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The Burden of Atrocity

We are years into a 13 year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, officially underway since May 2012.  If that math seems messy, it is one small indication of the  long, deep, and still confounding legacy of that war.  Faculty member Penny Lewis wrote about our memory of the class dynamics of the antiwar movement in her book, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (Cornell University Press, 2013), and returns to the subject in a review essay published in Jacobin and Salon this past week. 

Testifying in 1971 as part of the Winter Soldier Investigation, a war crimes hearing sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton distinguished the American war in Vietnam from other conflicts:

There’s a quality of atrocity in this war that goes beyond that of other wars in that the war itself is fought as a series of atrocities. There is no distinction between an enemy whom one can justifiably fire at and people whom one murders in less than military situations.

Concluding this thought by reflecting on the experience of soldiers and veterans, Lifton observed, “Now if one carries this sense of atrocity with one, one carries the sense of descent into evil.” Continue reading The Burden of Atrocity

Welcome to The Murphy Institute Blog

We are thrilled to be launching the Murphy Institute Blog.  The Joseph S. Murphy Institute (JSMI), part of the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York, comes out of a singular collaboration among labor unions, city workers, community organizations and academic institutions and their faculty and staff. JSMI is the place where people who make the city run come to study how to make New York and the rest of the world a better place to live in and to work.

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Progressive Urban Policy Meets Albany: 2014

Eve Baron is the Academic Program Manager of Urban Studies at The Murphy Institute

New York City Mayor de Blasio came into office on a platform to rewrite the city’s “Tale of Two Cities,” a reference to the stark and growing differences between the life chances of the city’s rich and poor. One of his first policy initiatives was focused on children—universal pre- kindergarten. Universal pre-k programs have long been seen by education advocates as critical to children’s future academic and social success, and critical to support the needs of working parents. De Blasio was successful, in that New York State Governor Cuomo agreed to a budget deal this year that would fund universal pre-k, yet the Mayor failed to reach his goal of a permanent funding stream—he was not able to persuade the state legislature to allow the city to levy higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for the program. Short of that, NYC’s pre-k programs will need to be re-funded each budget cycle. Perhaps even bigger are  questions of gaining autonomy over the tax levy process—if NYC had more control, could we enact a more broadly progressive agenda—one that included pre-k and low-cost housing, after-school programs and infrastructure funding, for example?

Continue reading Progressive Urban Policy Meets Albany: 2014

March with the PSC on May Day—Thurs., May 1

Demand $5K for CUNY’s Low-Wage Workers

Demand Fair Contracts, Fair Wages and Job Security for All Working People

Adjuncts, full timers, faculty, and staff—we need your presence and your indomitable spirit at the May Day march and rally, Thurs., May 1, 5:00 p.m., starting at City Hall. As part of a national mobilization, academic unions like the PSC and UUP, are demanding a minimum starting salary of $5,000 per course for adjuncts. May Day, the international workers’ day of action, is the perfect time to make the $5K demand visible in our city and link the struggle of college adjuncts to that of New York’s other low-wage workers. It’s also a day to stand with our partners in the city labor movement who, like us, are working without a contract, and with immigration activists who, like us, are fighting for the NYS Dream Act and a better life for the next generation of New Yorkers.

Plan to meet your PSC friends and colleagues at 4:30 p.m. at the southwest corner of Broadway and Chambers St. Download the May Day $5K flier and the general May Day flier.  RSVP and More Info. 

Workforce Development Helping to Bridge the Gap

Eve Baron is the Acting Associate Director for Worker Education and the Academic Program Manager, Urban Studies

In addition to early childhood development programs, building the income-earning capacity of our urban workforce is a critical part of building a more equitable society. Workforce development programs—those that are designed to update and sharpen existing skills, or to develop new skills that respond to specific sectoral needs—are at the forefront of city, state, and now federal policy. President Obama sees these programs as a central part of his economic development policy, arguing that skills and credentials are increasingly critical for the American workforce, and that “jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience.” (www.whitehouse.gov, accessed April 29, 2014) The quality and quantity of those jobs notwithstanding, the fear is that if businesses cannot find skilled American workers, they will relocate.

Continue reading Workforce Development Helping to Bridge the Gap

Faculty of the World, Unite?

Penny Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at The Murphy Institute

Years of organizing, agitating, occupying and strategizing have brought the issue of low wage and precarious work to the forefront of contemporary economic discussion.  Fast food and retail are not the only sectors where such low wage work has become the norm:  higher education is increasingly structured along the same logic.  One of the central slogans taken up by students and professors at today’s May Day march and rally is “May Day $5K” – a call for a minimum payment of $5,000 per college class taught by part-time and contingent faculty.  This demand is being made alongside calls for job security, health benefits, and other improved working conditions for the contingent instructional staff that now comprises 75 percent of all college faculty members.  Shamefully, CUNY pays adjuncts closer to $3,000 per class, and it’s not an outlier.

Continue reading Faculty of the World, Unite?