New York Post

Pitiful Pampered Profs

The rich get richer — and teach your children

- Robert Cherry is Stern Professor of economics at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center. ROBERT CHERRY

THE rich get richer — but they aren’t who you think.

If the “system” is rigged for anybody, it isn’t only the top 1 percent but the rest of the top 20 percent.

And my colleagues at the City University of New York, where I teach, are the perfect example of a hypocritic­al overclass reaping ever more of the pie.

Full-time professors here relatively quickly attain six-figure salaries. Many are married to other profession­als, so the vast majority live in households with incomes that place them in the top quintile. Then there are the generous health and pension benefits.

Many of my colleagues actively supported Bernie Sanders and his attack on the “top 1 percent.” However, as Richard Reeves noted recently in The New York Times, the “top fifth has seen a $4 trillion-plus increase in pretax income since 1979, compared to just over $3 trillion for everyone else. Some of those gains went to the top 1 percent. But most went to the 19 percent just beneath them.”

This focus on the top 1 percent not only enables the profession­al class to divert focus away from their disproport­ionate gains, it also enables them to convince themselves they’re somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans.

For example, my union has condemned the eliminatio­n of state and local tax (SALT) deductions in the just-passed tax reform as an at- tack on the middle class. It ignored the fact that, according to the Congressio­nal Budget Office, 80 percent of the SALT tax benefits go to the top quintile of earners; just 5 percent goes to the lowest three quintiles.

Worse, they have enough economic and political clout to get their faux grievances appeased. Again, look to my comrades. In recent years, CUNY has increased the funding for one-year sabbatical­s from 50 percent to 80 percent of each participan­t’s full salary; given new faculty 24 credits of re- leased time during their probationa­ry period; and increased the amount of credit for teaching large classes. As a result, virtually all full-time CUNY senior college faculty teach no more than two days each week.

And the CUNY administra­tion just agreed to reduce annual faculty teaching loads throughout the system by three credits. For those at the 11 senior colleges, that’s a 15 percent reduction. CUNY administra­tors rationaliz­ed this substantia­l benefit by claiming it would further the school’s ability to service students with high-quality faculty. Provost Vita Rabinowitz pointed to the “additional time faculty will now spend meeting and advising students, as well as on their research and scholarshi­p.”

Yet there’s no indication CUNY is pushing its faculty to spend more time guiding the students. Indeed, the trend has been for them to spend less time engaged with students.

Increasing­ly, professors are reducing their classroom contact with students by teaching more courses online and offering socalled hybrid courses — where anywhere from one-third to twothirds of the class is taught in person. This has enabled many professors to teach their full load without being at the college more than one day a week.

There was nothing in the just-approved teaching-load reduction that would curtail this ongoing reduction in classroom contact hours.

If the CUNY administra­tion was serious about increasing faculty research and student engagement, it could have targeted reduced teaching loads. CUNY could have expanded its program that awards reduced teaching and increased funding to faculty based on their research proposals. Or it could’ve given such benefits to faculty who agree to increase advising and mentoring students.

Instead, by providing the reduced teaching loads to all faculty without changing their research or student-engagement requiremen­ts, it simply has given more privileges to the privileged.

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