N.Y.U. adjuncts demand offices


By Elizabeth O’Brien

The adjunct professors sat at desks topped with phones, plants and other office trappings, and the students sat across from them to discuss coursework. But the desks were outside on the street, and instructors and their students shivered in a light rain on Tuesday to protest what adjuncts call New York University’s refusal to provide them with adequate space to hold office hours.

Adjunct professors at N.Y.U., who are unionized with the United Auto Workers, have been in contract negotiations with the university for more than a year to secure their first contract. One of the sticking points, adjuncts say, is the fact that they are forced to meet with students in cramped lounges and in hallways since they don’t have any space set aside for them.

“This is my office,” joked J. Ward Regan, 36, an adjunct humanities professor, holding up his backpack.

Approximately 3,000 adjuncts, or non-tenured professors, teach the majority of undergraduate courses at N.Y.U., according to union organizers. Protesting adjuncts were not demanding their own individual offices, but instead were asking that space equipped with computers, printers and phones be designated for them in 11 lounges around campus.

City Councilmember Christine Quinn and state Senator Tom Duane joined protestors at the outdoor office hours, held on the corner of Washington Sq. E. and Washington Pl.

“N.Y.U. can’t hold itself up as one of the best universities in the country without giving the faculty the resources they need,” Quinn said.

“I think they absolutely need to get office space and I don’t understand why the university is resistant to that, because I think it would benefit the university as a whole,” Duane said.

N.Y.U. spokesperson John Beckman said that the university has agreed to give properly equipped office space, as well as e-mail and voice mail, to part-time faculty teaching credit courses in degree programs.

“However, we part company with the U.A.W. in its requests for 11 separate lounges around campus for the exclusive use of part-time faculty, coupled with their request that N.Y.U. provide and pay for a U.A.W. office on campus, even though the U.A.W. has its own offices that are just a few blocks away,” Beckman said in a statement.

Scott Sommer of the United Auto Workers said that adjuncts teaching courses in non-degree programs also deserve the benefit of office space, voice mail and e-mail. He said that the union was justified in asking for a small office on the N.Y.U. campus.

Students had mixed reactions to the protestors.

“The fact that they don’t have space is a shame,” said Victoria Sarmiento, 18, a freshman.

Sarmiento said that whenever she is able to squeeze in a meeting with her professors, they usually talk in a large lounge set up with cubicles.

Ron Pope, 20, on the other hand, said that he objected to the adjuncts’ tactics.

“If they want to be treated as equals, they should act like adults,” Pope said.

Pope added that he didn’t like the way the adjuncts dressed up in costumes and held a protest on N.Y.U.’s Parents’ Day last month.

Rose, 20, a junior who declined to give her last name, didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

“What are adjuncts?” she asked.