Student protesters demand A's, better cafeteria food, control of the president's house
As an adjunct faculty strike over pay comes to a close, students demand ‘A’ grades for the semester, tuition refunds for the strike period, and better cafeteria food from The New School.
During the strike, the university offered an ‘asynchronous learning experience’ and ‘dialogue’ that addressed ‘contemporary social issues.’
Their demand letter includes “A” grades for the semester, tuition refunds for the strike period, and better cafeteria food.
Tuition for the semester ranges from $25,950 to $26,854 for the New York campuses’ undergraduate students.
Additionally, the demand letter calls for “the resignations of President Dwight McBride, Provost Renee T. White, and the Vice President of Business and Operations Tokumbo Shobowale.” The President’s townhome, the demand letter says, should “be treated as a communal property of The New School and used for purposes determined by the non-administrative” employees.
An Instagram post by Student-Faculty Solidarity, “a student-led group supporting worker’s rights at The New School,” says that the president “earns $1,148,000 a year” and “lives rent-free” in the townhome.
The New York Times reported that New School adjunct instructors, who make up “nearly 90 percent of the faculty,” asked for increased compensation. The strikers said that “a disproportionate amount of university expenses went toward the salaries of administrators.”
The three-week strike ended with an agreement between ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing New School adjuncts, and the university. The agreement includes a pay increase that the union says is “still not on par with those at comparable institutions in the city,” according to The New York Times.
An update from the provost’s office, one of the positions the occupant of which the students demanded resign, explained how student instruction would continue during the strike.
“[T]he university is providing a common asynchronous learning experience in Canvas,” the update reads. “We have provided you with a way to engage in dialogue across programs by addressing contemporary social issues that we know are of particular importance to so many of you: migration, including climate change, race and genocide.”
An article from The New School Free Press, a student-run newspaper, shared a leaked email showing that the university planned to hire temporary graders “outside of the school.” The demand letter asked that “no ‘Temporary Progress Reviewer’” be “allowed to grade students.”
A blog post from Heterodox Academy elaborates on the kind of student-faculty relationship suggested by students and striking adjuncts at New School, with its authors arguing that “student-centered learning” fuels the demands that students make of universities.
Heterodox Academy is an organization “committed to enhancing the quality of research and education by promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement,” according to its website.
“Fueled by the shift towards student-centered learning, student satisfaction is widely accepted as the primary indicator of educational success,” the blog post reads. “But this does undergraduates a disservice because student satisfaction bears no necessary relation to true educational objectives.”
The authors of the blog post are “social psychologist, leadership coach and author” Rebekah Wanic and “Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the National University of Singapore” Nina Powell. Wanic and Powell say that requiring fewer exams, issuing fewer pages of reading, and not asking students to speak in class are examples of faculty designing courses around student satisfaction. They argue that this approach leads to grade inflation.
“Furthermore, the push for a student-centered education seeks to position students as equals in the classroom, such that their individual desires should be given equal weight with the expertise of the educator in determining what occurs in their courses,” Wanic and Powell say.
As adjuncts rather than tenured instructors constitute most of the faculty at colleges and universities like New School, some schools are removing evaluations that measure student satisfaction from the process of determining tenure. One school that adopted this approach in 2021 is Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Augustana Mirror, the student newspaper, interviewed professor Eric Wells, who co-wrote the proposal to faculty, about the decision.
Wells told The Augustana Mirror that evaluating whether an instructor is effective means asking “‘how well did the faculty member assist students in learning,’” but “‘student ratings of instruction provide no information about that.’”
Campus Reform contacted New School, President McBride, Augustana University, Heterodox Academy, ACT-UAW Local 7902, and Student-Faculty Solidarity for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.