Bob Ubell has a new column on “Why Colleges Should Pay Attention to Strikes by Their Most Precarious Teachers?”

NYU adjuncts authorize strike as contract negotiations hit standstill

Dear Commons Community,

My colleague, Bob Ubell, had a column on Thursday published in EdSurge, entitled,  “Why Colleges Should Pay Attention to Strikes by Their Most Precarious Teachers?”   He reviews the growing activism of contingent faculty (adjuncts, graduate assistants, contract teachers) in organized labor and unions.  His main point is that their demands for higher pay and employee benefits comparable to full-time faculty are justified and needed “to improve their scandalous conditions.”   


Below is an excerpt.



“Why are so many adjuncts mobilizing now? Adjuncts’ already precarious situation has worsened in the wake of the pandemic and continuing inflation. So adjunct and other faculty unions have ramped up demands for economic justice.

Of course, not all part-time faculty are in the same fix. Some are professionals who work full-time in industry, and who teach in fulfilling side hustles, as I did several years ago at The New School.

But a recent survey of contingent faculty reveals the more uncertain situation most adjuncts find themselves in. A third of respondents earn less than $25,000 a year, falling below federal poverty guidelines for a family of four. Fewer than half receive university-provided health insurance, with nearly 20 percent on Medicaid.

These alarming economic facts for most in adjunct life are in addition to their day-to-day struggles. Without job security, many don’t know if they will be teaching as late as a month before class starts. Most are not compensated for academic work performed outside their classroom. Few are given funds for professional development, administrative support or even an office.

In a stinging irony, many tenured faculty teach courses on equity and social justice, where students learn about oppression engendered by privilege. Yet just down the hall, someone else with the same level of education is teaching a similar course for vastly less pay and with little or no benefits.

It’s part of a growing inequality in our society, as Kim Tolley and Kristen Edwards point out in their book “Professors in the Gig Economy,” noting that “many employment sectors are divided between a large precariat and a small, highly paid elite.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s inspiring to see that adjuncts are increasingly joining picket lines to improve their scandalous conditions.”


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