Resolution of Appreciation for PSC President Barbara Bowen's 21 Years of Excellence in Service

In June 2021, the AAUP's national Council approved the following resolution.

Whereas, Dr. Barbara Bowen was elected president of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing faculty and professional staff at the City University of New York, in May 2000, having established an exceptional career in teaching, scholarship, advocacy, and activism around racial justice and academic labor. Prior to coming to CUNY, she organized for the United Farm Workers, taught at Wellesley, and received her Ph.D. from Yale. In 1986, Dr. Bowen joined the faculty of Queens College and was later appointed to the CUNY Graduate Center consortial faculty. By the late 1990s, she helped to lead an insurgent movement within the PSC and was elected Queens College Chapter Chair in 1996.  In these roles, she fought for racial and economic justice, and fought against tuition increases, austerity measures, retrenchment, and denial of due process rights.

Whereas, Dr. Bowen consistently articulated that another, better vision of public higher education was possible at CUNY and beyond, and inspired others to that vision. Over 21 years that included the horror of 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008, and the Covid-19 pandemic, she successfully pressed an ambitious PSC agenda through annual budget battles and five rounds of contract negotiations. Under her leadership, the vision of “another university” was concretized and encoded in contracts, budget advances and new alliances. PSC contracts consistently joined members’ working conditions with CUNY students’ learning conditions. Dr. Bowen was relentless in focusing on the conditions that plagued the CUNY workforce: low and unequal salaries, contingency, overwork, and lack of professional development opportunities.

Whereas, Dr. Bowen has modeled exemplary leadership in academic labor. She has helped to defy the strictures of austerity policies and win reforms many thought impossible. Dr. Bowen led the PSC bargaining and legislative teams to foundational victories, navigating dense thickets of opposition from university management and state and city government. The strength of her leadership was most evident when the power arrayed against the PSC was most daunting. Dr. Bowen has always led with grace, a commitment to dialogue, keen analytical skill, strategic vision, political conviction, and dexterity in negotiations and advocacy. She has always understood the relationship between critical advances that benefit members, and fighting on an array of fronts for a larger social gain. Dr. Bowen has unflinching courage to speak truth to power no matter the setting.

Whereas, Dr. Bowen has been a visionary labor leader in New York State and nationally. She led the PSC’s efforts to set higher education policies and best practices at the state and national levels in our affiliated bodies: NYSUT, AFT, and AAUP. She helped bring the AFT and AAUP into joint higher education organizing campaigns, collaborated with other AAUP leaders to form the Campaign for Higher Education, a precursor to the New Deal for Higher Education campaign, and received the AAUP Marilyn Sternberg Award in 2008. She led national anti-war efforts within the AFT and devised model legislation for public higher education funding. She was a consistent voice for progressive policies, union democracy, responsible union stewardship, and organizing workers. Among her most impressive contributions was developing national standards for part-time faculty for job security, wages, and benefits that were adopted by the AFT and have become a model for academic unionism. Often, Dr. Bowen was the lone voice opposing short-sighted policies in national labor forums. Repeatedly, she displayed political courage and principled labor leadership in arguing for the most vulnerable and oppressed workers locally, nationally, and internationally.

Whereas, Dr. Bowen has been a strong supporter of the AAUP and advanced its policies and principles. Dr. Bowen has defended academic freedom in CUNY and other universities and colleges, both nationally and internationally.  She has been generous in contacting AAUP chapters and expressing solidarity with their struggles to organize and win contracts.  During the period of AAUP’s institutional restructuring, Dr. Bowen affirmed the unwavering commitment of the PSC to the viability and continued vitality of the AAUP.

Therefore, be it resolved, the AAUP national council expresses deep gratitude for President Barbara Bowen’s imaginative, strategic and extraordinary leadership; years of devoted service to the PSC and public higher education; solidarity with workers nationally and internationally; efforts to strengthen the AAUP and advance its principles; fight against institutional racism; and courageous vision that another, better system of public higher education is possible.