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CUNY faculty protest hiring of David Petraeus

Stephon Johnson | 7/11/2013, 12:03 p.m. | Updated on 7/11/2013, 12:03 p.m.

The union representing faculty and staff at the City University of New York is up in arms about CUNY’s recent move to hire a disgraced military man to teach.

After learning that CUNY hired former CIA Director and four-star Gen. David Petraeus to teach two seminars (one per semester) for $150,000, staff members called it “obscene” and questioned whether CUNY had forgotten its mission.

“It is obscene for a university that operates on a bare-bones budget to pay anyone $150,000 for a single course per semester,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), in a statement. “Every dollar raised at CUNY, whether from public or private sources, should go to providing broad access to a quality college education.”

In 2012, Petraeus resigned from his position with the CIA after revelations of an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell surfaced. Broadwell was the co-author of his biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” PSC Vice President Steve London echoed the sentiments that CUNY didn’t have its priorities straight.

“This appointment moves CUNY in the wrong direction and sends the wrong message about what is needed,” he said in a statement. “We need smaller classes, more financial aid for students, more full-time faculty and better learning conditions for all our students.”

Initially broken by the website Gawker, the original agreed upon salary for Petraeus’ new gig was reportedly $200,000. But several hours after the report, CUNY allegedly attempted to cover its tracks by releasing a letter to Petraeus thanking him for taking a lower than expected salary of $150,000 and donating a portion to charity. Since then, it’s come into question whether that letter was genuine or created at the last minute to cover themselves from the ensuing controversy.

More than half of CUNY students come from families with annual incomes below $30,000, and about 75 percent of CUNY students are people of color. Multiple years of public disinvestment have led to tuition hikes, full-time faculty shortages and overdependence on adjunct faculty. Adjuncts earn close to $3,000 per class at CUNY, which is one-fiftieth of what Petraeus will receive.

CUNY stated that they’ll pay the former CIA director his $150,000 through the CUNY Research Foundation. Recently, Research Foundation employees, who are represented by PSC, held a one-day strike. They’ve been working without a contract for six months and protested managerial requests for higher employee pay into health care, concessions for new hires and, according to workers, below-inflation salary increases.

Anthony Dixon, chair of the PSC’s chapter at the Research Foundation’s central office, said, “$150,000 for Petraeus is almost enough to cover a 3 percent salary increase for our entire bargaining unit.”