Strike upends classes at The New School

Part-time faculty at The New School commenced a strike on Wednesday after their union was unable to reach a new tentative contract with the university.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Part-time faculty at The New School are on strike after the union was unable to reach a new tentative contract with the university. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

Carmo Moniz, Tori Morales, and Alex Tey

Part-time faculty at The New School — who together represent 87% of the university’s teaching staff — went on strike Wednesday morning after weeks of bargaining between their union and the university failed to strike a deal. The strike is expected to significantly disrupt the institution’s academic operations, as part-time professors halted classes to seek better compensation, health insurance and other benefits.

New School part-time faculty in ACT-UAW Local 7902 — the same union which also represents NYU adjunct faculty — had prepared to strike after their current contract expired at midnight on Nov. 13. Ninety-seven percent of members who voted authorized a strike

“We deserve fair wages — that’s the bottom line,” said Hannah Salyer, a part-time instructor teaching illustration at the university, speaking to WSN at the picket line. “We really need to turn out in droves to support efforts like this. Otherwise, these institutions will milk us for all we’ve got. They don’t see us as humans, they see us as assets.”

Faculty across The New School, including those who teach at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, are participating in the strike. They will picket outside of the school’s University Center building every day until The New School addresses their demands, including compensation for work done outside of the classroom and improved health insurance.

Until the strike is over, part-time faculty will not conduct classes, grade assignments, hold office hours or do any work for their position at The New School. Some students may also stop attending classes in solidarity with their instructors.

“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 wrote in a statement on Tuesday evening.

According to the union, The New School had rejected proposals to pay part-time faculty for work done outside of the classroom, allow accrued paid sick leave, and grant access to a neutral third-party mediator for disputes on issues including discrimination and accessibility accommodations.

Annie Lee Larson, a professor at Parsons who represents New School part-time faculty in the union, said that many full-time faculty, students, staff and other unionized workers are striking in solidarity and have joined the picket line. She added how nearly all schools and departments have written letters in support of the union.

“We’re doing this for part-time faculty, but also for students and for other unionized workers on campus — we’re trying to raise the bar for everyone,” Larson said. “Our working conditions are student learning conditions. If the university treats us better, we can focus more on the education we provide to students.”

The New School instructed students to continue to complete assignments and course requirements. It also announced a “common asynchronous learning experience,” which will be offered to all students online. Modules, including readings and recordings, will be available via Canvas, the online learning platform that the university uses for its courses.

“We have provided you with a way to engage in  dialogue across programs by addressing contemporary social issues that we know are of particular importance to so many of you: migration, including climate change, race and genocide,” an email sent to students two hours after the strike began reads.

The strike at The New School falls two weeks after adjunct faculty at NYU reached a tentative agreement with the university after months of negotiations. If ratified, the new contract will provide additional health care coverage and better compensate employees for work done outside of the classroom. The New School’s part-time faculty union merged with the NYU adjunct union in 2004.

Roughly 50,000 academic workers in the University of California system went on strike Monday, demanding better benefits and compensation. The strike, which extends over 10 campuses, is reported to be the largest academic worker strike in U.S. history.

Miranda Reardon, a senior in The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, said she was disappointed but unsurprised by how university administrators had negotiated with faculty. Faculty at The New School choose to teach at the university because of its progressive founding values, Reardon said, but she does not see the school living up to them.

“They love the students, and they love the idea and the structure of the school itself,” Reardon said of the striking professors. “They came because they love the institution, but the institution does not love them.”

Abby Wilson and Rachel Cohen contributed reporting. Contact Alex Tey, Carmo Moniz and Tori Morales at [email protected]