Part-time faculty at The New School, who make up most of the instructional staff at the university, picketed outside the school’s Manhattan campus Thursday, the second day of a strike authorized by the instructors.
Representatives of UAW Local 7902 said the university had been uncompromising in bargaining sessions ahead of the expiration of their contract Sunday. According to the union, the vote was by “97% to authorize a strike, with 87% of the part-time faculty working this semester participating.” Part-time staff make up 87% of instructional staff at the school.
On the picket line Thursday, about 180 faculty and students marched in a circle outside the school’s University Center at 63 Fifth Ave. and chanted “hey hey, ho ho, contract greed has got to go.” It wasn’t immediately clear how the strike impacted instruction.
Emily Ann Hoffman, a part-time instructor, held a sign that said, “we are The New School, good luck without us.” Hoffman said she works several other jobs to support herself, making it hard to give students her all.
“I love teaching and I would rather be teaching than striking right now,” Hoffman said. “I'm out here because I have to, because of the conditions, but I would much rather be in the classroom… I just hope to get back to doing what I should be getting paid to do, as opposed to walking in the streets in the cold.”
According to the union, the part-timers haven’t received a raise since 2018, and their real earnings have declined 18%. The members are asking for a pay boost that includes a 10% raise or $140.64 per “contact hour,” whichever is greater; expanded eligibility to health care plans; and stronger job security. The instructors also want to be paid for hours spent working outside the classroom, and a say in the curriculum.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, school administrators Tokumbo Shobowale, executive vice president for Business and Operations, and Sonya Williams, vice president for Human Resources, expressed disappointment with the union’s strike vote, but said they would continue to negotiate.
“The New School’s bargaining team is continuing to work incredibly hard to reach an agreement that prioritizes the mission of the university and preserves our students’ exceptional academic experience, while reflecting the sincere respect we have for our part-time faculty,” the statement said.
The union said in a statement the school was falling short of its ideals.
“The New School's reputation rests on its progressive history and professed values -- a reputation with which its treatment of workers fails to align,” the union said in a statement.
Part-time faculty member Matt Browning likened the strike to an instructional moment for students.
“A lot of what I do in my seminar classes is teach political solidarity and solidarity and struggle across a variety of social movements,” Browning said. “I see this as like a great opportunity for my students to live that out and, and to see what that type of spontaneous solidarity and love can feel like.”
Sophomore Simone Duffy joined instructors on the picket line.
“Part-time faculty was one of the main reasons I came to this school. It's an environment where our professors are like living artists and living theorists and thinkers and writers, and that can't happen without part-time faculty,” Duffy said.
She added: “So while I hate to be missing classes, obviously it's upsetting, I would much rather miss class now to be able to maintain this incredibly unique and powerful learning environment in the long run.”