Adjunct faculty strike avoided at Howard University

Faculty at the HBCU calling for higher wages and better working conditions were set to strike today, but have reached a tentative agreement.

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A strike was considered imminent at one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs.

According to an NBC News report, adjunct faculty at Howard University calling for higher wages and better working conditions were planning to strike today. However, an update was announced that the strike has been avoided because they have reached a tentative agreement with the administration.

A student walks along the Howard University campus in Washington, D.C., where an imminent strike by adjunct faculty has been avoided. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Howard Teaching Faculty Union is represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 500, which includes hundreds of nontenure-track professors. The group has been involved in a more than three-year process of negotiations with the university and was pushing for a three-day walkout.

The union released a statement earlier today revealing that a tentative agreement had been reached. It is subject to ratification by the body in the coming weeks.

Howard University’s nontenure-track faculty were advocating for equal pay for teaching courses as full-time professors, opportunities to apply for nontenure-track full-time lecturer positions as they become available, and the ability to teach three courses per semester to receive health benefits, according to a Twitter thread from the union.

They noted that when compared to the cost of living in Washington, D.C., where Howard is based, they are among the lowest-paid professors of any historically Black college despite teaching more than 2,000 courses for the university.

Sean Pears, a nontenure-track full-time faculty member of Howard’s English department, told NBC News, “Since we called the strike, there’s been a very different tone at the table and a sudden willingness to actually bargain.”

“We would very much like to settle, and I’d say we’re getting indications that the administration feels the same,” Pears added, “but we’re not there yet.”

That change of tone led to the agreement in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

Pears told NBC his salary of nearly $48,000 means he teaches six classes just to make a livable wage, which is a constant strain. Another professor maintained that those low wages mean some instructors have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, which is stressful on their physical and mental health.

The Twitter conversation on the subject indicates that while tuition at Howard University has increased by 19% over the last five years, salaries for lecturers have gone unchanged.

“Our demands are about making Howard better,” ends the thread. “We are simply asking the university administration to make Howard’s policies toward teaching faculty consistent with Howard’s legacy and mission in the Black community.”

In 2021, students at Howard held a month-long protest for better housing conditions that concluded after an agreement with the students and administrators and the university’s president, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick.

“The health and well-being of our students is the most important part of my job as president,” Frederick said in a statement last fall. “As I have said before, even one issue in one of our dormitories is too many, and we will continue to remain vigilant in our pledge to maintain safe and high-end housing.”

Per NPR, Howard University launched a 2020 initiative to grow and invest in the university that would improve conditions for students, faculty and staff.

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