The majority of teachers at The New School are adjuncts, and they have been on strike for two days now. On Thursday, they continued their picketing outside the Manhattan campus.
UAW Local 7902’s negotiating team claimed that the university was unyielding during contract negotiations leading up to Sunday’s deadline. “97% to sanction a strike,” the union said, adding that “87% of the part-time faculty working this semester participated.” Eighty-seven percent of the faculty at this school are not full-time workers.
About 180 staff and students gathered outside the University Center on Fifth Avenue on Thursday, forming a picket line and chanting “hey hey, ho ho, contract greed has got to go.” How exactly the strike affected classroom activities was unclear at first.
The sign was held by adjunct professor Emily Ann Hoffman and read, “we are The New School, good luck without us.” Hoffman claimed that she finds it challenging to give students her whole attention because she has to work many jobs to make ends meet.
Saying, “I would rather be teaching than striking right now,” Hoffman expressed his passion for the classroom. I’m out here because of the weather, but if I could be in class I absolutely would be… I just want to stop shivering on the streets and get back to completing the work for which I was hired.
The union claims that the part-timers haven’t seen a pay increase since 2018 and that their real wages have fallen by 18% since then. The members are requesting a pay raise of 10% or $140.64 per “contact hour,” whichever is greater; increased access to health insurance plans; and bolstered job security. The educators also demand curricular input and compensation for extra time spent outside of class.
Tokumbo Shobowale, the school’s executive VP of business and operations, and Sonya Williams, the VP of human resources, released a joint statement on Tuesday expressing their dissatisfaction with the union’s strike decision but promising to continue negotiations.
The New School’s bargaining team “remains committed to working diligently toward an agreement that reflects the genuine regard we have for our part-time faculty while also protecting the mission of the university and the great academic experience we provide our students,” the statement read.
The union issued a statement saying the university was not living up to its values. The union said in a statement that “The New School’s reputation hinges on its progressive heritage and professed beliefs,” but that the school’s treatment of its employees is inconsistent with that image.
Matt Browning, a professor who only teaches part-time, said that the strike could serve as a teaching opportunity for the students. According to Browning, “a lot of what I do in my seminar lectures is to teach political solidarity and solidarity and struggle across a number of social groups.” That’s why I think this is such a fantastic opportunity for my kids to experience and learn from the power of genuine, unprompted community and affection.
Simone Duffy, a sophomore, picked a side and joined the teachers’ strike. A large draw for me was the availability of part-time teaching positions. “Part-time faculty are essential to maintaining the atmosphere in which our academics function as living artists, live theorists, living thinkers, and living writers,” Duffy remarked.
While she acknowledged that her absence from class was unpleasant, she said, “I would much rather miss a class now to be able to keep this really unique and strong learning environment in the long term.”