Sunday, March 26, 2006

CUNY Day 2006 For Dillard About Katrina

CUNY Day 2006 marks the sixth year in which the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) has dedicated a week in the spring to creating a greater public focus on CUNY’s historic mission.
See the PSC website.

To see CUNY anew we have to look in the mirror.
Right now that mirror is South; that mirror is New Orleans; that mirror is our sister institution, Dillard University in New Orleans.

To feed an unpopular and illegal war, to make tax breaks permanent and to “reduce” government spending, student opportunity programs and financial aid have been robbed of $12 billion dollars in this fiscal year alone. Medicaid has been cut, Medicare reshaped and an attempt will be made once again to restructure Social Security. Beyond the current contract struggle, CUNY’s faculty and staff will have to continue to fight in the future for contracts that allow raises above the rate of inflation and gain equity for part-timers, relief for HEOs and benefits for junior faculty.

We have included material about Katrina and the Katrina Hurricane on the web for two reasons: I) We feel that nothing demonstrates better the Bush administration’s failure to meet the needs of low-income, poor and people of color than the devastation that was visited upon the black people of New Orleans. 2) The PSC, along with AFT, is raising money both for 139 year-old Dillard University, an HBCU, and the thousands of New Orleans’ public school teachers who no longer have homes and jobs. The schools were wiped out as were residences. Dillard sustained greater damage than any other institution of higher education in the Gulf coast region (See Mark Bond’s report on Dillard.). The PSC feels a special affinity toward Dillard since its low-income and minority student body is much like CUNY’s. They are first-time college students from the area whose education has been interrupted and who have suffered much personal loss. Plans for rebuilding and reopening the University are included in the report.

In spite of forewarning, FEMA did not participate in evacuating the poor in the inner city wards of New Orleans whose homes are now splinters, nor provide adequate assistance. Most people, except the wealthier whites whose more substantial homes were on higher ground, evacuated the city and are scattered across the country. Six months after Katrina, the black wards are still totally devastated, the children and the people, college faculty and students are still refugees. According to a report from Brenda Mitchell, the President of the New Orleans Federation of Teachers, their homes in St. Bernard’s parish have been condemned and will be bulldozed. The best public schools are being re-opened as charter schools. She believes it is an opportunity to break the teacher’s union, one of a small number of unions in the South. The PSC asks that you make a one-time contribution to its Dillard/AFT Katrina Fund by going to the web page and using PAYpal to donate. In addition, a fund raising activity would be appropriate for CUNY Week. The Black Faculty and Staff Association of NYCCT has already raised $2000 and the students and faculty at LaGuardia Community College have been raising money through weekly dollar days when the college community drops dollars in designated receptacles upon entering the buildings. Resources are available for you to use for the Katrina effort. A DVD has been produced by AFT and can be made available along with radio tapes from Air America and other video tapes from CNN.

The Bush administration is waging two wars – one abroad and the other at home, not only against terrorists but the people whose services have been diverted to feed a war economy and make the wealthy even wealthier through permanent tax cuts. Bush’s trillion dollar budget for ’06-’07 excludes the billions required to continue the war. But it does include a reduction in the amount that would go to veterans’ benefits. It seeks to turn the clock back to a time when there was neither a woman’s or civil rights movement and very little representation of people of color in higher education as either faculty or students.

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