Part-time professors at Manhattan’s New School went on strike on Wednesday — but the progressive university wants students to cross the picket line to keep attending classes while their instructors fight for better wages.
Parents were stunned when they received an email from the university on Wednesday that said that despite the professor strike, the school “remains open and instructional activities are ongoing.”
The email continued: “Classes will continue to meet and students should plan to attend.”
The school, which can cost upwards of $60,000 per year, said it’s encouraging students to keep up with their work through an “alternative instructional plan … if their instructor chooses to engage in the strike.” The plan includes completing requirements already assigned on syllabi and utilizing “asynchronous learning experience modules” provided online.
UAW Local 7902, which has represented the university’ part time faculty since 2005, said that 97% of its members voted to authorize a strike after their contract expired at midnight on Nov. 13 — with 87% of the part-time faculty, or 1,307 of the roughly 1,678 people working this semester participating.
Adjunct professors make up a whopping 87% of the university’s total faculty, the union said.
According to The New School, the part-timers are currently paid a minimum of $71.31 to $127.85 per teaching hour, depending on the type of course.
UAW Local 7902 said Wednesday the private university’s final offer was a meager 3.5% wage increase “in a time of record inflation.”
“The New School has failed to bargain fairly or act on its tradition of progressive values,” UAW Local 7902 stated in a release. “The university has now made their final, totally unacceptable offers on pay and benefits.”
The part-time staff have not received a raise in over four years, the union said, and faculty members’ real earnings are down 18% from 2018.
“With my income from teaching grossing at $8,598 per year for two semester-long courses, I am forced to take on 2 to 3 other jobs outside of teaching in order to make ends meet,” Annie Lee Larson, machine knitting professor at Parsons School of Fashion said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I don’t have a safety net,” said Larson. “I live alone in one of the most expensive cities in the world. If I can’t pay my rent or bills, nobody else is stepping in to help.”
Professors have been under a contract since 2014 that was set to expire in 2019. However, the school and union agreed to extend the contract through the COVID-19 pandemic, and a 90-day extension maintained the agreement until this November.
The New School said that it simply cannot afford the part time faculty’s demands. The school claimed the compensation package would cost the university over $200 million over the course of the contract — nearly 50% of the school’s annual operating budget of $460 million.
The sudden strike and apparent lack of communication from The New School’s administration has upset parents who feel that the university has put their children in an awkward situation by asking them to continue attending classes while their professors picket outside.
One mother of a sophomore student at the school told The Post her daughter wants to support the faculty — whom she adores — but is worried she could face academic or even financial punishment for not attending classes.
“She loves her teachers but she has to go to class because she’s on scholarship. She’s afraid there’s going to be some kind of a repercussion,” the mother, who did not wish to identify herself, told The Post.
Another father, Brian, said he’s “very frustrated” with the situation at the school, which he said his daughter loves.
“Everything’s been great, she loves the school and her professors. But this strike has really given us a gut punch,” he said, calling the email that parents received on Wednesday as “insulting.”
“The trouble is that the professors aren’t there to teach the classes … it doesn’t make sense,” he added. “The other thing is a lot of the kids are liberally minded and they’re not so anxious to cross a picket line anyway.
Brian said he feels especially bad for the students who live in dorms, who have to walk past the striking teachers to grab a meal from the food hall.
“From what we understand, the part-time professors don’t get paid much at all, especially with New York City prices,” the Manhattan native said.
Jacob, a father from Denmark who sent his daughter to The New School as an international student, said the staffers’ demands seem very reasonable.
“It seems like the increase they want is only like three or four percent, which is half of the cost of living increase from inflation, so I mean, that seems like a very low ask especially because of the cost of the school — what you’re paying and what you expect,” he told The Post.
Jacob, whose daughter is a freshman, said he was surprised to learn that 87% of the school’s faculty were part-time employees.
“I definitely understand that the students sympathize, because it’s the people they react with everyday,” he said. He said the students notice that their beloved professors are sacrificing a lot to be in the classroom sharing knowledge.
“Teaching is not something you do to make money. I think it’s a life call so I think you want to make sure you’re not sacrificing security in your day to day life.”
In a statement to the school community, the university said that it will continue bargaining on Thursday and Friday and that it hopes a deal can be reached “quickly” with the help of a mediator.
“The New School 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 university said.
“This includes increased wages, participation in academic affairs, and professional development support. We remain confident we will successfully reach a new agreement together, as we have with all of our union-represented employees for more than 50 years.”
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