Queens College professor among 24 laid off in recent CUNY staff reductions, not surprised by decision

Queens College
Queens College
Photo via @queenscollegeofficial on Instagram

A former professor at Queens College in Flushing who was laid off earlier this month along with 23 other faculty members, said the bad news came as no surprise.

Malcolm MacDougall III, 34, who had taught sculpture at Queens College since 2016, was among the 24 faculty members at the college who received an e-mail notifying them that they would be losing their jobs prior to the beginning of the second semester.

Queens College
Malcolm MacDougall (right) working with his students. Photo courtesy of Malcolm MacDougall

He received the news at the same time an email was sent to the chairs and deans of the college on Jan. 10 from Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Price with a list of those staff members who would be losing their jobs. 

MacDougall assisting a student. Photo courtesy of Malcolm MacDougall

Job cuts have also been made at York College in Jamaica, following a decision made by The City University of New York (CUNY), which has 25 higher education institutions across the city of New York, including Queens College.

MacDougall has been working at various CUNY institutions for 11 years and said that although these layoffs are disappointing, they did not come as a complete shock as he had been let go by CUNY twice before and returned each time. 

“I’ve worked for CUNY for a number of years now and I’ve returned twice before but that becomes harder and harder to do because I’ve got two young children, so it creates a stressful and unstable financial situation,” he said. 

MacDougall added that Queens College has asked him if he would return for a third time and teach two classes a week if the job can be approved but the pay would be considerably less for the same work that he was doing before.

“In the short term, I plan to keep returning for the students [if requested], but I think these budget cuts make it harder to do that,” he added. 

MacDougall said that he is fortunate since his employment with CUNY was not his only source of earnings, which is why it makes it possible for him to return to Queens College, as opposed to faculty members who relied on the institution for all of their income.

The 34-year-old mentioned that other young faculty members who also work at Queens College have other forms of income, and they could possibly leave Queens College to pursue a full-time job if they think that their contract with CUNY is not secure.

“If you’re making 95% of your income elsewhere your attention and your availability follows that. So, when CUNY doesn’t commit to its young faculty, they will inevitably go elsewhere for employment,” he said. 

Within the art department there are three different majors that students can choose from including studio art, photo and imaging, and art history. MacDougall used to teach the studio art program, which is the program that was most affected by these cuts. 

“Before these layoffs we had eight faculty members and now it’s down to four active employees in studio art as two are currently on sabbatical,” he added. 

A former student of MacDougall, Vee Tineo, who is currently studying for a master’s in art at Queens College, says that she is disappointed by these recent job cuts. 

“I only found out about it from an online article two weeks before the semester began rather than from my college email which I don’t think is good enough. I wish that there was more transparency between the decisions from CUNY and its students,” she said.

Tineo added that MacDougall was an extremely helpful teacher, and he has helped her improve her artistic skills throughout her masters.

“If I’m going to continue learning these things and he’s gone then this area of the campus just dies. The liveliness of the studio goes with him, and we want to keep him on campus because he allowed us to learn and explore,” she added. 

Queens College President Frank H. Wu said in a statement that the Queens College administration acknowledges the professional and personal hardship as a result of these layoffs.

“We recognize that every faculty member contributes important value to the college, which had to be balanced with the severity of the cuts we were required to make,” he said.

He also mentioned that the chairs and deans are working on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the students are prioritized. 

“At the start of this academic year [in September], the college announced the appointment of 57 new faculty appointments, the result of new state budget support enacted last year,” he said. 

The current spring semester at Queens College began on Jan. 25.