Fordham Faculty Union

by Nora Hogan

Co-Editor-In-Chief

In light of recent town halls and rumors of picket lines, the paper spoke with FFU chair Joshua Jordan to better understand where the negotiations stand and how students can help. The following article is derived mainly from that conversation, with supplementary information from our friends at The Ram and the FFU Instagram account. 

Is Fordham a union town? Hardly. Since last March, negotiations between Fordham’s Faculty Union (FFU) and the administration have remained at a relative stand-still. Although the FFU has relinquished some of its initial demands, the university refuses to negotiate its counteroffer upwards. 

The FFU, which represents part-time adjuncts and full-time, non-tenure track professors, has three main demands: healthcare, pay parity, and wage increases. Currently, adjunct professors are not included in the university’s healthcare plan for full-time faculty, which includes tenured and non-tenured professors. According to Fordham, the university’s healthcare insurer doesn’t allow employees who work under a certain number of hours to join. To accommodate this restriction, the FFU asked that the university lift its “two-class cap” for adjunct faculty, to which the administration has said “no.” Instead, Fordham gives part-time faculty a lump sum of $200 per class for healthcare costs, a fraction of the benefits offered to adjunct faculty at comparable universities in the New York area like CUNY, NYU, Barnard, and Columbia.

Even if Fordham were to give healthcare to its adjunct faculty, the university would not be a trailblazer among its peers, simply following the market trend. Unfortunately, according to Jordan, the FFU has largely had to back down on its push for healthcare for the time being, as the university has offered no indication that they are willing to budge on this point. Although healthcare may not be included in this contract, this is not to say that the FFU does not plan on continuing to advocate for this cause in the future. 

The union’s second demand involves pay parity among Fordham’s different academic colleges. Currently, the adjunct faculty in the schools of social work and religious education currently earn lower wages than their coworkers in Fordham’s other schools. The FFU’s “Open Letter to the Community” states that this pay discrepancy “perpetuates systemic gender and racial inequalities,” considering that “at Fordham, as elsewhere, women predominate in the social work and education fields.” 

Lastly, the FFU demands that the university increase its paltry 3% raise offer and take into account inflation and the expensive cost of living in the New York City metropolitan area. Essentially, these professors are asking Fordham for a living wage. How can faculty be expected to give students the education they pay for and deserve if they are struggling financially? 

Despite months of negotiations and reconsiderations of demands, a consensus has yet to be reached. As a result, the FFU has moved to a strike authorization vote. According to Fordham Faculty United’s most recent (as of December 12) Instagram (@fordhamfacultyunited) post, a majority of FFU faculty have committed to striking. If the vote passes, these faculty members will begin striking on January 30th for a living wage and better working conditions. Union members teach approximately 1500 courses in total, a substantial amount. If all of these members were to strike, the university would effectively shut down. 

Considering the impending strike’s stressors, questions surround the university’s budgeting models, considering the ever-increasing cost of tuition. If we can’t pay our professors a living wage when our education costs nearly 80k, then what are we spending our money on? Well, one thing Fordham likes to spend money on is lawyers. Fordham has sought counsel from the notorious anti-union law firm, Jackson Lewis. As a university that has “no choice but to live within our means” (Tania Tetlow, 2022), it seems rather strange that Fordham would divert precious funds to hire expensive external help for an internal issue.

Fordham also likes to pay its administrators and sports coaches a pretty penny! A hop, skip and a jump to ProPublica will lead you to Fordham’s very public tax returns, on which list the names and salaries of Fordham’s highest-paid employees. On Fordham’s 2020 return (the most recent listed), these names include but are not limited to Donna Rappaccioli, the former Gabelli Dean, who earned $657,570, and Jeffrey M. Neubauer, the former men’s basketball coach, who earned $633,475. Keep in mind that these salaries do not include the thousands of dollars of other compensation these individuals received from Fordham and related organizations. Now you may be wondering: What does this have to do with anything? Well, I’ll tell you. In 2020, the president of Fordham University earned $0 . . . because Fr. McShane, being a Jesuit, took a literal vow of poverty. Since his retirement, Fordham has presumably spent a fortune acquiring our new President Tetlow. Considering that she is the “top dog” at Fordham, it is reasonable to assume that she is earning upwards of $700,000 a year if you consider inflation and her position. Rumor also has it that the university spent $2,000,000 on her inauguration, bought her house in Westchester (which presumably costs upwards of $1,000,000) and paid for her relocation costs. 

Now that you know this information, I encourage you to reread Tania Telow’s recent email (dated November 18, 2022) to the university community regarding the faculty union negotiations. I wonder if Tania has considered relinquishing a hundred thousand dollars or two to redistribute among the teaching staff at Fordham. 

In conclusion, if you are interested in supporting the FFU, Jordan suggests three major options: Follow the FFU Instagram to learn more about the movement and the proceeding negotiations. Also, consider signing the student letter of support for the FFU! Only 300 people signed it this fall when it was initially given to President Tetlow; however, this letter can certainly get more signatures and be redelivered in the spring semester. Lastly, if Fordham does not make enough substantial movement to prevent this strike, join the faculty on the picket line. Labor is labor and soon this struggle will be all too real to us once we graduate. As students at this so-called Jesuit institution, it is only right that we show solidarity with our faculty. 

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