Howard University faculty plan strike if working conditions don’t improve

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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Howard University is presently under fire as hundreds of faculty members threaten 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 organize against 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.

Howard University has a long history of protests.

While Howard earned its moniker of “The Mecca” for being a historic major artery for Black protestors, revolutionaries, creatives, inventors, and politicians alike, it is not without its flaws. 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 without a satisfactory agreement result to date.

Howard and other HBCUs got the bag.

Since 2020, HBCUs have garnered more attention and received more dollars than ever before. Recently, the Biden Administration’s “American Rescue Plan” delivered over $2.7 billion in funding for HBCUs, the largest HBCU federal funding in American history. Howard’s chunk of the pie was $57,482,588, surely enough to pay qualified teachers their worth and provide affordable student housing. 

“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.

In a statement response, Howard University told NPR: “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. 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.”

While Howard University officials state their efforts to bring forth a collaborative solution has taken years, today many teachers and students are planning an organized strike set to start next Monday if changes are not made.

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