Last spring, more than 300 adjunct faculty members at Howard University (HU) avoided a strike when they and HU administrators, after more than three years of negotiations, entered what had been described as a promising stage of their endeavor. 

Such feelings have since dissipated. In recent days, faculty members took to social media with complaints about late paychecks, and in some cases, the university’s failure to pay some adjunct faculty and students at all. 

Dr. Aisha Cozad, an adjunct professor in HU School of Social Work counted among those who didn’t receive their first paycheck of the academic year on August 26. Though her check from her full-time off-campus job covers rent and utilities, Cozad said she needed her check from HU to tend to other important matters, like her son’s upcoming birthday.   

In her ninth year as an HU employee, Cozad has remained committed to teaching young people. Even so, she has expressed a desire for HU to fulfill the tenets of the new contract and start anew with adjunct faculty members. 

“We were all hoping for a positive start to the semester and I think that speaks to the quality and caliber of people who teach at Howard,” Cozad said. “We want the best for our students and I think we bring that to the classroom. There was a hopeful spirit [when] we had gotten this contract and we followed through on what we were supposed to do. It’s very disappointing.” 

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, in commemoration of Labor Day, HU faculty members will once again converge on University Yard to demand better and more consistent compensation. 

In April, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty members ratified their contract after unionizing under SEIU Local 500. The three-year contracts, which retroactively cover this year and expire at the end of 2024, provide a 50 percent pay increase on a per-credit basis. Union members also receive job security protections with opportunities for longer teaching terms and stable teaching appointments.  

In addition, a professional development fund will support what has been described as teaching excellence and academic research.  

In years past, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty members said they faced uncertainty about whether they would get rehired each semester, or accumulate enough opportunities. Those on the front lines of the contract negotiations have said that such conditions have compelled their colleagues to leave the teaching profession. 

Amid a steady increase in student enrollment, HU has streamlined processes within its academic departments while hiring and appointing faculty. At the beginning of the academic year, HU had 1,287 faculty members. In a statement, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony K. Wutoh said administrators have heard nothing related to nonpayments. 

“To date, neither the Office of Human Resources nor the Office of the Provost have received an influx of inquiries from faculty alerting us to the fact that they have not received payments,” Wutoh said.  

“Howard University will continue to monitor inquiries and scenarios that are received by both our Office of the Provost as well as our Offices of Human Resources, related to newly appointed faculty members not receiving compensation for teaching. 

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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