During a hearing this past Friday, November 12, the New York City Council sought new information about the use and treatment of adjunct faculty at the City University of New York (CUNY), a controversial topic that has become more fraught amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual hearing, held by the Council’s higher education committee and chaired by Council Member Inez Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat, included testimony from two main CUNY officials: Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Daniel Lemons and Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Sapienza. Other members of the CUNY community also testified.

In her opening statement, Barron -- a former educator for the New York City Department of Education -- stressed the importance of adjunct faculty, who are not full professors but teach courses, to CUNY and students’ education. She said she wanted to learn more about the university’s decision to let go 486 full-time teaching positions and 2,800 adjunct faculty members and some of the school’s financial challenges, including a $52 million loss in revenue due to lower student enrollment and $75 million in unplanned emergency costs. Some of those issues have been at least partially addressed by federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“At today’s hearing, I am interested in learning about current adjuncts, laid off adjuncts, and rehired adjuncts, as well as the status of continuing education teachers. I want to take a deep dive into what is driving the school’s decisions and to know how it is impacting all students,” Barron said of her objectives during opening remarks.

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