A firestorm of protest has erupted at disgraced ex-CIA head David Petraeus’ $150,000 paycheck to teach a three-hour class once a week for two semesters with help of graduate students. Tuesday, The union representing CUNY faculty and staff Tuesday sent out a statement in protest of Petraeus’ salary, which was first reported by Gawker.
"It is obscene for a university that operates on a bare bones budget to pay anyone $150,000 for a single course per semester. Every dollar raised at CUNY, whether from public or private sources, should go to providing broad access to a quality education," said Barbara Bowen, president of Professional Staff Congress/CUNY in a statement.
Petraeus, 60, a former top commander in the Afghanistan War, resigned as CIA chief in November following revelations of an affair with his also-married biographer, Paula Broadwell.. Steve London, first vice-president of the PSC, which represents 25,000 CUNY employees, noted that adjuncts teaching a similar class typically make $3,000 per semester, with no or minimal help from assistants.
"We think he should be paid according to scale. It creates a huge inequality that is not justified," London said. CUNY has "has been ambiguous at best," about the specifics of the Petraeus deal, said London. He added that the union deserved to know all the terms and conditions of Petraeus's employment.
"There's a good chance he's in our bargaining unit," London said.
The topics of greatest interest that Petraeus knows a great deal about - the CIA and the military - Petraeus “can’t even discuss” due to legal and government restrictions, London complained, hence the vague, unspecific description of the seminar.
Petraeus's attorney, Robert Barnett, said his client had no comment.
Michael Arena, CUNY spokesman, disputed the characterization that the university is a needy institution. Six out of ten full time undergrads get a tuition-free education and that almost 85% of undergraduate students graduate with zero debt, he said.
Petraeus "will also give lectures open to the entire university community during the academic year on topics of general interest related to his areas of expertise, such as the Middle East,” Arena said. "Dr. Petraeus's compensation is funded through private fundraising without expending any public dollars.”
Meanwhile, the CUNY union’s gripe against Petraeus, was echoed by Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who asked CUNY interim Chancellor William P. Kelly to renegotiate the retired general's salary "to a rate that matches other professors in similar teaching arrangements.”
On his website, de Blasio accused CUNY of putting “headlines ahead of affordable education."
City Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn had collected almost 2,000 signatures last night on a MoveOn.org petition he began Monday afternoon titled "CUNY: Rescind $150,000 promised to David Petraeus." A spokesman said Lander plans to present the petition to the University.
One CUNY student, Alyssia Osorio, 22, said the big-dollar salary for Petraeus could be better spent elsewhere. She was also concerned about four-star general’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan military operations.
“I'm concerned about the increasing militarization of the school," Osorio said.
"This coincides with the implementation of the ROTC on campus this year. It's a slap in the face to the history of all the anti-war protests" that occurred at CUNY years ago, Osorio said.