In the last editorial, I questioned President Chase Robinson’s and the English department’s commitment to resisting institutional and careerist strategies that profit from trafficking in blackness. I mentioned the names of the Doctoral Student Council (DSC) members in order that our community recognize and appreciate the student laborers in the CUNY field. I introduced myself by referring to the baggage and beauties that cultivate my diverse identities and their relationship to my editorial approach. I referred to a featured article that discussed attitudes to sexual harassment on campus. I encouraged the submission of articles rather than support judgmental and non-proactive practices. Certainly, I would like to more deeply address some of those issues. Yet the future has to reflect a diversity of issues out of awareness that it appears inequitable to solely vocalize concerns around a select number of issues.
Indeed I struggle with the questions of what diverse themes, voice/s, and writing structure should occupy this privileged space. No doubt, the editorial’s third-page position in the Advocate’s print copy and its marked placement on the website’s menu bar denote efforts to prioritize its significance. Like most other publications, the Advocate understands that the editorial, as a substantive analytic genre, is also a one-stop information shop for some readers who rely on the publication’s expertise, credibility, and integrity to present them with an astute, informed discourse. Bearing this amazing burden that ensures that this small space provides for the needs of diverse readers, I worry whether the editorial choices involved in such an endeavor truly align with the paper’s goals. Specifically, this concern emerges out of the need to reassure certain readers of the consciousness and care woven into this textual production—particularly those who might speculate that the editorial does not prioritize their issues or that it is not consistent in returning to issues previously addressed. For this issue, therefore, the limited space sheds light on a variety of concerns, such as the need to participate in pressing political conversations in order to locate the Graduate Center’s successes and struggles within a global framework.
Importantly, it is the paper’s goal to regularly feature transnational conversations that usually occupy the peripheries of US media discourse. In deference to that need, this issue features Eylul Fidan Akinci’s “A Genealogy of Violence in Turkey,” a report on the ongoing struggles against an oppressive regime in Turkey. The problematic political framework the article exposes reminds us to never grow overly comfortable with those we empower to serve us because histories have shown how the entrusted often erect the greatest barriers to success. In consideration of this recurrent subjugation of the people’s interests by the empowered, I leave it you to contemplate on the reasonableness of drawing contrasts to the events of 4 November, which led to the unfair arrest of several dozen faculty members. The protest responded to the demands of the Professional Staff Congress’ (PSC’s) 27,000 membership that has been denied a contract since 2010. Several hundred faculty and staff members gathered outside 205 East 42nd Street, CUNY central office. PSC President Barbara Bowen stood among those arrested with signs demanding, “Stop the War on CUNY,” “CUNY Needs a Raise,” and “No More Excuses, Chancellor Milliken.”
Further addressing university concerns that need the chancellor’s attention, Todd Fine’s letter to Chancellor James Milliken condemns the surveillance practices of the New York Police Department targeting Muslim students in CUNY. The current and past chancellors have tacitly endorsed these troubling practices. To date, more than one hundred CUNY faculty members have supported Fine’s letter as signatories. While considering Fine’s letter, the Chancellor should also take note of Jennifer Tang’s letter, which calls attention to the learning-access disparities between disabled and able-bodied students.
Sustaining the focus on the inner-workings of the university, it is necessary to return to the highlights of the last DSC meeting and reflect on the concerns raised by its Executive Committee in discussions with the administration. These include a space for student prayer and meditation and more gender-neutral bathrooms, consequences of the budget shortfall on academic affairs and non-academic services, possible tuition remissions, exploring whether to increase the number of Master’s students or the tuition for out-of-state students, instituting a disability services office, and funding issues that affect the Dean K. Harrison awards, GTFs, and undocumented students.
In addition to the focus on the role of the administration in enabling and disabling student lives, it is also imperative that we foreground the increasing student concerns about a critical institutional problem – the general inaccessibility of many faculty members. From engaging students’ emails and private conversations, it has become clearer that faculty inaccessibility is one of the most serious issues confronting students. This is also true of many research universities, but it doesn’t mean it should be accepted at the Graduate Center. Students complain that certain faculty members rarely return emails, they do not thoroughly read dissertation chapters, and they are inaccessible during office hours. Their failure to effectively mentor students has so often disrupted students’ graduation goals and emotional wellbeing. Yet, any discussion on the students’ failure to graduate within a certain timeframe has narrowly focused on the administration’s ineffectiveness in securing economic opportunities. The bulk of concerns point towards what is widely known but rarely noted in open forums, that students, in many cases, face more roadblocks from the faculty mentoring process than from the administration itself.
Yet, while the problem of faculty inaccessibility is a critical one, many students accept that it is too risky to engage with integrity—that is, with the same strategies used to confront the administration. This is particularly the case when considering that the faculty names most floated around are among the most distinguished at the Graduate Center. At the same time, one should bear in mind that some of these faculty laborers secure their prominent status from working like mules for a system that penalizes those who prioritize student-service duties. In other words, names mentioned of some of the most appreciated advisors and mentors included faculty members who do not boast of the most distinguished departmental profiles. As I close, I wish to encourage you to submit articles that further examine the problem. While the paper doesn’t glorify anonymity, it will consider publishing anonymous writers in this case. However, such writers—whether Graduate Center students, faculty, or staff—must identify themselves to the editorial team.