News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Butler Library at Columbia University, New York.
Butler Library at Columbia University, New York.

Academics Threaten Boycott, Urge Universities to Protect Vulnerable Educators

More than 1,500 academics and scholars are pledging to boycott speaking engagements with universities that do not protect non-tenure track (NTT) faculty and graduate workers from layoffs, furloughs, and hiring and pay freezes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Noam Chomsky, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Naomi Klein, Christina Sharpe, Nikhil Pal Singh, Robert Reich, Sianne Ngai, and Zadie Smith are among those who have signed a statement of academic solidarity with educators fighting for job security.

“While we recognize that different institutions face widely divergent scenarios of budgetary constraint, staff needs, collective bargaining agreements, and more, we urge all universities to mete out cutbacks in the most graduated fashion possible—such that they shield the most vulnerable,” reads the letter. “NTT faculty and graduate workers are facing the same challenges as tenure-track faculty: adapting to remote teaching, massively increased caretaking responsibilities, lack of access to libraries, labs, and archives, and the forgoing of professional opportunities. They are also faced with an anemic job market that will only get worse as universities announce hiring freezes for the coming years.”

The signatories commended universities in the United States for offering “tenure clock” extensions to assistant professors, allowing them more time to accrue professorial experience before being evaluated for tenure. However, they demand that universities take comparable steps to support NTT faculty and graduate employees, such as extending the term period for all academic workers who were hired for fixed terms.

The economic effects of the pandemic on universities have been significant with students from institutions such as the Yale School of Art, New York University’s Tisch School of Arts, and the School of Visual Arts demanding tuition refunds as curricula have moved online. 

Marta Gutman, a professor of architecture at City College of New York and a professor of art history at CUNY’s Graduate Center, told Hyperallergic: “I work closely with tenure-track faculty, adjunct instructors, and graduate student teachers, and each and every one is a treasured colleague. I fear a bloodbath is in the offing at public universities; CUNY has been on an austerity budget for years, New York State is facing a huge deficit. We need help from the federal government, now.”