By Sam P.K. Collins
Last spring, more than 300 adjunct faculty members at Howard University (HU) avoided a strike when they and HU administrators, after more than three years of negotiations, entered what had been described as a promising stage of their endeavor.
Such feelings have since dissipated. In recent days, faculty members took to social media with complaints about late paychecks, and in some cases, the university’s failure to pay some adjunct faculty and students at all.
“Like most middle-class people in America, my family and I count on our incomes to keep the lights on,” an adjunct faculty member posted on Twitter on Labor Day. “I’ll say it again: Every dollar counts. Howard administration, this wouldn’t be a big deal if this was a one-time mistake but these types of financial issues have been going on since I was a student in 2006.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, in commemoration of Labor Day, HU faculty members will once again converge on University Yard to demand better and more consistent compensation.
In April, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty members ratified their contract after unionizing under SEIU Local 500. The three-year contracts, which retroactively cover this year and expire at the end of 2024, provide a 50 percent pay increase on a per-credit basis. Union members also receive job security protections with opportunities for longer teaching terms and stable teaching appointments.
In addition, a professional development fund will support what has been described as teaching excellence and academic research.
In years past, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty members said they faced uncertainty about whether they would get rehired each semester, or accumulate enough opportunities. Those on the front lines of the contract negotiations have said that such conditions have compelled their colleagues to leave the teaching profession.
Amid a steady increase in student enrollment, HU has streamlined processes within its academic departments while hiring and appointing faculty. At the beginning of the academic year, HU had 1,287 faculty members. In a statement, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony K. Wutoh said administrators have heard nothing related to nonpayments.
“To date, neither the Office of Human Resources nor the Office of the Provost have received an influx of inquiries from faculty alerting us to the fact that they have not received payments,” Wutoh said.
“Howard University will continue to monitor inquiries and scenarios that are received by both our Office of the Provost as well as our Offices of Human Resources, related to newly appointed faculty members not receiving compensation for teaching.
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