About 100 members of the Virginia Commonwealth University arts community protested Friday for better wages for adjunct professors in the university’s prestigious arts school.
The mix of students, full-time professors and adjuncts met at the compass near the James Branch Cabell Library at VCU’s Monroe Park campus before marching to the School of the Arts building on North Harrison Street. The adjunct professors are requesting to be paid about $25,000 a year, more than double what they earn now in an effort to make what they have rallied around as a livable wage.
“If we value public education, we have to pay our educators,” said Kristin Reed, an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Focused Inquiry, at the rally.
As they marched, protesters chanted: “What do we want? Fair pay. When do we want it? Yesterday” and “Who do we love? We love our students. Who do we love? We love our adjuncts,” among others. They held signs that read, “Tuition $ to educators not investors” and “Fair Pay for Adjuncts,” the most common sign.
Friday’s protest capped a months-long fight from the professors, which began in October with a letter to VCU President Michael Rao, Dean of the School of the Arts, Shawn Brixey and VCUarts program chairs and interim chairs outlining their problems with the current pay scale and to request the bump to $2,000 per credit hour. In the letter, professors said pay hasn’t been evaluated in the past five years and raised issue with the fact that the university has raised student tuition, but adjunct pay has remained stagnant.
Over the past 10 days, the protest’s organizing group, VCUarts Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay, has circulated a petition calling on university administrators to raise their pay. The professors currently make $800 per credit hour. The school’s dean has proposed an increase to $1,000 per credit hour starting next semester.
Adjunct VCU arts professors currently make a $10,000 average annual salary, according to the petition. The job comes without benefits. The average annual pay for adjuncts across the U.S., according to the American Association of University Professors, is $20,508.
“Employment with low pay and no benefits continues to limit the adjunct applicant pool and discriminates persons with families, income instability, student loans, and those with little or no safety net,” the petition says. “By not seriously addressing pay inequity at VCUarts, the school will not remain a top competitive school.”
The petition has about 1,380 signatures, as of Friday night, and was given to VCU Board of Visitors Rector Phoebe Hall in front of the Cabell Library where the board met Friday. The board did not discuss VCU arts adjunct pay during the public portion of its meeting. Organizers of the protest said Friday that they plan to hold more rallies until they are paid more.
In other news, the Board of Visitors also discussed:
VCU is about 75 percent of the way toward its $750 million fundraising goal.
The university has raised $560.9 million since July 1, 2012, Rao said in his president’s report. The campaign was publicly launched last fall, but counts donations back to 2012. Rao said he’s spent more time recently soliciting donors, specifically those giving more than $5 million. The target end date of the campaign is June 30, 2020.
The Board of Visitors approved the demolition of two VCU-owned buildings.
The Strauss Research Laboratory Building, 527 N. 12th St., and the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, 515 N. 10th St., are both set for demolition. The demolition of the VTCC will make way for a new adult outpatient care facility and a patient/visitor parking deck.
VCU is in the midst of building a new home for the VTCC off Brook Road. The Strauss Research Lab is unused and the university is considering adding an inpatient bed tower and parking deck at the location.
Two VCU schools are getting new names.
The School of Allied Health Professions will now be the College of Health Professions and the School of Engineering will be the College of Engineering. Both name changes are expected to become official next fall.
The decisions were made because of nationwide trends to include “college” in the name. The name changes will be submitted to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for approval.
The Board of Visitors also approved a new 15-credit graduate certificate in public history, a field of history outside the classroom. The new certificate is also subject to SCHEV approval and is expected to start next fall.
The draft of a new VCU master plan is expected next September.
The school hired Maryland architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross in September for about $1 million to create a new master plan. The firm presented to the board Friday and said a draft is expected in September 2018 before it is approved next December.
The last updates to the university’s master site plan were in 2013. Ayers Saint Gross, which specializes in educational buildings, has held town hall meetings over the past few months to solicit community feedback with a focus on creating a “front door” to VCU.