Instruction resumes at New School after union strikes deal

The part-time faculty union at The New School reached a tentative agreement with the university on Saturday, ending a strike that lasted more than three weeks. The union will soon vote on whether to ratify it.

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Alex Tey

The unionized part-time faculty at The New School halted their three-week strike while awaiting a vote on a new contract. (Alex Tey for WSN)

Carmo Moniz, Deputy News Editor

The union representing part-time faculty at The New School came to a tentative agreement with the university, ending a three-week strike on the night of Dec. 10. The contract includes increases in compensation, pay for work done outside of the classroom, paid family leave and expanded health care benefits. The strike was the longest work stoppage by adjunct faculty in U.S. history.

The contract proposed by the university, which has been endorsed by all 20 members of the union’s bargaining committee, will go to all 2,600 members of the union for a ratification vote in the coming days. Classes and events at The New School have since restarted, according to a joint statement from the union and the university.

“We want to share our sincere gratitude to the members of both the union and university bargaining teams for their dedication and tireless work,” the statement reads. “Now, together, we can return to our mission of teaching, learning, creating and supporting our students.”

The agreement comes over a month after NYU’s adjunct faculty, who are a part of the same union as The New School faculty, ACT-UAW Local 7902, came to a tentative agreement with the university in the final hours before their strike deadline.

Faculty have been instructed to contact their students to explain how they will grade remaining coursework. The university has also extended the course withdrawal deadline to Dec. 18, the last day of the semester. In an email to students and faculty on Dec. 11, New School provost Renée White encouraged faculty to be flexible with grading for the term, and stressed that all previously planned work for the semester is not expected to be completed during this week.

“We are all aware of how difficult these last weeks have been for our community, and I encourage faculty and students to finish the semester in the best ways you are able,” White wrote.

Part-time faculty at The New School, who make up 87% of its teaching staff, began striking on Nov. 16 after five months of bargaining came to an impasse. The New School proposed a version of the contract as its “final offer” to the union on Nov. 20, and on Dec. 1, 95% of the union voted against it. The university agreed to resume bargaining after the vote, but claimed that it could not meet part-time faculty demands due to budget constraints.

Last week, the university announced that it would cut pay and health insurance for striking part-time faculty. The New School said that it would use the funds usually reserved for their striking faculty’s wages to address “students’ academic needs.” 

On Dec. 5, a leaked email draft suggested that The New School was planning on hiring “progress reviewers” to assess students’ schoolwork in the place of professors. The university said that the message, was met with criticism from students and faculty, had not yet been approved and should not have been sent out. A petition condemning the hiring of “progress reviewers” accumulated more than 3,400 signatures.

Three days later, on Thursday, a group of students occupied The New School’s library in protest of the university’s administration and the wage cuts. The occupation began five days ago and continued after the tentative contract agreement was announced.

Parents have raised concerns over the university’s failure to provide instruction over the last few weeks, and more than 1,500 threatened to file a class action lawsuit against The New School. During the strike, in-person instruction was replaced with standardized asynchronous modules distributed through Canvas, the university’s online learning platform. 

Another landmark academic strike has continued across the University of California’s 10 campuses, but appears to be nearing a resolution, after a subsection of the strikers — postdoctoral students and academic researchers — reached a tentative agreement with the university system on Dec. 9.  Others, however, have continued striking in support of workers in the remaining two bargaining groups — graduate student workers and teaching assistants — as the agreement goes to a vote among union membership.

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected]