The University of the Arts in Philadelphia (Wikimedia Commons)

Adjunct and full-time faculty members at the University of the Arts (UArts) in Philadelphia are seeking to unionize with the United Academics of Philadelphia. The professors announced the effort on Labor Day, September 7.

A majority of the university’s 500 faculty members — including lecturers and adjuncts — have signed union cards with United Academics of Philadelphia (UAP), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. On Monday, they rallied outside the school’s Hamilton Hall to ask the university to voluntarily recognize their union.

UArts has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

“We are forming a union because excellence in teaching and learning depends on a faculty body empowered and protected by stability, respect, and due process,” the teachers wrote in a statement. “To ensure quality education for our students, and to meet the challenges facing higher education today, we need to create a structure for accountability, transparency, and shared decision making.”

UArts relies primarily on contingent labor. In the fall of 2018, 76% of institution’s professors were adjuncts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. These teachers are hired one semester at a time with no access to health insurance and no benefits, the union says in an online petition.

“Full-time and part-time faculty have no real voice in decision-making on curriculum and programmatic changes,” the petition adds. “Developing long-term mentorship relationships with students is becoming more difficult due to increasing workloads, historically low pay and recent pay cuts, and lack of job security.”

The UAP represents 15,000 adjunct and non-tenure-track professors teaching in colleges in the Philadelphia area.

“UArts faculty want a voice with the administration, and a seat at the table to win lasting improvements on issues including health & safety, job security, equitable pay, access to health insurance & other benefits, among other concerns,” the union says on its website. “Full-time faculty are struggling with ever-increasing workloads and low pay. We want to be able to provide the best education we can for our students, and we need our teaching to be fully supported by the University in order to do so.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...