Personal Reflections on the 2021-2024 DGSC

by Jonathan Hanon


Dear DGSC and Community,

Using this point in the year as a good point for reflection, I wanted to personally look back at the DGSC over the past three years, to focus on how many positive things were presented by the DGSC from 2021-2024. We’ve made many strides towards improving the lives of our students and taken many more steps in the directions of future improvement. The DGSC continues to face many challenges within the Graduate Center and within CUNY, but we have made considerable progress on a number of pressing and ongoing issues. I believe the DGSC is in a better, healthier, more sustainable place than it was at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.

In these years, we saw many different resolutions brought through the body, ranging from payment issues to community grievances. We focused heavily on payment and adjunct precarity through our Resolution on Centralized and Timely Payment (February 2022), our Response to Course Reductions (March 2024), and our Response to GC Student Pay and PSC Contract Negotiations (April 2024), as well as our expression of No Confidence in the PSC Executive Council (December 2022). Through these resolutions, we focused on the fact that Graduate Center students are a backbone of the University, that our payment delays put us in precarious living conditions, and that our rate of pay is insufficient to live in NYC, the most expensive city in the world.

In Fall 2022, we came to an impasse when the GC was returning to having in-person courses, and New York State Law reverted to requiring in-person meetings. The 2022-2023 DGSC, which was elected while the COVID-19 state of emergency remained in effect, anticipated that it might be possible to hold Plenary meetings remotely for that academic year. Unfortunately, that was beyond our control. With that said, we organized heavily to ensure that the body would be able to meet to conduct business, and we focused on the issues of the community, including the need for food services and a food pantry, and wrote resolutions endorsing the demands of Reclaim the Commons (February 2023), in Support for Residents of GC Housing (March 2023), and demanding the GC Auxiliary Enterprise Corporation, which is the entity that is responsible for non-academic initiatives including food services, comply with our demands of transparency (March 2023). The DGSC provided upwards of $10,000 in funding to events sponsored under the Reclaim the Commons banner, and DGSC Officers collaborated on each of these events by taking time to organize and be present at events, and coordinate with the GC administration to process each of these events through room reservations, public safety, catering, and IT, while providing pantry supplies to the People’s Pantry throughout the Spring 2023 semester.

When it comes to food services, there were many roadblocks to restoring on-campus food, which ended when the previous vendor terminated their contract with CUNY during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the DGSC originally suggested to the GC administration that it would be a good idea to look for a campus to partner with to be able to ensure that the GC can have food services on campus. When we proposed this, we were told that it will never happen, and that no other campus will ever subsidize our food services operation. However, less than a year later, we have food services in partnership with John Jay College, showing that the idea we presented was indeed viable, and that we can influence the decisions of the administration to work in our favor. Many of us served on committees and advisory boards crucial to this process, volunteering our time to address this situation and ensure that students had access to on-campus food services.

Our of matters that are still ongoing for the rights of the community, we made demands for Reproductive Justice on Campus (December 2022) and Admission of Undocumented Students at the GC (March 2023), and spearheaded a resolution at the University Student Senate for International and Undocumented Students (March 2023), which we also co-sponsored. We are still following up on these matters, but there are steps being taken to make these things a possibility, hopefully in the near future. We passed a resolution on Sexual Misconduct and Gender Discrimination at GC (April 2023), to respond to concerns within the community regarding faculty members who have been found to have committed such heinous actions without any penalty. We also focused on students’ right to religious freedom on campus, through endorsement of a resolution to have no classes on the Eid holidays (April 2023), and passed a resolution demanding a Ceasefire in Gaza (March 2024), as well as a statement supporting the rights of the current student encampment at CCNY (April 2024). Other initiatives the DGSC has supported include the Diversity Science Initiative, which has conducted seminars on disability advocacy, the rights of student parents through the founding of a GC Student Parents chartered organisation that has had meetings with the administration up to the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, and providing a space for student organizations to discuss and advocate for any topics, including allocating space to support students who are advocating for migrant communities.

I’m also sure that nobody would forget the long term struggle we had with Robin Garrell, the previous Graduate Center President, in the 2022-2023 academic year, along with the Letter of No Confidence in GC Senior Administration, of which we passed a supporting resolution (December 2022). We worked with faculty, staff, and students involved in this effort. Looking back at the Motion of No Confidence at the December 2022 meeting of the Graduate Council, we can truly see how far we’ve come since then.

Although the resolution formally failed because of the legal finding that it is illegal to send someone as an unelected proxy to a public voting body in New York State, if the proxy votes in attendance for the meeting had had been counted, then the resolution would have passed. Because of this, we worked with the Graduate Council to bring them a proposal for Alternates on the Graduate Council, which is currently in effect for that body. A similar proposal is currently being voted on for the DGSC, as a ballot item. With this proposal for DGSC Alternates, we will have an easier ability to meet quorum, and to ensure that what happened at the December 2022 Graduate Council meeting does not happen at the DGSC. Additionally, we passed a resolution for a Graduate Council Parliamentarian (September 2023) which has already been implemented.

On top of the issues with Robin Garrell, we also had complications in Fall 2022 when the Business Office experienced a huge staff reduction and a new system for expenditures, through shared services with CUNY Central and CUNYBuy. The DGSC, funded entirely through Student Activity Fees, already faces considerable regulatory and administrative burden simply to remain in operation. With the structural changes in Fall 2022, we were unable to expend money for the entirety of the semester, and all expenditures made had to be reimbursed – many of us on the Steering Committee were owed thousands of dollars in reimbursements from the Business Office. Cultivating and maintaining a positive working relationship with the administration helped us to persevere and implement a system where we were finally able to get things moving. This system exists mostly unmodified to this semester, but it relies on the good will of the Business Office to move things forward.

Under this system, we were able to allocate nearly $20,000 in grants per year, along with nearly $40,000 per year in program allocations and chartered organization funds, which have been used for many different initiatives, such as program student conferences, teach-ins, and other projects. many in charter student organization funds. There has also been a spend-down of a $300,000 surplus fund revealed through an audit of the Business Office’s accounting practices, which has been spent on many lasting initiatives such as the procurement of Zoom Booths, donations to the Childcare Center, Wellness Center, Emergency Grant Fund, and materials for the Library, as well as paying for dissertation year fellowships, Doctoral Student Research Grants, and Conference Presentation support. 

With all of this said, the past few years have been a very productive time for the DGSC, and I hope that future years can continue to address the needs of the students in a productive manner through working in good faith with the GC and CUNY administration.

All the best,

Jonathan Hanon

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