April 14, 2008

Honorees reaching higher in higher ed

Source: RA 2008

Bob Cermele and Steve Mezik, honored as NYSUT's Higher Education Members of the Year, show that you can't mix education unionism and activism without being immersed in the community.

A committed unionist and math professor at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, Bob Cermele is tireless in his efforts.

He has been an educator at CUNY for 35 years, and is active with his union, the Professional Staff Congress.

"Union work is not a thankless job," Cermele said. "I'm thanked by my colleagues all the time."

Projects that have earned Cermele's devotion include leading the effort to reduce workloads for college faculty. As treasurer of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, he played a key role in getting the fund financially back on track.

He's also worked on campus safety issues.

Working with PSC, which he credited for its commitment to social justice and community, is "a powerful outlet for my own efforts."

Steve Mezik said he figured out why teachers remain in the profession despite the stresses of the job. When a colleague at Herkimer Community College died earlier this year, he joined a busload of students for a long trip to the funeral.

"I watched as his students said good-bye," Mezik told a crowd of his peers at the RA. Rather than focusing on their own grief, "They were there to say thank you," he said.

Mezik, an assistant professor, earned his award through his teaching and devotion to a wide scope of projects. If there's a concern, then Mezik has a solution: He gets active.

His causes include health and safety and the environment, both at the college and within the community. He is chair of the hazardous/toxic management committee, chair of the laboratory animal advisory committee and serves on the energy committee.

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