This week’s SGA meeting focused almost singularly on the ongoing negotiations between Barnard and the Barnard Contingent Faculty (BCF)- UAW unit. This comes after a contentious student panel last week and an email from President Spar and Provost Bell that presented the college’s positions and some of their reasonings to the students. Much of the information presented in the meeting last night repeated information already available to the student body. Provost Bell spoke for the majority of the meeting time, both explaining the makeup of Barnard’s faculty and how that influences both the current contracts with BCF and the negotiation. She also took questions from SGA members and the 12 visiting members of BCF-UAW and Student Worker Solidarity. Staffer Dassi Karp gives you all of the details.
This post was updated on 10/12/2016. Changes are noted at the bottom of the text.
Bell tried opening on a friendly note, inviting the visitors to sit closer to the general meeting area. “Let’s all be part of the same meeting,” she said. Bell also expressed some concern about the reporting being done on this meeting even though SGA presented this as open to the public, as parts of all SGA meetings are. I would encourage members of the student body to attend these meetings when they concern topics as vital as the ones discussed today, but I of course will also do my best to let you know what went down in case you have better things to do on Monday nights.
First, some background, as presented by Bell (BCF-UAW will have a chance to present their side to SGA on October 24th, until then I’m going to assume that there’s no reason that the facts presented are slanted or not factual, as they are consistent with our previous reporting in the matter): in 2015 a group of contingent faculty voted to form a union, which is uncommon for a private college, but has definitely been done before. The unit is being represented by the United Auto Workers Union which, again, is not unprecedented but kind of weird, as the UAW doesn’t often represent service industries such as schools. That is changing some, as less union groups have been active in recent years. The unit used to include more faculty, some of which have since asked to be removed from the unit and, after some negotiation, were.
The unit currently consists of 180 people. They are adjunct faculty, who are part-time employees of the college, mostly teaching one or two courses a year, though a few teach three or even four; term faculty, most of whom teach full-time and receive benefits such as health care and are hired for a term of one or three years, which can be expanded to up to five years. Term faculty members are often post-docs in the humanities or people hired to teach a specific course in place of a tenured or tenure-track professor on leave. Some faculty are also appointed for specific and uncommon reasons, such as Jennifer Finney Boleyn, who is currently the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and is supported by a specific endowment fund.
Bell emphasized that many adjunct faculty are hired “idiosyncratically and opportunistically,” meaning that Barnard takes advantage of the unique options afforded by being in New York City, hiring faculty for to teach specific courses by drawing from NYC’s vast professional and artistic communities. A BCF-UAW unit member pointed out that a large portion of contingent faculty are hired to teach First Year English and Seminar courses (calling it FY Writing doesn’t seem to have caught on in any capacity), which are more general and consistent.
These faculty members have certain demands of the college, which were not discussed in great detail at this meeting, but Bell said that some agreements have been reached regarding the non-economic demands. A set of economic proposals was presented by the college in August, and there has yet to be a response. She said that she thinks that the original demands presented by the unit were a mere negotiating strategy and, if met, would more than double the budget necessary to support the contingent faculty. She emphasized how valuable these faculty members are to the Barnard community, how she personally cares about them, and how she hope that the negotiations continue on in good faith. She also specified, more than once, that salaries and benefits offered by Barnard College* are determined with the goal of being just under the top third of offerings by similar institutions (citing schools like Harvard in comparison) while also taking into account the cost of living in the city by looking at salaries offered in other schools in NYC and other high-cost areas.
Megan, a Barnard student, asked Bell about Barnard’s hiring of law firm Jackson Lewis to represent the college in the negotiations. Megan characterized the firm as a “union busting” and historically siding with the managerial side of negotiations. Bell responded by saying that both sides had counsel, and that Jackson Lewis is unique in that is has dealt with similar negotiations at other colleges and universities.
It was also specified that, at least this fall, BCF make up about 40% of Barnard faculty, a number larger than the one given in the email last week.**
SGA member Hannah Seymour asked how large of a hit the college would take monetarily if it offered health benefits to all BCF. Bell was reluctant to answer this question publicly, citing its complexity.
Bell repeatedly expressed her wish for this to be worked out amicably. “I wish I could change the power dynamic,” she said. But “we can’t change the paradigm–we operate within the paradigm.” Bold, beautiful…basic? There are a lot of financial concerns going into these negotiations, and both sides seem to be on civil terms thus far. There also seems to be some pretty insurmountable differences between the two sides. It will be interesting to see how BCF-UAW will present their side in a couple weeks.
- Roaree was referred to as “our second favorite mascot,” with Millie being Barnard’s preferred life-size stuffed animal representative. Have they seen Millie lately? Also, does anybody care about the mascots at all?
- On a similar note, Homecoming is coming up. There will be free food and prizes, because for one day they want us to at least pretend that we care about sports.
- Still following up on last month’s Tampongate, Health Services Rep Rachael Miga reminded everyone that Well Women always has had free pads and tampons available.
- The sophomore class is having a free pizza party tomorrow in Diana LL01 at lunchtime with kosher and gluten free options!
- Bell referred to CU as “Columbia” and “the University.” She’s only been here four years–I guess she has yet to learn that SGA basically has a policy of referring to it as “across the street,” like Barnard’s very own Lord Voldemort of locations.
*Correction: “and CU” was removed from this sentence, as Provost Bell (nor anyone at Barnard) does not have input on Columbia University salaries.
**Correction: “The 30% noted in the email from President Spar and Provost Bell last week reflected adjunct (or part-time) members of the unit teaching Barnard courses. The reason this number was broken out was because of the misinformation that was being circulated about the percentage of BCF-UAW members who teach courses and don’t receive Barnard College benefits (health, education, retirement, etc.).”
Edit: A previous version of this article reported that Meghan was a BCF-USW member, but she is actually a Barnard student. Apologies to Meghan and we have fixed the information.
Photo courtesy of a website on construction news (how exciting!!)