The New School urges students to attend classes while professors go on strike

Part-time professors at Manhattan’s New School went on strike on Wednesday – but the progressive university wants students to cross the picket lines to continue attending classes while their teachers fight for better wages.

Parents were stunned when they received an email from the university on Wednesday, saying the school “remains open and class activities will continue” despite the professors’ strike.

The email continued, “Classes will continue to meet and students should plan to attend.”

The school, which can cost up to $60,000 a year, said it encourages students to have an “alternative lesson plan… to keep up with their work… if their teacher decides to go on strike.” The plan includes meeting the requirements already assigned in the syllabuses and utilizing “asynchronous learning experience modules” delivered online.

UAW Local 7902, which has represented the university’s part-time faculty since 2005, said that 97% of its members voted to strike after their contract expired at midnight Nov. 13 — with 87% of the part-time faculty, or 1,307 of this semester’s approximately 1,678 employees participate.

Professors strike outside the New School in Manhattan
Part-time teachers at the New School in Manhattan went on strike Wednesday.

Associate professors make up a whopping 87% of the university’s total faculty, the union said.

According to The New School, part-timers are currently paid a minimum of $71.31 to $127.85 per class hour, depending on the type of course.

UAW Local 7902 on Wednesday said the private university’s latest offer was a meager 3.5% pay rise “at a time of record inflation.”

“The New School has failed to deal fairly or act in accordance with its tradition of progressive values,” UAW Local 7902 said in a press release. “The university has now made its final, totally unacceptable offers on salaries and benefits.”

The part-time workers haven’t received a pay rise in over four years, the union said, and faculty members’ real earnings are down 18% from 2018.

“With my income from teaching $8,598 a year for two semester-long courses, I’m forced to take two to three other jobs alongside teaching to make ends meet,” says Annie Lee Larson, professor of machine knitting at the Parsons School of Fashion in a statement on Tuesday.

“I don’t have a safety net,” Larson said. “I live alone in one of the most expensive cities in the world. If I can’t pay my rent or bills, nobody will step in to help.”

The professors had had a contract since 2014 that was due to expire in 2019. However, the school and union agreed to extend the contract during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a 90-day extension kept the agreement in place through this November.

The New School said it simply could not afford the demands of part-time faculty. The school claimed the compensation package would cost the university over $200 million over the course of the contract — nearly 50% of the school’s $460 million annual operating budget.

The sudden strike and apparent lack of communication from the New School’s administration has angered parents who feel the university has placed their children in an awkward position by asking them to continue attending classes while their professors picket outside.

Parsons School of Design
Parsons is part of the New School in New York.
Getty Images

A mother of a sophomore at the school told the Post her daughter wants to support the faculty – which she adores – but fears she could face academic or even financial punishment for not attending classes.

“She loves her teachers, but she has to go to class because she has a scholarship. She’s afraid there will be any repercussions,” the mother, who declined to identify herself, told The Post.

Another father, Brian, said he was “very frustrated” by the situation at the school, which he says his daughter loves.

“Everything was great, she loves the school and her professors. But this strike has really given us a punch in the gut,” he said, describing the email parents received on Wednesday as “insulting”.

“The problem is that the professors aren’t there to teach the class…it doesn’t make sense,” he added. “The other thing is that a lot of kids are liberal-minded and aren’t that keen on crossing a picket line anyway.

Brian said he feels particularly bad for the students living in dormitories who have to walk past the striking teachers to get a meal from the food hall.

“As far as we know, the part-time professors don’t get paid much at all, especially at New York City prices,” said the Manhattan native.

Jacob, a father from Denmark who sent his daughter to the New School as an international student, said the staff’s demands were very reasonable.

“It looks like the increase they want is only 3 or 4 percent, which is half the cost of living increase from inflation, so I think that seems like a very low demand, especially given the cost of that.” School – what you pay and what you expect,” he told the Post.

Jacob, whose daughter is a freshman, said he was surprised to learn that 87% of the school’s faculty are part-time employees.

“I definitely understand that the students sympathize because it’s the people they react with every day,” he said. He said students notice that their beloved professors sacrifice a lot to share knowledge in the classroom.

“Teaching is not for making money. I think it’s a life call, so I think you want to make sure you’re not sacrificing safety in your day-to-day life.”

In a statement to the school community, the university said it would continue negotiations on Thursday and Friday and hoped an agreement could be reached “quickly” with the help of a mediator.

“The New School negotiation team continues to work incredibly hard to reach an agreement that prioritizes the university’s mission and preserves the exceptional academic experiences of our students while reflecting the genuine respect we have for our part-time faculty,” the said university .

“These include higher wages, participation in academic affairs and support for professional development. We remain confident that together we will successfully reach a new agreement, as we have done with all our unionized employees for more than 50 years.” The New School urges students to attend classes while professors go on strike


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