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VCUarts Adjuncts Plan Day of Action Demanding Fair Pay

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA—Adjunct professors at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts have planned a day of action for Friday, December 8 demanding fair pay. Adjuncts at VCUarts are paid $750 to $850 per credit hour and are limited to teaching two classes per semester, capping pre-tax annual wages between $9,000 and $10,200. VCUarts Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay, a committee representing 120 adjuncts employed by the art school, is seeking a raise to $2,000 per credit hour beginning in Spring 2018.

The Commonwealth Times, the university’s independent student newspaper, reports that VCUarts Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay has sent a letter to the university’s administrators and president Michael Rao. “Adjunct faculty currently account for the majority of instructors in the VCUarts departments, yet are still paid significantly lower than other top-rated public universities in Virginia,” the letter states. “The University is sending a clear message to us and the public about the value of its educators by underpaying adjuncts despite consistently increasing tuition.” Rao contended that current wages were the result of statewide funding cuts for public higher education.

Following meetings with adjunct faculty and the creation of a financial impact report, VCUarts dean Sean Brixey proposed an increase to $1000 per credit hour and the commissioning of a study of adjunct pay at the top private and public art schools in the United States. VCUarts Adjuncts calculated a fair pay raise according to federal poverty line standards and the cost of living in Richmond.

Adjuncts responded that current wages have an impact in the classroom, with teachers spread across multiple jobs to make ends meet. Speaking anonymously, one VCUarts adjunct said, “In terms of budgeting time, when a lot of us are working three jobs or have to drive to Virginia Tech the next day to teach, a lot of that does take a toll on the classroom. I don’t think it’s fair to the career development of the students. This is an urgent crisis. The dean is moving into a new house, but there are a lot of adjuncts that have been homeless within the last year. When we’re talking about equity issues, we’re not just talking about what’s fair and unfair, we’re talking about someone’s life and where they’re going to sleep at night.”

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December 5, 2017