NYU contract faculty join with instructors of all ranks and titles who have raised serious questions about NYU’s plan to resume in-person classes in Fall 2020. For many of us, returning to the classroom will mean facing unacceptable health risks and further complicate already-tenuous child and eldercare arrangements. We believe that many fall semester courses can and should be taught remotely, and we do not believe that  proposed “hybrid delivery” models offer meaningful educational benefits to our students.

We recognize that NYU is responding to an evolving situation, but as teaching faculty, we are alarmed by the principles laid out in recent communications from university leadership. We question the pedagogical wisdom of having some students participate remotely, and splitting the rest into rotating subsections small enough to gather safely in masked, distanced groups. Hybrid delivery would increase workloads and require us to break up lessons and course material to meet the needs of fragmented groups with inconsistent access to the work of the class. 

Remote instruction would allow class material to be delivered in a unified, consistent manner and would empower faculty to build classroom communities that meaningfully and equitably engage all of our students without risking anyone’s health. NYU contract faculty are ready to develop high-quality, high-engagement remote courses, but we need training, support, and dedicated time to prepare. 

The current focus on hybrid delivery prevents us from adequately allocating resources and preparing for Fall semester. Public health experts have warned that future outbreaks in New York City are all but inevitable, and it seems increasingly likely that many of our courses will be taught remotely. The university’s priorities in planning for next semester should reflect this reality. We call on NYU to address the structural barriers that kept many of our students from participating in remote instruction last spring, and to provide faculty with the tools they need to fulfill the university’s educational mission next semester. 

  1. Commit to remote instruction in Fall 2020 for all classes that can be delivered remotely, and give all faculty who wish to teach remotely the option of doing so.
    • If part of a required Fall 2020 course must be delivered in person, work with faculty and students to develop alternative schedules, spaces, and practices to ensure health and safety. 
  2. Give faculty and students the equipment, training and support we need to have high-quality, high-engagement remote instruction at NYU next semester.
    • Equipment. Before Fall semester begins, NYU must ensure that all students and faculty have reliable internet connections that allow them to fully participate in remote instruction. Faculty who teach courses that require additional tools to run remotely must be provided with necessary equipment or subsidies. Absent these measures, faculty will struggle to manage courses effectively, and students will continue to be denied access to education.
    • Training. Provide faculty with comprehensive training so that they are able to convert existing courses and develop new courses according to Ed Tech best practices, using the best available tools.  
    • Support. Faculty and students will need dedicated technical and logistical assistance throughout Fall semester. NYU must work with Ed Tech to expand the range of services and support, and must establish clearer channels of communication with faculty.
  3. Compensate faculty for workload increases associated with remote and hybrid instruction.  
    • Course conversion and preparation. Create structured funds to support the conversion of courses before the semester begins, and discretionary funds that instructors can draw from to help with unanticipated expenses that the spring semester has taught us will inevitably pop up while running a remote or hybrid course.
    • Additional duties and teaching time. Pay faculty for additional contact hours associated with hybrid delivery, and for expanded hours associated with remote preparation and managing classrooms across multiple time zones.
  4. Give international faculty and students the material, legal, and political support they need to remain active members of the NYU community
    • NYU must work to ensure that international students do not face additional barriers to participation, by expanding asynchronous course offerings and providing necessary technical and logistical support. Accommodate time zone differences to ensure that both students and faculty can participate fully without keeping irregular hours.
    • NYU must take immediate action to publicly oppose forthcoming executive orders that will directly impact international workers and students, and offer subsidies and legal aid to those who have already been affected by travel bans and closures (see GSOC’s statement here).
    • NYU must make every effort to support international contract faculty who find their lives disrupted, by offering teaching accommodations to faculty unable to return to the U.S., and legal and material aid to faculty whose J-1 and H-1B visa renewals have been compromised by the pandemic.
  5. Give contract faculty the option of extending appointments by one year, much as the university has given tenure-track faculty the option of extending review. NYU is asking us to continue to invest our time, labor, and money to develop courses that will keep our students active in the community and ensure that they remain invested in their NYU education. We should not have to worry about our job security as we undertake this extraordinary effort. 
  6. Meaningfully include faculty and students in planning for Fall semester. We are preparing for an unprecedented academic year, and mutual trust and clear communication will be crucial. Discussions about classrooms–physical or virtual–must include the people who teach and learn within them. Decisions that affect all of us must be made transparently, in collaboration with the larger community. We call on NYU to open its planning process to actively involve students, representatives of campus unions, advocacy groups, and rank-and-file instructors who do not hold leadership positions. 

NYU contract faculty deserve a voice in the decisions that shape our working lives. We are unionizing because we want the right to resolve the issues laid out above in a democratic bargaining process led by rank-and-file faculty. Therefore, we call on NYU to respect contract faculty voices by signing an enforceable agreement to remain neutral as we freely decide for ourselves to certify our union.