The strike launched November 16 by part-time professors at New York’s New School and the Parsons School of Design, which it encompasses, ended December 10 after the school’s administration reached a tentative agreement with the striking faculty. According to a joint statement issued by the faculty’s union, ACT-UAW Local 7902, and school officials, the five-year contract stipulates regular pay raises, protects health care benefits, and ensures that adjuncts will be paid for out-of-classroom work, which they previously had not been.
The agreement arrived just as the schools’ fall semester draws to a close, more than three weeks after the adjunct faculty—who make up 87 percent of the university’s professorial ranks—rejected the administration’s “last, best, final offer” of 1.5 percent annual raises for the next five years. Gothamist reports that the new pay structure awards part-time professors sets wage increases in dollar amounts, rather than percentages, in order to assist the lowest-paid professors. According to the New York Times, those would be the teachersat Mannes Prep, the New School’s conservatory, who will receive a 31 percent raise in the contract’s first, the amount reflecting their current basement-level wages. The new contract awards the best-paid adjuncts a 13 percent pay raise in the first year, from the current $5,753 for a three-credit course—roughly $42 per hour, exclusive of unpaid labor such as counseling students and grading—to $6,520, the new salary ceiling. By the fifth year, the same adjuncts will be paid $7,820, marking a 36 percent raise over the present salary.
The strike, which saw classrooms darkened for weeks as students joined their teachers on the picket line, brought unwelcome attention to the New School, which was founded in 1919 as a progressive alternative to expensive Ivy League colleges. Before the tentative agreement was reached, a group of parents had threatened to sue for “services not rendered,” and hundreds of artists, educators, and others who had given lectures or performances at the schools, many of the boldface names, had announced a boycott action. Officials pointed to the university’s lack of endowment as necessitating the low wages and precarious job situation, while strikers cited annual tuition of nearly $80,000 and exorbitant pay for administration as among the reasons they should be better paid.
Artist Matt Spiegelman, a New School adjunct in the visual arts department told the Times that while the tentative agreement was not ideal, it did meet strikers’ demands on at least a rudimentary level. “Most importantly,” he noted, “we opened the door for many more improvements in the future and for other universities to step up and treat their faculty with respect and dignity.”