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Comments by Professor Oscar Shaftel at meeting of CUNY Board of Trustees



Comments by Professor Oscar Shaftel at meeting of CUNY Board of Trustees


A transcript of the testimony given by Oscar Shaftel at the March 17, 1980 CUNY Board of Trustees meeting where his pension was reinstated


City University of New York. Board of Trustees
College teachers--Pensions--United States


City University of New York. Board of Trustees




Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives (New York, N.Y.)



Date Created



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Spatial Coverage

Queens (New York, NY)


Comments by Professor Oscar Shaftel at meeting of CUNY Board of Trustees
March 17, 1980
As one of the subjects of this long-awaited resolution, I face a metaphysical problem. I should like to thank the individual members of this Board for their fine statement on the First Amendment and Academic Freedom; but as a continuing corporate body this is the Board that 27 years ago acted cravenly and illegally, and for 13 years, since the Feinberg Law and. the application of Section 903 were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the U.S., has failed until today to make even a gesture toward decent restitution.

Well, the members of this Board resolve to make the first of two steps normally taken to redress such grievous wrongs: to acknowledge the error, and then to make restitution. Six years ago, faced with a court action in a similar obligation, the Board of Education, after several years of paltering and evasion, took both steps at once: it gave its employees back their good name by reinstating them, and immediately put them on pension . Today this Board offers me back my good name but does not reinstate me: it merely expresses in effect the hope that someday my grandchildren reap my death benefits. Yes, it pledges full support. for other agencies that may assume the responsibility to fund pensions for us. But I hear times winged chariot hurrying near. Three of the 11on the 13-year-old petition are already dead.

My good name? No . The Board's good name, perhaps, may be redeemed by these long overdue words. Professor Shlakman and I and our colleagues have restored our own good names . She is retired Professor at the Columbia School of Social Work, and still teaching. I am Professor Emeritus at Pratt Institute and Adjunct Professor at Queens College, and still teaching at both colleges. But our TIAA pens ions from these institutions are small.

There is bitter irony in our situation today. Thirteen years ago our attorney advised us not to institute court action. "The Board could delay for four years! We’ll count on their good will if we don't force their hand.” Six years ago he said, “The BHE will follow the lead of the BE as it always does in such cases.” Well; the staffs of this Board did start gathering information -- several times: who we were, where we taught, at what salaries (all this information was of course most handy, one would think, in the Board's own records). We and the colleges involved submitted the same data three times. The Board itself was dissolved and reconstituted--each time progress stopped. Finally the law officials of the Board, the Corporation Counsel, and the Retirement Board gathered and pushed the buck around some more, asking each other where the money would come from. And now thanks to the good offices of Council President Carol Bellamy and Assemblyman Mark Alan Siegel, the urgency of the matter seems to have become apparent to the Board itself.

The irony is that we may have to undergo court action and the law's delays after all. Last September our attorney instituted a show-cause action , but agreed to suspend it, without prejudice, at the Board’s request. The petition calls for reinstatement at full back pay and pension rights. My colleague Mr. Straus, a writer and editor, and I are eligible to resume full time teaching positions at Queens College. Needless to say, the discrepancy between our actual earnings over the years and what our teaching sa1aries would have been is substantial. Yet all we have been hoping for is a modest pension, however long delayed .

The Board giveth, the Board taketh away; it giveth tinkling words, it taketh away the hope of substance. I beg the Board to revise this resolution, and directly assume its responsibility for funding our pensions. If it rejects this revision, let me suggest another: omit the hollow words about "providing the individuals with equitable pensions," to read, "provide their estates with death benefits." But of course even this, it could be argued, cannot be guaranteed not to harm some ongoing program of the university.

Original Format

8.5 x 11 inches (215.9 x 279.4 mm)


City University of New York. Board of Trustees, “Comments by Professor Oscar Shaftel at meeting of CUNY Board of Trustees,” Queens College Civil Rights Archives, accessed May 21, 2022, http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/civilrights/items/show/204.