Howard University has managed to narrowly avoid a faculty strike, as a tentative labor deal was made early Wednesday morning with school officials. Nearly 30 union leaders, faculty members and students gathered at the university’s quad to celebrate the win.
“The willingness of my colleagues and I to step forward and really push this from just a bargaining-room conversation to the real effort needed to push it through, that comes from watching students and watching students stand up for themselves,” said Cyrus Hampton, a master instructor in the English department.
If you recall, Howard students staged a well publicized month long protest over living conditions on campus last fall. Apparently, their actions have inspired those that came before them.
Howard University officials and an affiliated labor group were reportedly planning a three day strike to push for better pay and teaching opportunities for hundreds of adjunct and non tenure faculty. As of this past Monday, despite progress being made, the strike was still set to begin on Wednesday. Fortunately, a deal was made at approximately 3:30am, a deal that will pave the way for higher salaries, and more permanent employment opportunities.
In a statement recently released by Howard University, officials declare that their contingent faculty “are a respected part of our institution.”
“We share the collective goal of educating our students and today, because of this agreement and efforts to bargain in good faith on both sides, we will achieve that goal uninterrupted,” it continues.
Many of the issues on the table were also outlined in an open letter published to Medium.com by Howard professor and Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones. In the blog post, Jones addressed low pay, and policies in place that require non tenure faculty members to reapply for their position at the end of every school year, and to leave their roles at the end of seven years.
“We’re very pleased that there’s an agreement that compensates our faculty in a way that indicates the support that the university has for them,” said Anthony K. Wutoh, the school’s provost and chief academic officer. “We certainly wanted to avert any disruption in the academic environment for our students.”
As for now, the school will maintain the seven year rule, however the new agreement introduces two-year contracts for faculty who are not on the tenure track.
Also according to Wutoh, Howard also agreed to introduce a pathway for nontenure-track faculty that will allow them to be appointed for renewable, multiyear terms.
While the pandemic and other issues interrupted the process along the way, both sides are pleased that the end result has produced circumstances that are beneficial to all parties involved.