Community members rally for equitable pay
“Brandeis, Brandeis, you can’t hide. We will find your greedy side!” protesters chanted on April 4, rallying in support of Brandeis adjunct faculty. The rally, hosted by the Brandeis Labor Coalition, began at Hassenfeld Conference Center and headed toward the Shapiro Campus Center and the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center.
The rally served as a platform for both staff and students to voice their opposition against the inequitable pay faced by Brandeis adjunct faculty, according to organizers.
The Brandeis Labor Coalition is a group of undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to supporting workers’ rights both within the Brandeis community and on a global scale. The Coalition’s rally was a component of the group’s current focus, the Faculty Forward Campaign.
According to the Brandeis Faculty Forward’s official website, non-tenure track professors across departments have joined together to not only build a union, but also fight “for the stability, fair pay, and benefits needed to help our families — and our students — succeed.”
In an interview with the Justice, Prof. Michelle Mann (ENG), an instructor for the University Writing Program, explained, “There’s the sense that unions are always about starting fights. … Our union is not like that. Our union is about supporting and protecting and enhancing everything that makes Brandeis great.”
Prof. Avraham Boula (MATH), an adjunct professor, explained in numbers for the Justice, pointing to unfavorable student-faculty ratios as a stressor for many faculty members. One of the advanced mathematics courses he teaches has roughly 50 students, he said, adding that if he wishes to help a student, he must make an entire row stand up so that he can walk to that student’s desk. When those students — most of them international — pay up to $65,000 a year in tuition, this is not an ideal arrangement for either party, Boula said.
Boula revealed that he only gets paid $7,000 for the course as an adjunct professor. “For sure, some of the money goes toward necessary things, but shouldn’t the teacher get more?” he asked.
The faculty and staff involved with the Faculty Forward Campaign do not only have themselves in mind. Boula declared, “Forget about the faculty and that we’re [getting ripped off]; everybody knows that. What about the students?”
Mann added, “Put simply, faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. You guys pay top dollar to come to a university with a reputation for academic excellence. … You guys should get what you pay for.”
The rally attendance — with a 50:50 ratio of students to faculty — was a testament to the fact that a handful of students on campus have adopted the Faculty Forward Campaign as their own. The Justice interviewed Madeline Bisgyer ’20 and Phoebe Dolan ’20, both of whom actively work with both the Brandeis Labor Coalition and the Faculty Forward Campaign.
Both Bisgyer and Dolan have helped organize various events for the campaign, including the rally. Their motivation stems from interactions with faculty facing inequitable pay, Bisgyer said.
Bisgyer explained that the professor who most helped her transition into college life is a current graduate student who was also hired as an adjunct faculty member. “I’ve seen how she has to pay for her own transportation to get here every day. She holds multiple jobs outside Brandeis,” Bisgyer said. “She isn’t even able to get access to the building that she has taught in all year long.”
Dolan added, “It seems like it’s a lot to take on other people’s struggles when you feel like you have a lot of your own, but you rest in a privileged place by having access to an education like Brandeis. So really make sure you’re using your customer satisfaction card correctly.” Bisgyer emphasized that “[students are] the ones paying the tuition. We have the power to push for these changes.”
Dolan noted that the Brandeis Labor Coalition hosts weekly meetings.“Everyone makes a difference,” Dolan stressed. “We are a group of specialty — of quality, but also of quantity. Quantity is very important.”
Mann also pointed toward other resources available for those wishing to support the cause. The Brandeis Faculty Forward website links viewers to letters and a petition, all open to signing by the public. In addition, students sending a paper letter of support or including parents in the process would make a huge impact, she said.
During the interview, Bisgyer mentioned the two hashtags being circulated by the campaign: #EqualPayForEqualWork and #LouisBWouldAgree.
Mann declared that this campaign is dedicated to ensuring students are “getting Brandeis at its best and that we’re making Brandeis the best that it can be.”
As an undergraduate representative for the campaign, Dolan declared, “We’re a school that’s a social justice based school, and if our professors are being treated unfairly. … What is Brandeis? What are we saying? If we cannot uphold these standards, how are we supposed to create people who can?”