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Howard University faculty are threatening to strike over working conditions and wages

An electronic signboard welcomes people to the Howard University campus in Washington. Faculty members say they plan to protest over unfair working conditions for its tenure faculty on campus.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP
An electronic signboard welcomes people to the Howard University campus in Washington. Faculty members say they plan to protest over unfair working conditions for its tenure faculty on campus.

Hundreds of faculty members at Howard University in Washington, D.C., say they are threatening to go on strike next week over complaints of unfair working conditions.

During a demonstration held on campus Wednesday, several university faculty members, students and alumni leaders rallied in support of the school's faculty as they argue what is low pay for non-tenured, full-time teaching faculty and adjunct professors.

Some faculty members say if an agreement is not reached with the university by Friday, they will execute a strike starting next week.

Currently, there are 150 non-tenure-track, full-time teaching faculty and more than 200 adjunct professors on Howard's campus — all of whom are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, which shared these employment figures.

"The University leadership has made clear that a better teaching environment and better learning environment is unimportant to them," said Contingent Faculty leader and Howard alumnus Cyrus Hampton, according to SEIU.

Hampton teaches full-time in the university's English department.

"They have left us no choice but to strike because of their continued bad-faith bargaining," Hampton added.

According to SEIU, Howard's contingent faculty members are teaching "about 1,000 courses" this semester alone on campus. The negotiations between faculty members and campus administration, the union said, have been ongoing for the last three years.

"The contingent faculty are important to student learning, their demands are just, they are not alone because students, alumni and tenured faculty stand with them, and they will win," Marcus Alfred, associate professor in physics and the president of Howard's Faculty Senate Executive Council, said to SEIU.

NPR reached out to Howard University for a request to comment.

In an emailed statement to NPR, the university said it "remained diligent" in its engagements with union representation and the university officials in reaching an effective agreement.

"Our commitment to a peaceful bargaining process has not changed, and we will continue advancing good faith efforts to reach an agreement with the union and address the needs of adjunct and non-tenure-track faculty and the University," the university said in its statement.

"We have made proposals for wage increases for union faculty and continue to bargain in good faith," the statement added. "Howard faculty play a vital role in our community. We will continue working together with our faculty to ensure their success and the success of Howard students."

News of the faculty's threatening strike comes after the university made headlines earlier this past fall after students protested for over a month regarding the school's poor housing conditions.

More than 150 students with the group Live Movement, an organization advocating for education reform and academic advancement, protested at the school's Blackburn University Center on Oct. 12, 2021.

Students slept in tents outside the Blackburn University Center last October, protesting what they said were poor housing conditions and the lack of student representation on the Board of Trustees.

In November, an agreement between student protesters and the university was reached. The specific details of the negotiations between students and administration were not immediately available.

In 2018, students led a nine-day occupation of the campus administration building, resulting in an agreement between officials and students on several campus changes.

Some of the changes included a revision of the school's sexual assault policy, a review of policies allowing campus police officers to carry weapons and the creation of a food bank on campus for students.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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