It’s May, which means it’s the time for commencement and graduation celebrations. Graduations speeches by politicians and celebrities will permeate social media; faculty will bestow celebrated individuals with honorary degrees; parents will take any chance to share the accomplishments of their children. At the center of these celebrations are the students, and rightly so. Many of them have spent years working towards their degrees. This is their chance to appreciate the fruits of that hard work. Behinds all these scenes of joy and accomplishment, however, are the educators who make up the academic apparatuses of the university. They work day-in and day-out to ensure that their students receive the quality education associated withe American universities. Without the faculty, often made up of tenured professors, part-time lecturers, adjuncts, and graduate students, none of this would be possible.
An ever increasing drum beat of articles and thinkpieces over the last few years has revealed the disparity in pay between these different educators and has highlighted the difficulty many of them face in providing for themselves and their families. In some cases, some have even been overwhelmed with debt that they have resorted to declaring bankruptcy.
Some have begun to demand better compensation, including the faculty of Rutgers University-Newark. Buoyed by a near-strike by some of the faculty in April 2019, the part-time lecturers, adjuncts, and grad students of Rutgers-Newark have staged protests on campus and begun negotiating with the administration for an increase in pay and expanded benefits. Today’s episode, we have some representatives of one side of the dispute to describe what it is like to be in academia, the challenges facing these educators, and their demands in the negotiations.
Alexandra Adams—Alexandra is a PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences department and Department Representative to the AAUP-AFT Newark chapter.
Lauren Barbato—Lauren has taught in The Writing Program at Rutgers-Newark since August 2015. She started teaching while a TA at Rutgers-Newark, and have served as a full-time adjunct since August 2017. She teaches English 101 and 102, which are core classes typically reserved for college freshmen and transfer students. She also works as a graduate writing tutor in The Writing Center, and previously served as a tutor for the Community Writing Workshop, held at the Newark Public Library. She received my MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Newark in May 2017, and in the fall, she will be starting a Ph.D. in Religion at Temple University. She also works as a freelance journalist and most recently completed a book for the nonprofit Catholics for Choice.
Robert Snyder—Robert is the AAUP-AFT chapter president at Rutgers-Newark, a professor of Journalism and American Studies in the Dept. of Arts, Culture and Media, and the former director of the Graduate Program in American Studies. He has been teaching at Rutgers-Newark since 2000.
In the episode, it was mentioned that a student/faculty walkout occurred at Loyola-Chicago. It was, in fact, the University of Chicago. here
Articles & Background:
Alexandra Adam’s Opinion Piece in the Star Ledger, detailing her bankruptcy: here
Vox Article on Hours Worked by University Educators: here
Article from The Atlantic on “Academia’s Permanent Underclass”: here
“In the drawing—completed at the age of nine and smacking inadvertently of Soviet poster art—Sandy envisioned her miles from our house, amid a joyous crowd on the corner of Broad and Market. A slender young woman of twenty-three with dark hair and a smile that is all robust delight, she is surprisingly on her own and wearing her floral-patterned kitchen apron at the intersection of the city’s two busiest thoroughfares, one hand spread wide across the front of the apron, where the span of her hips is still deceptively girlish, while the other she alone in the crowd is pointing skyward to the Spirit of St. Louis, passing visibly above downtown Newark at precisely the moment she comes to realize that, in a feat no less triumphant for a mortal than Lindbergh’s, she has conceived Sanford Roth.”—Philip Roth, The Plot Against America