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What The New School Adjunct Faculty Strike Means for One MFA Student

Allegra Rosenbaum Dec 2, 2022

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but my faculty is on strike. Little did I know that just halfway through my first semester at The New School, the adjunct faculty would launch a strike that would cancel all my classes, but also have the potential to revolutionize the labor movement forever.

I would happily give up finishing my MFA if it meant better opportunities for writers to come as a result of this strike.

Eighty-seven percent of The New School’s faculty are adjuncts, which means my professors have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Being a renowned author isn’t always enough in society in 2022. 

The New School’s adjunct faculty have been on strike with the support of its union local ACT-UAW 7902 for over two weeks while demanding a fair contract. Despite its history of being a progressive university, The New School hired a private law firm to negotiate the adjunct faculty’s union contract and offered negligible raises to its recipients. The New School’s administration came back with a “best and final offer” and the union voted on it Wednesday, Nov. 30. The results were resoundingly in the negative with 95% of the adjunct faculty in the union voting No.

The academics and writers of the world should not be living in squalor. 

We are in a tenuous era for labor: Rail workers, Starbucks workers, Amazon workers and many other trades are confronting poor working conditions and demanding fair wages and benefits, and the 1% is fighting back every step of the way. It is a turning point for labor in the United States, and many people should support it as much as possible.

I fully support this strike, as it would make the conditions for future generations of academics and writers significantly better. 

Both my parents were writers by trade. My mom was a managing editor for a financial magazine for nearly 20 years and worked hard to make my life better than hers after she divorced my dad. My dad was a freelance journalist who died with a lot of debt to his name. Before my mom died, she made it clear she wanted me to continue writing and that there was money for graduate school, should I want to go.

I put off getting an MFA in creative writing for nearly a decade after finishing my bachelor’s degree. I spent agonizing years working in a stable, but unfulfilling career debating whether I should get a degree that would give me the feeling of satisfaction while also considering the very high risk of instability that I feared would make me end up just like my dad.

Part-time faculty and students picketing outside of the University Center at the New School. “Picket lines mean don’t cross, period!” reads one sign. Laura Brett

Of course, this should not be the reality of the situation. After spending a decade reading about adjunct professors who lived in their cars or hearing from friends who made $35 per class taught after taxes, it seemed unfair that we live in a world where I should be afraid to pursue my passions simply because they’re not “profitable.” 

But it is the reality of the situation, and this is why The New School’s adjunct faculty is so revolutionary for rejecting a supposed “final offer” from the administration. The academics and writers of the world should not be living in squalor. 

But what if it wasn’t this way? What if The New School paid a living wage to its adjunct professors? What if it provided a fair contract? That would provide a future in which I could envision myself becoming a writer as my major career. That could be a future where I could have a fulfilling career without fearing for my bills. It’s not about becoming a billionaire, it’s just about living a comfortable life. 

A writer’s job is to take the chaos of the world and make sense of it, and academics’ jobs are to explain that sensical chaos to their students. This knowledge is just as valuable as other jobs and has saved lives time and time again. Science saves lives. Art saves lives. Professors save lives. Is this not something worth providing a living wage for? 

To go further, is it even worth assigning merit to a job? Shouldn’t this be the way for all workers?

I hope The New School, given its history for progressive thinking, will return to its roots. It will give hope to future generations of writers and academics trying to make sense of the world.

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