In this first SLU PSC meeting of the semester, we reacted to and strategized around the plan for budget cuts that SLU management announced in the Academic Governing Council the day before (5.5% or about half a million in cuts to be taken out of non-teaching adjunct (NTA) hours, possible loss of classes for adjuncts, and cuts in student scholarships and services). The following points were made by workers present: NTAs are essential in advising and their hours are already limited. Full-time staff expressed concern about cuts in NTA hours and how that would affect their already high workload. It is shameful for a labor school to have so many NTAs (44) rather than full-time positions. NTAs and adjuncts should not be divided into two separate groups. What will happen to open searches and vacancies?
We spent a lot of time discussing the low workplace morale at SLU. Workers feel underappreciated and overworked. There is a lack of trust. People are being played off each other (e.g. tensions between push for late admissions and resulting missed scholarship deadlines). Staff and faculty are set against each other in terms of systems: admissions, scholarships, advisement. It is not a good way to recruit and retain students. People feel the low morale coming into SLU. Staff discussed multiple new job descriptions and how there is no transparency in the process of these changes. Remote work policies and their implementation seems to depend on how much power someone has at SLU. There is little transparency or accountability from management. Workers are frustrated that when saying no to work that put in front of them, the work either doesn’t happen or someone gets burdened with it: it’s a game of hot potato. We are not enough people. We became a school on the fly without a transition plan. Everybody meets the need to some extent and then it gets to be a game of hot potato – management saying one thing in one room and something else in another room. Some people are so upset, they won’t come to the union meeting because they are done with the place.
We should fight for our workplace to model what we are supposed to be about and what we are teaching: where workers are lifted up. Collaboration in shared problem solving can be very empowering. Suggestions were made to have a monthly lunch to create a space to connect and grapple with low morale. We discussed not knowing new hires or even pandemic hires, and how we could start by welcoming members and getting to know them. Can we do outreach to new coworkers? Could we do a campaign around cuts to NTA hours? Building power helps morale. There was excitement about the idea of creating a report card for our management as a way to hold them accountable. It could be a rubric grading management on the values of SLU as a labor school. (Someone shared this example.) People could vote in a poll. There was also a suggestion to create a letter in support of NTAs/adjuncts, which could also work as an educational/organizing tool for adjuncts. An adjunct pointed that adjuncts may not know about the workplace struggles of SLU staff. What should be our demand? There was a discussion of whether the letter should be just from adjuncts or from all workers at SLU. The letter should be shared once 80% signed it. How can students show their support?
The rest of the meeting was spent discussing the upcoming Labor Management (LM) meeting (Tuesday, March 7 11-12:30 on zoom). With David leaving SLU, we need to pull in more folks. The LM meets twice a semester. All coworkers should plan to attend and contribute issues and strategies. We discussed which items to put on the agenda.
In more uplifting news, we welcomed three new shop stewards: Samina, Pablo, and Nadhia. There was a reminder of the Contract Rally on Monday morning. Our contract expires on Feb. 28. We met Marwa, a new organizer for the Grad Center chapter of which we are part. Consider signing up to go to Albany on March 9 for Lobby Day.