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Union says part-time instructors will strike into third consecutive week 

Cierra Lemott
A part-time faculty member stands outside in his union t-shirt on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023.

Columbia Faculty Union did not accept an offer from the college that would have ended the two-week-old strike, saying it “falls short of safeguarding job security for our part-time faculty.”

With the majority of the part-time faculty at the college on strike, hundreds of classes have been canceled each day since the instructors walked out on Oct. 30. There are only five weeks left of the semester, and next week is already shortened because of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Union President Diana Vallera said the college’s proposal was “insulting.” 

As it has done since the strike began, the union held a Zoom meeting on Sunday, Nov. 12 to discuss next steps. There were 340 people in attendance at the 9:30 p.m. start, including some full-time faculty and staff who were asked to leave the meeting. 

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The offer from the college would have increased salaries about 3% annually over four years, offered course guarantees to most senior part-time instructors and restored 30 sections to the spring schedule.

It wasn’t enough.

In a statement released earlier in the night, the union said the offer “fails to address any of our concerns related to our students’ quality of education and student learning.” The union did not specify what those concerns were exactly. 

Some students have asked the college for a tuition freeze. 

The union objects to the cost-cutting measures the college is taking to close a $20 million deficit. The college has said it needs to raise some class sizes – the biggest changes to lecture courses – and shift more teaching to full-time faculty. 

In an email sent to students on Saturday, Nov. 11, Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David said that to lower the cost of instruction, the college needs to reduce the amount of money it spends on instructional salaries. 

The reduction of offers to teach is a regretful but necessary step we take to address our ongoing fiscal circumstances,” she said in the email.

The college has 581 part-time instructors and 221 full-time faculty. 

The offer from the college included provisions to:

  • Increase the course cancellation fee paid to part-time faculty to $400, or $700 if the class is canceled less than three weeks before the semester. 
  • Pay a course cancellation fee to part-time faculty who lost sections as a result of the Spring 2024 schedule change. 
  • Assign extra courses to the most senior instructors before making assignments to other instructors.
  • Provide paid training for faculty teaching “appreciably” larger classes. 

If the union had accepted the offer by midnight on Sunday, instructors would have received a $500 signing bonus.

This is a developing story.

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About the Contributors
Olivia Cohen
Olivia Cohen, Former Editor-in-Chief
ocohen@columbiachronicle.com   Olivia Cohen is a senior journalism major, minoring in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She primarily reports on Columbia's financial health, administration and unions, but has also written about personnel and department changes, COVID-19 policies and abortion. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Leah Love
Leah Love, Former Deputy Editor
llove@columbiachronicle.com   Leah Love is a senior journalism major, minoring in Black World Studies. Love has covered Chicago politics, breaking campus news and the arts. They joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Oak Park, Illinois