there in the fight. By working collectively, honing a deeper understanding of what affects education, and taking action, we are creating a groundswell of strength that will help us challenge the daunting situation we all face.



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