After striking for nearly a month, part-time faculty at The New School reached a tentative contract agreement with management on Dec. 10. The deal would give the adjunct professors their first pay raise in four years. It would also provide better health-care coverage and pay them for the first time for work done outside the classroom such as advising students.
“This time last year, I was researching the growing labor movement for my master’s thesis at Parsons. Yesterday, my New School faculty colleagues and I became part of labor history,” tweeted Molly Regan, one of the strike leaders.
The union’s bargaining committee unanimously recommended approval of the package. As The Indypendent went to press, union members were reviewing the terms of the settlement before voting on it.
The strike shook The New School, which has long been associated with progressive ideals. It was founded in 1919 by prominent intellectuals including professors who were forced out of Columbia University for opposing U.S. entry into World War I.The New School later became a magnet for Jewish academics fleeing Nazi Germany and has maintained a progessive reputation since.
These days, poorly paid adjuncts make up 87% of the teaching faculty at The New School. When their strike began on Nov. 16, classes ground to a halt. Once underway, the strike brought daily picket lines to the main campus building just southwest of Union Square in Lower Manhattan. The picketing part-time professors found enthusiastic support from New School students who saw the strikers’ cause as their own.
“I would happily give up finishing my MFA if it meant better opportunities for writers to come as a result of this strike,” said Allegra Rosenbaum, a first-year graduate student.
The strikers also received picket-line support from other unions including Amazon Labor Union, Starbucks Workers United and their academic union brethren at NYU and Columbia.
Shortly before the strike ended, the parents of New School students threatened to file a lawsuit against the university while students took over part of the University Center and staged a round-the-clock occupation.
“It was the perfect storm of a lot of factors,” said Lee-Sean Huang, a part-time assistant professor at Parsons School of Design, New School since 2016 and a member of the ACT-UAW 7902 bargaining committee.
For many students, witnessing a strike for the first time was a revelation.
Radha, a third-year student at Lang College of Liberal Arts, echoed an Instagram comment by her mother that “The New School may have unintentionally radicalized and created an entire university’s student body that will always support unions.”
The student occupation of the University Center that began in the final days of the strike continued after classes resumed. The part-time faculty’s strike victory has inspired some students and faculty to call for a thorough restructuring of The New School and how it is run.
On Dec. 12, the One New School Coalition of students and faculty issued a statement of no-confidence in theThe New School’s top executives and the Board of Trustees and called on them to resign.
“We demand full financial transparency and the activation of a full participatory process for the administration of the school, including the budget,” the group said in a statement it released.