Adjunct Finally Gets Paid: CUNY Loses Landmark Discrimination Lawsuit

 

After twenty-six years of adjuncting in the English Department at Hunter College, the last thing Paul Grossman expected to receive was an unceremonious firing. He also never expected to be at the center of a lawsuit that establishes precedent for CUNY adjunct labor rights. Grossman, a novelist and by all accounts a highly-regarded teacher and colleague at the school, was given his walking papers in March 2011 by department chair Cristina Alfar. “I was devastated,” Grossman told the Advocate during a recent interview in his West Village apartment. “Hunter was like my second home.”

Grossman wasn’t alone. Several other adjuncts were also sent packing by Alfar that semester in what looked like a departmental house cleaning by the chair and her course coordinator, Professor Trudith Smoke. In the case of Grossman, the long-time adjunct was replaced by two young women—one of whom is a professional photographer with no professional writing experience. “The fact that Alfar had that power to do this to me, just like that, well, it left me feeling utterly powerless,” said Grossman. “So I went to the union, but it became very apparent, very quickly, that the union was going to be of little help. As far as adjuncts are concerned, they have zero power. I was told, ‘[Alfar and Smoke] can do whatever they want.’”

Except, as it turns out, they can’t. The group of adjuncts let go by the English Department in the spring of 2011 were not a heterogeneous bunch. In all, two-thirds of those fired were gay men, and all of them were over the age of fifty. After further consultations with union representatives—who pointed out that U.S. law prohibits firing workers for their age, gender, or sexual orientation—Grossman was advised to file a complaint with the New York State Department of Human Rights (NYSDHR) accusing Alfar and Smoke of discrimination. Says Grossman, “This complaint, and their response to it, is what did them in. They lied through their teeth. It was a nuisance for them: I didn’t have a lawyer, and so they were going to make up any bullshit [to make the complaint go away], and that’s what they did.”

As justification for Grossman’s termination, Alfar and Smoke recited a laundry list of grievances and accusations in their reply to the state. Among other things, the pair charged Grossman with leaving graded student work outside his office for undergrads to pick up (a practice which violates the school’s confidentiality policy on student grades), failing to issue research writing assignments in his classes, and ignoring Hunter’s requirement that students attend a library orientation session at some point in the academic semester. In addition, Alfar claimed in her formal evaluation of Grossman during the early spring of 2011 that “elements of the course were missing from [his] syllabus, including MLA format, annotated bibliography, 120 goals, plagiarism statement, accessibility statement and . . . detailed info on ISBN and book prices . . .While Mr. Grossman has taught here many years and while his student evaluations are good, his professional attention to the requirements of the courses he teaches and to requirements of the department and the federal government are seriously lacking.”

The trouble with these accusations is that for the most part, they weren’t true. “I have emails,” said Grossman, “dating back years showing my appointments with the library for library orientations! I have research papers from students from years ago! So, once that was clear, I sought legal advice because this whole thing was just nuts. Fortunately, I was able to find an incredible lawyer. She was the one who was able to explain to me that the firing was based on pretext, and provably so. The accusations that [Alfar and Smoke] sent to the state boxed them in legally, because they had to stick to them going forward. Once we sued them, they couldn’t prove a thing, and I could. It was so dumb!”

On advice from his lawyer, Kellen Ressmeyer, Grossman withdrew the complaint he filed with the NYSDHR, as well as one he had filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and instead sued the City University of New York for discrimination. Ressmeyer, told the Advocate that her initial investigations brought to light disconcerting statistical red flags. “There appeared to be a pattern—and not just in this particular tranche of terminations in spring 2011—of a disproportionate number of particular demographics of people departing the English Department.”

The lawsuit presented a certain measure of risk. CUNY is considered an agent of the State of New York, a sovereign entity and therefore immune to legal challenge except in very particular circumstances. Normally, New York can only be sued in the Court of Claims, where the state has expressly waived its sovereign immunity, but this route does not allow trial by jury—something considered very important in civil and human rights cases. Ultimately, after a series of legal twists and turns, the lawsuit was with the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Grossman’s complaint is unsparing. In court documents obtained by the Advocate, Grossman’s lawyers charge Alfar and Smoke with discriminatory intent “manifest by their commonly-recognized hostility towards men, particularly gay men.” Investigations by Grossman’s lawyers quickly revealed that this was not the first recorded run-in between Alfar and her professional colleagues. Court records reveal that Alfar’s workplace behavior has resulted in “multiple complaints of harassment and discrimination” and “insanely abusive” conduct filed with Hunter College and the English Department’s union grievance counselor. Background interviews with Alfar’s colleagues recorded in the complain, past and present, are equally unflattering and describe the department chair as a “vindictive,” “power hungry” “sociopath” possessed of a “narcissistic personality disorder.” “In some weird way,” noted one tenured professor speaking to Grossman’s lawyers, “gay men [don’t] fit with her feminist program.’ This faculty member believed that Professor Alfar’s behavior could manifest ‘homophobia in operation.’”

The Hunter English department is compared in the complaint by one tenured faculty member to a “Chicago-style machine” in which Alfar’s “slavish followers [are] rewarded for fealty’ and ‘anyone who dared challenge her was punished.’” Another member of the department confirmed this view, and pointed to Smoke as an example of a faculty who has been rewarded by Alfar for her loyalty, referring to Smoke and Alfar’s relationship as “very sick.” According to Grossman’s verified complaint, filed in January 2012, “Alfar also has a history of publicly asserting her authority over her male colleagues. For example, as one staff-member reports, at an intra-Departmental meeting, Professor Alfar singled out a male assistant professor and publicly berated him, concluding by threatening him loudly, ‘Remember who hired you.’” Neither Alfar nor Smoke responded to the Advocate‘s request for comment.

On the issue of Grossman particular, court documents show that neither Alfar nor Smoke was able to prove their allegations that Grossman had left graded work in the hallway. Grossman, on the other hand, was able to produce evidence in his defense. Grossman has copies of the research writing assignments he had issued to his students, and copies of his correspondence with Hunter’s library confirming the mandated orientations for his classes. He also produced copies of a written exchange with Smoke concerning the missing “elements” on his syllabus. The correspondence clearly shows that Grossman immediately complied with the department’s request that he add the items in question, and that the changes were confirmed and accepted. Grossman’s lawyers argued–and CUNY ultimately decided not to fight but instead pled no contest to Grossman’s claims–that the adjunct’s termination had nothing to do with professional misconduct and everything to do with Alfar’s bias against older instructors, particularly those who are gay men.

The court agreed, ultimately ruling in Grossman’s favor. CUNY was forced to pay the former Hunter adjunct damages to the tune of $100,000.01, and as the Advocate went to press, Grossman’s lawyers were seeking attorney’s fees of $159,000. In all likelihood taxpayers can expect to pony-up roughly a quarter of a million dollars, and possibly more. It remains unclear if other adjuncts terminated under Alfar’s watch will follow suit and take the City University to court for civil and human rights violations. Should they decide to do so, however, they can expect the support of some of their former colleagues in the department. “A lot of success in the case,” Ressmeyer told the Advocate, “is due to the very brave employees at CUNY who came forward and were willing to talk about their own experiences knowing the risks involved.”

More immediately, the Grossman case may have significantly altered the landscape of adjunct rights at the City University of New York. Previously, adjuncts were assumed to be largely without recourse in the event of non-reappointment. The Grossman verdict suggests that if CUNY wants to protect itself from future lawsuits by part-time and adjunct faculty members, it should adopt more rigorous standards of documentation and oversight of the non-reappointment process across all its campuses. A new, and very important, precedent has been set—no longer can adjuncts be thrown away on the whims of an administrator.

Professor Alfar and Professor Smoke were each contacted for this piece. Neither replied to accept the opportunity to comment. The Hunter College Communications Department contacted the Advocate and has been helpful, promising answers to the paper’s queries. At the time of publication, the Advocate was still waiting for official comment from the communications director. This article will be updated to reflect the school’s reaction when it is received.

Update: Hunter College President Jennifer Raab has responded on behalf of her college to the article. The Advocate appreciates her reply. It follows below.

The Advocate’s misleading and inaccurate report on the case of Paul Grossman, a former adjunct faculty member, completely ignores that a settlement was reached by both sides with no admission of wrongdoing by either Mr. Grossman or Hunter College. The College unequivocally denies any allegations of discrimination, and maintains that its actions and those of its faculty with respect to Mr. Grossman were at all times in keeping with its long and robust history of upholding the highest standards of inclusion and non-discrimination. We are dismayed that the Advocate chose to publish such a one-sided report without checking the facts and contacting the college or CUNY for comment.

Jennifer J. Raab

President, Hunter College

24 comments on “Adjunct Finally Gets Paid: CUNY Loses Landmark Discrimination Lawsuit
  1. This sounds questionable at best, and it might have been nice if the Advocate had at least taken note of the particularly gendered claims against Alfar and the unlikelihood that a feminist politics discriminates against gay men. A “vindictive,” “power hungry” “sociopath” possessed of a “narcissistic personality disorder” is basically to say, “she’s a bitch.”

    I’m not sure I’m excited for the possibility that this article, and the case shores up a certain (gay) male privilege at the expense of feminist politics at CUNY.

    Benjamin Adam
    bpersky@gc.cuny.edu

  2. This sounds really one-sided and doesn’t speak to my experience at all with the Hunter English Department, where i served as both an administrator and teacher, the latter a role I maintain. This is a complicated issue that the Advocate has missed the point of. This verges on tabloid journalism, and I’m ashamed that this is the organ of my home institution.

    I can most likely name the source(s) for the tenured faculty quotes above, and I could produce people who would make opposite claims. I also have worked with Paul Grossman, who seemed to be a good teacher that probably shouldn’t have been fired. On the other side I have been present for the numerous battles Prof. Alfar has waged with the administration to preserve adjunct classes that faced being cut. She was also one of the few senior college faculty chairs (maybe the only?) to come to the aid and support of David Humphreys during the Pathways bull-trash at QCC last year. But, the writer has missed the opportunity to explore the greater depths of this issue in towing the line of an ill-conceived court ruling, which, I reiterate, is a shame. This is shoddy journalism at its best.

  3. Another good reason why there needs to be a limit to the number of years a chair can serve for. When someone has been around this long, it’s not surprising that they would begin to abuse their power.

  4. @Paul Fess,

    I don’t think Alfar’s commitment to running adjunct courses or her defense of her colleagues is the issue here. The issue is that Alfar seems to be seriously abusing her role as chair. Whether or not that abuse includes a systematic form of discrimination is worth debating, but as this very well written and researched article points out, the courts and many members of the department are convinced that she was in the wrong. From a journalistic standpoint, a court decision is factual evidence for guilt. As for the article’s supposed bias, it is noted that Hunter did not offer comment. Though a good news story should provide all sides of a story when relevant, journalists cannot speak in defense of any one side. If Alfar or Hunter had offered comment, their side of the story would have been better represented. When a paper asks for comment, you should offer comment. CUNY has no one to blame for this bad press but itself.

  5. I’ve seen Grossman’s complaint, and to be honest it’s pretty unhinged. While the article quotes some of his claims, the bulk of his “evidence” is from Cristina Alfar’s scholarly work on Shakespeare. The complaint argues at length that because her work critiques misogyny in Shakespeare she must be some kind of man-hater (claiming that Regan and Goneril are unfairly judged and Lear is a prick = you discriminate against gay men!). There are pages and pages of quotations from Alfar’s published work that follow this argument, all concluding that her “feminism” is the cause of her vicious discrimination. This strikes me as insane. I am very familiar with the workings of the Hunter English department and there is quite a bit of unhappiness with Alfar’s leadership among the full-time faculty, to be sure, especially in terms of her cultivation of a loyal cadre at the expense of those who question her management style and decisions. And I don’t know enough about the context to Grossman’s firing to judge whether it was an abuse of power: I’m certainly willing to believe that it was. But the terms on which the complaint was made are vitriolic to the extreme, especially against Trudy Smoke, who has been a dedicated member of the English faculty.

  6. Pingback: Wednesday! Night! Links! « Gerry Canavan

  7. To say this account of Professor Alfar’s character is disturbingly unfounded, ill-conceived and malicious, would be an understatement. As a former Hunter undergraduate and graduate student, and as a present Hunter Adjunct and College Assistant who practically lives and breathes in the Hunter English Department, it is honestly disheartening to have our Chair characterized in such a vitriolic manner. To make claims that Professor Alfar runs the department with a “discriminating”, “insanely abusive”, “vindictive”, “power hungry” and “homophobic” man-hating fist, is a hurtful and repulsive attack on a Professor who is always ready to address our never-ending needs as Adjuncts. Time and time again, I have ushered Adjuncts, Assistant Professors and Tenured Professors, (male and female, gay and straight), into her office, who always have their voices heard, their wishes respected and demands met. Never infringing on the rights of the many academics she must cater to, I have witnessed her manage student complaints against said academics in the most respectful and unobtrusive manner; when faced with issues of grave academic importance, such as the Pathways initiative that threatened to diminish credits allotted for Comp I and Comp 2 that would negatively impact adjunct pay, both Professor Alfar and Professor Trudy petitioned the English Discipline Council to reconsider. To denigrate the professional relationship and camaraderie shared by these Professors, who are true mentors and paragons of academic professionalism for the new generations of Adjuncts entering academia, to a “very sick” relationship, is sickening. Also, diminishing our other Tenured Faculty to “slavish followers rewarded for fealty” is insulting and imbecilic; they have incredible minds, voices, and agency of their own. And to be frank, if anyone should be held accountable for discriminating and divisive behavior, it should be those individuals who reduce an esteemed female Chair’s executive decisions to a need to “assert authority over her male colleagues”. Now that reeks of misogyny.

  8. I find the characterization of Cristina Alfar in this piece to be ridiculous. I have worked under her chairmanship as both adjunct and full-timer, and at all times she has been supportive, kind and helpful. Incidentally, when she hired me to be a full-timer I was over fifty (I’d been working as an adjunct at Hunter for ten years). During my time at the school, I have seen Cristina bend over backwards to help save adjuncts’ jobs when their positions have been threatened by budget cuts or under-enrollment. I only wish the writer of this article had interviewed me before indulging in this outrageous caricature. Both Cristina Alfar and Trudy Smoke are dedicated and caring administrators, and most of the adjuncts and full-timers at Hunter English are fully aware of that.

  9. Warning to readers of this “article.” I would not believe a single word of it.
    This is perfect example of the difference between reporting and blogging. The latter has no obligation to truth or accuracy. In tone and structure, this is obviously a complainant finding a way to air his grievances in a public forum. Journalists byline their pieces because they stand responsible for what they report. No name here. Only one side is quoted and represented; the claim that the other side did not respond is nonsense; any organization contacted beforehand would offer a comment, even if only to say ”no comment.” This looks and feels entirely “rushed to press.” The string of unattributed epithets against one of the parties is not a legal claim; it is character assassination. And then there is the repeated use of terms like case, decision, ruling, verdict, and precedent but here is the problem….this case never went to court! An agreement was reached by both parties through mediation. The complainant can speculate all he wants about his opponents decision to settle, but that has nothing to do with the reality behind it. Settlements are often reached to make nuisances go away. The Graduate Center should be ashamed to support this sling of one-sided mud.

  10. As a full-time professor in the English dept, I am troubled by the number of factual inaccuracies contained in this article. It is my understanding that
    there was no court ruling on this case. The acceptance of a settlement offer by a plaintiff is not an establishment of a defendant’s guilt. Further, there are 46 full-time professors, 140-plus adjuncts and 5 staff members working in the English department. The reporter printed the opinions of only two members of the department. Both of the named faculty members are respected and supported both within the English department and the larger Hunter community. Such selective use of sources is biased journalism at best. I for one would have expected less inflammatory character bashing and more a balanced article on the nature of this lawsuit. This lawsuit raises issues critical to us all and the health of our institution– namely, the treatment of adjuncts. I would have appreciated a credible article that would have opened up a discussion on this important issue.

  11. It’s a shame that otherwise educated people (in this case an anonymous tenured professor) seem to think that heterosexism is the result of feminism. Feminism has nothing to do with hating men or discriminatory practices. Whether feminists are abusing their power or guilty of poor leadership is another matter entirely, but a critique of masculinity in Shakespeare does not a man-hater make. Referring to a working relationship between two women as “very sick” seems a bit ironic in light of the gay bias charge.

    The claim that Department Chairs who fight to keep adjunct-taught classes are somehow exempt from the accusation of abusing their power over non-tenured and contingent faculty is equally laughable. Full-time faculty benefit from adjunct labor exploitation, and they know it, which is why they do little more than pay lip service to adjunct concerns.

    And yes, yes: the PSC has little to offer adjuncts other than a sympathetic nod. Good of Grossman and the GCA for pointing this out. Our union can’t even enforce the contract requirements already negotiated for us. The only precedent set here is the obvious necessity of a paper trail, and knowing that we still need to meet a high burden of proof, such as a clear pattern of discrimination, in order to get heard in court. But it’s something, I guess.

  12. It is absolutely NOT illegal under US law to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It is illegal under NY state law, but not federal US law. It is rather shocking that the Advocate would have printed such an obvious error on a fact that should be within the core of their expertise.

  13. Sorry…an addendum to my previous comment. I got my “Advocates” mixed up, thinking this was reprinted from the LGBT news magazine. The error I mentioned is still an error, but I see now that it is not one the editors of GC Advocate would know much about. I apologize for my tone, but hope that you do correct the error.

  14. I find this a devastating read. I have taught at Hunter in the English department as a Chancellors Fellow, as a Grad-A Fellow, and as an adjunct, for nearly 10 years now. My experience of the department and its leadership has been quite different. On August 15th of last year I wrote the following words to Cristina Alfar, with no knowledge that there was any conflict of any kind in the department:

    “During the years that I’ve taught at Hunter I have—without exception—felt taken care of, nurtured as a ‘young’ academic in the best possible way, supported, listened to, and valued. My hand was held when I needed it, I was encouraged when I needed that too, I was challenged to just the right amount at just the right times—all these things, always by you, but not just by you. The faculty have, with very few exceptions, been wonderful to work with. And Thom—wow—could a department be run with any greater efficiency, attention to detail, and care? It has been a tremendous experience.”

    I concluded that email with: “There was a time in my life when you intimidated me, when I knew you only by reputation—rigorous, demanding, challenging—and I was afraid of you. There is no fear any more, only respect and admiration.”

    I am deeply, deeply saddened to read the above and sorry for the pain this has caused a good many people.

  15. I have just read with shock and concern the outrageous allegations made against my colleagues, Cristina Alfar and Trudy Smoke. I have known both of these women for many years. More to the point, I served on P and B with the two of them for 8 years. If there had been a shred of the kind of homophobic, anti-male or ageist sentiment described, I, who took the minutes for the major part of those meetings, would have heard it and seen it in action. Cristina and Trudy have been, true to the history of this department, very pro-adjunct. They have gone out of their way to support and protect adjuncts against all kinds of unfair treatment or exploitation. In this they carry on a history of adjunct support that characterized the chairmanships of Alan Brick and Richard Barickman, the chairs who hired me as an adjunct and then full-time faculty member.

    Just to make it clear: by no means can I be characterized as part of a “loyal cadre,” whatever that might be. Unless by that you mean that, despite the inevitable disagreements and differences of opinion that come up when you work closely with someone for many years–and we have had them!– I continue to support Cristina Alfar and hope she will run again as chair. And that I respect both Cristina and Trudy as colleagues and friends.

    I am truly sickened by this one-sided, irresponsible piece, written it appears, in bad faith, lacking in subtlety, and unworthy of an honest and open-minded intellectual community.

  16. Note that the “protest too much” defenses of Prof. Alfar were written by adjuncts whose reappointment depended on kowtowing to her in order to remain in her good graces. Or by professors who are part of her “loyal cadre” (who sometimes begin meetings by competing to see who can flatter her the most: “You look like Elizabeth Taylor.” “No, you’re much more beautiful; you look more like Ashley Judd”). Sycophants are rewarded with released time, but woe unto anyone (male, female, old, young) who dares to question her decisions or refuses to accede to her demands. Her vindictiveness is boundless. Suddenly the schedule you been requesting and receiving for years “doesn’t meet the needs of students,” your attempts to be civil and collegial are met with withering contempt, and you start hearing rumors about your “appalling behavior.” Thankfully, many tenured faculty have resisted her Machiavellian attempts to play us against each other, but now we get together off campus for fear that she’ll see us leave a colleague’s office and assume we’ve been talking about her. Few administrators at the college abuse their power in the way she does.

  17. If I were to take this piece seriously as evidence of work toward better working conditions for CUNY contingent faculty, I would argue that while it’s an available tactic to rely on spurious claims about a department chair’s feminist scholarship as evidence that she has created a homophobic, ageist work environment, it’s a foolish long-term strategy if better working conditions are to include academic freedom.

    But this poorly researched piece is neither reporting on nor supporting adjunct rights in action, despite its title. It is a personal attack on two colleagues who were democratically elected by the English department faculty. I respect my colleagues Cristina Alfar and Trudy Smoke, who are thoughtful, reflective, and human. But the more important point is that this article uses the guise of adjunct rights as a cover for a personal vendetta, a move that is cynical rather than progressive.

  18. Most of the comments about this piece seem to skirt the real issues.

    Jennifer Raab states that the Advocate’s article is “misleading and inaccurate,” but she fails to mention specifically how it is misleading and inaccurate. I suppose she believes the blanket statement she provides (“The College unequivocally denies any allegations of discrimination, and maintains that its actions and those of its faculty with respect to Mr. Grossman were at all times in keeping with its long and robust history of upholding the highest standards of inclusion and non-discrimination.”) is sufficient commentary to put to rest any questions about Mr. Grossman’s claim. That generic response is not a cogent rebuttal.

    Were two-thirds of the dismissed adjuncts in this instance gay men?
    Were all the dismissed adjuncts over 50?
    Was Mr. Grossman replaced with two women, one of whom has no professional writing experience?
    Did Mr. Grossman comply with Alfar’s/Smoke’s requests that were brought to his attention?
    Are Alfar and Smoke anti-gay male?
    Did Alfar berate a male colleague under her supervision and state “Remember who hired you.”?

    Reaching a settlement before a court date does not negate reality. Reaching a settlement is a common practice in these types of claims, and often is more desirable because the claims are true and a trial may uncover even more instances of discrimination.

    Mr. Adam seems to have an agenda against gay men, as his inflammatory response suggests. (“I’m not sure I’m excited for the possibility that this article, and the case shores up a certain (gay) male privilege at the expense of feminist politics at CUNY.”) A feminist can be anti-gay male. Mr. Adam proves this with his entry.

    Most of the other repliers seem to think that praising Alfar and Smoke invalidates the questions about an anti-gay male bias in this complaint. Those responses bring to light that Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well at Hunter.

  19. The outrages in the Department of English at Hunter continue since the Advocate’s story ran. At the department last meeting, where the Advocate article was denounced by Professor Alfar as “libelous,” supporters of Alfar pushed through a vote in support of her by a show of hands. Adjuncts, non-tenured faculty, and all other faculty were thereby pressured into publicly showing their loyalty to the chair (who, along with Professor Smoke, left the room as Alfar’s long-time Deputy Chair conducted this vote.) Pity the poor faculty member who dared vote against this measure.

    This is, of course, precisely the “Chicago-style” politics of intimidation referenced in the Advocate story, and it continues even after your excellent expose.

  20. To have a respected voice at CUNY and beyond, the Advocate must be careful to maintain high journalistic ethics. Its a commonplace of splashy slander muckraking to showcase one side of a story and then act as though the other side had any chance to provide detail-rich rebuttal. You don’t have to be long out of the sandbox to know that, due to privacy concerns, administrators are not free to air their side of the story.

    For the four years I worked for her, Cristina Alfar was always an incredibly able, fair and warm supervisor. I am no longer her employee and have no agenda other than “doing the right thing.” From that angle, I must say that every word of this one-sided article screams paranoia and sour grapes to me.

  21. Bashert 1) Chancellor Goldstein is “stepping down” and has done YEOMAN WORK, BUT there are closed door issues on private non-profit taxpayer funded campuses under the guise and protection of Academia– the Research Foundation (CUNY/SUNY) that includes our Government (the S.B.A.) as “partners” abusing our money that is in need of sunlight. Reread the Comptrollers scathing audits of “huge amounts of money wasted by high ranking officials at Research” (CUNY/SUNY) and their promised “New Day” and “Re-organization” that has gotten worse and allowed to continue—F.O.I.A documents easily reflect the con that is ongoing and the greed involved with some of the bad apples. Chancellor, on the stage last night at Macauley, the word Mensch was discussed and defined as honesty and integrity of character—and I have seen many suits with degree in hand walk off that stage unable to live those words. You advised it is not who you know but WHOM you know and so true. Speak with your son Brian as to what goes on at the Small Business Development Center at the College of Staten Island and their satellite and if systemic on all private non-profit campuses not just these 3 offices…OY GEVALT does this country have Tsurris. The fear of retaliation, threats and harassment has witnesses and again and again been the only policy at CUNY for those standing up and speaking out for what is right…shall we discuss our mandates such as Jobs Created/Jobs Saved and Clients Counseled and Hours along with Economic impact in these Research/Government partnership offices and show how the “numbers” are altered that opens the door to a massive infusion of funding and what happened to our Veteran Program AND Funding…or would you like the S.B.A. to comment? Hike tuition for whom?
    @bobystyles

  22. I’m more than a little embarrassed for The Advocate that they granted such an uncritical platform to this case. I’m also curious to know how a routine settlement on a discrimination charge (or: make this go away money) constitutes in the eyes of the editors a “landmark” decision.

    I’m a long-time CUNY faculty member, teaching full time on another CUNY campus but was an adjunct for many years at Hunter. I’m not in English but have several close friends who are in the Department at Hunter and during the spring term, copies of the complaint and decision found their way under the doors of many faculty offices. I’ve read the full complaint and I can only assume that the Advocate staff have not seen or or this complaint could never be taken seriously.

    Two-thirds of the adjuncts dismissed were gay men over 50 — or two of three staff. It’s funny how two very different case are being fused together to make a case of discrimination.

    Advocate staff might have done better to reach out to faculty in English (some of whom are dying to talk about this!) who, unlike Alfar and Smoke, may not have been instructed by Hunter counsel not to comment. The charges here about Professor Alfar and some kind of feminist cabal date back to a much longer history of power struggles among tenured faculty and who’s shut out of the P&B that have nothing to do with adjunct employment.

    I hate this kind of screed b/c it undermines legit adjunct complaints about firings of long term faculty.

    – F.

  23. I would like to preface this response with a description of exactly how I even came upon this post: I googled “Cristina Alfar bitch.”

    The original article made me rejoice that someone has finally fought against “Dr. Alfar’s” miserable, horrible, and unprofessional attitude–and won; most of the subsequent comments, however, have made me cringe with despair. I am elated that someone–anyone–has successfully sued Alfar for discrimination, because she did the exact same thing to me. Further, when I arrived, it was in replacement of another straight, female adjunct who did nothing to deserve losing her post. I felt uncomfortable at the time, so I can hardly be surprised now when I am ousted for no reason at all, just like she was.

    Unfortunately, I cannot understand this “gay male” issue, because I am young, female, and straight. Yet, Cristina Alfar “discontinued” my adjunct position for no reason at all–other than spite. I agree 100% that her relationship with Smoke is “sick,” and it truly disturbs me to see all of these outrageously inaccurate posts claiming otherwise. All I can say to you, posters and audience, is this: The fact that you can claim your “lack of a problem with her” as evidence that the rest of us, whom she has treated like garbage, have no right to claim so, is grotesque, and you should be embarrassed of such absurd, irrational, illogical, and unfair “cries of protest” in her support. It is incredibly non-sequitur for you to claim that the fact that YOU ave escaped her wrath is reason to deny the truth of these claims of Grossman, me, and others–how dare you! Your positive experience does nothing to change the reality of how she has treated Grossman and others. Cristina Alfar picks favorites, and if you are lucky enough to be one of those, then the very least you can do, as ethical human beings and academic professionals, is to observe and acknowledge that she does not treat every member of “her” department equitably.

    In addition, it is undoubtedly fascinating news for all of you that she is now, as of the date of this post, “stepping down” as chair… Incredible. I wonder why… If anything, it confirms her guilt. She is a discriminating, power-hungry animal, and an embarrassment to CUNY and to the academic community. Shame on her, and on all of you “phony” supporters who post your names, because you either wish to keep your jobs, or you wish to maintain some false reputation, for the sake of her recommendation letter. Show some ethics, Wetta, Adam, Fess, Knip, et al. (I know many of you from the office), and some gumption!

    I hope to see more of her victims come forward, and show enough courage to confirm my experience here, because I know that it is shared by many.

  24. Remembering sweet Margarette Lano who worked in the English Dept for many many years and let go when the new chair took office….sad!

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