An Update on Negotiations with The New School’s Part-Time Faculty
A message from Tokumbo Shobowale, Executive Vice President for Business and Operations; and Sonya Williams, Vice President for Human Resources
As we continue to make progress on a renewal contract with ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing The New School’s part-time faculty, we remain committed to being open and transparent in our communications about this process. Today, we want to share some important context that is shaping these negotiations, and how the university is considering contract terms proposed by the union.
We respect and deeply value our remarkable part-time faculty, who play such a critical role in the life of our campus and the education of our students. It is also vital to remember that negotiations with Local 7902 – like with the eight other unions on our campus – do not exist in a vacuum. This university has finite resources – far less than some of our neighboring institutions – and these resources must be balanced across a wide range of considerations, including staff and faculty compensation and benefits, facilities, course offerings, student support and financial aid. To that end, The New School must ensure that the economic decisions we make today are sustainable. We also must balance near-term priorities with our long-term mission and the needs of our entire community.
We are committed to continuing to move these important negotiations forward quickly and in good faith. Our bargaining team is approaching these discussions with equity, fairness, educational quality, and our important institutional financial considerations front and center. It is critical to understand that the proposals the university has put forth reflect our deeply held respect for part-time faculty members as well as the economic realities that we have a responsibility and requirement to address. As these conversations continue to move forward, we want to ensure that our community is aware of the following facts:
- We are confident about The New School’s future but must remain vigilant on the financial challenges that smaller tuition-dependent universities like ours face. Over 84% of our revenue (or income) comes from net tuition and other revenues from students (i.e. housing and dining fees), and in 2021, the first academic year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we experienced a revenue shortfall of more than $130 million. We have taken meaningful steps across the university to lower expenses, streamline operations, and address this impact – but significant cost pressures remain and are likely to continue.
- Amidst these ongoing financial pressures, we have taken ongoing steps to support our part-time faculty through the pandemic and beyond. For example, in 2020-21 and 2021-22, the university provided over $1.2 million dollars in financial remedies to part-time faculty who had reduced teaching earnings compared to what they made in the 2019-2020 academic year. Importantly, we also preserved access to full healthcare coverage for senior part-time faculty members and their dependents during the pandemic, even for those members who no longer met the contractual criteria for benefits eligibility. For our less senior faculty members, the university expanded the contractual eligibility criteria to allow tentative assignments to count, even in instances when those courses may have been canceled due to low enrollment.
- The university offers a very competitive set of benefits for our part-time faculty and is one of the few institutions in the nation to extend healthcare benefits to this group. The New School spends nearly $22,000 per year on medical benefits for covered part-time faculty members and many of their eligible dependents. This is in addition to competitive salary, retirement contributions, and tuition waivers. In our recent offers to the union, we have signaled our ability to offer two health insurance plans to eligible part-time faculty, and we have also indicated our willingness to expand the timeframe by which eligible part-time faculty and their dependents can avail themselves of tuition benefits. We look forward to receiving the union’s responses to these proposals.
- The union’s proposed compensation package would cost the university more than $200 million over the course of the contract. The union’s initial proposal seeks a wage increase for the first year of the new contract that is the greater of: a) a new base rate of $14,500 per 45-contact hour course (with minor adjustments based on the number of contact hours for the class); or b) a 20% across the board increase. This would result in a pay adjustment of over 100% for the majority of part-time faculty members in year one of the contract alone. Over the course of the five-year contract term, this element of the union’s proposal for instructional compensation would cost the university more than $200 million. This figure does not contemplate the additional wage increases the union seeks in years two through five of the agreement, nor does this total include the union’s other economic demands. With a total university annual operating budget of $460 million for FY23, and without additional unassigned funds to draw upon, the university must make counter proposals that are fiscally sound and that balance the needs of our entire community. The university has proposed a compensation model to the union which takes initial steps to address certain wage gaps for degree-based studio and lecture teaching, and is committed to continuing to align rates between different course types. In line with prior collective bargaining agreements, the university’s proposed compensation model provides yearly contractual increases.
- We are listening carefully to the union’s proposals and respect their members’ vital contributions to the community. We believe our vast, talented network of part-time faculty allows us to maximize our students’ access to great working practitioners, creators, experts, and thought leaders whose real-world experience adds immensely to students’ learning. Our contract proposals seek to recognize that value and further enhance that access for our students. We respect and support the right of our unions to voice their concerns and remain hopeful that we will successfully reach an agreement, as we have with all of our union-represented employees throughout our history.
Negotiations have reached a critical point, and we hope to reach an agreement as quickly as possible. Robust and vocal debate is an inherent part of the process, and ensuring our community has accurate information about these and other important issues, as well as the university’s principled position on bargaining matters, is crucial for a productive dialogue. Please visit our webpage dedicated to these negotiations for answers to frequently asked questions. We have added a page to the site that outlines some key facts to consider in this important discussion. We are also sharing regular updates from the bargaining table here and will continue to do so as negotiations move forward.