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Parsons School of Design faculty go on strike amid contract negotiations

Parsons school of design.
Parsons school of design.
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Professors at Parsons School of Design have gone on strike on Wednesday as they look for better pay and more benefits. 

The recent walkout affects only part-time professors of the school, which is an affiliate of the New School, who have been complaining about low salaries compared to adjunct personnel at the schools.

Full-time professors have been discussing the possibility of striking in solidarity with their part-time colleagues — while over 85% of the school’s teaching staff is part-time.

“The New School has not issued part-time professors a raise in four years; given sky-high inflation, the union calculates that these workers’ real income is 18% lower than it was in 2018,” the union said on Twitter. “The professors are asking for a 10% raise now and 5% annual raises in the future.”

The notorious “Scabby the Rat” blow-up figure has appeared outside of the New School, as a tool for unions to bring attention to entities that fail to adhere to union demands. 

Those currently on strike are represented by ACT-UAW Local 7902, and have met with school officials while they have worked to find a contract suitable for both parties. 

“We are disappointed that ACT-UAW Local 7902 decided to declare a strike tonight,” the school said in a statement. “Regardless, we are encouraged that the union has agreed to continue bargaining on Thursday and Friday this week and indicated a willingness to agree to mediation to break any impasses and help get an agreement in place. We believe strongly that a mediator’s support can help resolve these negotiations quickly.” 

Classes for several students have been canceled, with professors informing students via email that they will not hold in-person sessions during the strike. 

“Part-time faculty will be on strike,” striking professors said. “During the strike, our classes will not be held.”

Demonstrators showed up in support of the strike effort near Union Square, just blocks from the New School main campus, where they demonstrated their support for the part-time professors. 

The school claimed in a statement that they were adamant in their desire to reach an agreement with the striking teachers. 

“While we respect the right of the union to strike, we remain committed to ensuring that our community can continue to work, learn and create,” they said. “The New School’s bargaining team is continuing to work incredibly hard to reach an agreement that prioritizes the mission of the university and preserves our students’ exceptional academic experience, while reflecting the sincere respect we have for our part-time faculty.”

According to the New York Times, one professor said that compensation for the full-time faculty at Parsons had risen by 45 percent between 2014 and 2019, while the school’s revenue had failed to keep pace with that figure. 

The notoriously-liberal Parsons has built a reputation as one of the premier private art and design colleges in the nation, and has a tuition that exceeds $50,000 per year on average, 

According to the university, their administrators will meet with the union representing their part-time employees on nine of the first 13 days of November, while looking to settle their contract dispute. 

“This includes increased wages, participation in academic affairs, and professional development support,” the school said. “We remain confident we will successfully reach a new agreement together, as we have with all of our union-represented employees for more than 50 years.” 

It’s not currently clear when the Parsons strike will end, and students have been directed to the institution’s website to learn more about their ongoing classes. Meanwhile, the school’s reputation is continuing to take a hit from the controversy. 

“Higher education workers of all stripes must unite,” the union said. “The future of our democracy, which depends on an educated citizenry, is at stake.”

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