Students for Equal Adjunct Pay are planning a demonstration in response to reports that VCU is considering raising next year’s tuition by up to 8 percent.
“What we need is numbers. There’s strength in numbers,” said Eric Eckhart, a member of the club. “If we can get more people behind us it’s less likely the university can just shake off our demands.”
The group met Sunday evening to discuss plans of action for protesting the tuition hike in conjunction with the fight for fair adjunct pay for the art school. They mulled over the possibility of walkouts, sit-ins and rallies in the coming months — specifically, a rally at the opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art April 20, that is expected to have national coverage.
VCUarts adjuncts currently make a minimum of $1,000 per credit hour with a six-credit cap each semester, with no benefits. The university currently employs more than 900 adjuncts. A majority of VCUarts faculty, almost 200, are adjuncts.
The students plan to first address their concerns with the university’s Board of Visitors before taking up action with the state. They are demanding the university consider a tuition rate freeze and a reallocation of money from new building acquisitions and administrative salaries to cover necessary costs, rather than raising tuition.
VCU Spokesperson Michael Porter said the university has considered the possibility of a tuition freeze for students, however, it often means increases are built in before a student arrives as a freshman.
The group is also asking students and faculty to sign their open letter to President Michael Rao, addressing these demands.
“We want to bring attention to the fact that what’s happening here isn’t right, it’s a violation of students rights and we want it to be adjusted,” Amelia Rafle, a host of the event, said. “If we can get (Rao) on our side before we go to the Board of Visitors, that’s a huge feat.”
Adam Lockett, treasurer of Virginia 21 at VCU, a lobbyist group that advocates on the behalf of young people, said Virginia lawmakers are in a special session this week to finalize the budget defining what state money will be given to public universities in the upcoming fiscal year. He encourages students to visit legislator’s offices and share their concerns as a next step.
“Nothing is more real than going down to the state house and talking to these legislators — they work for us,” Lockett said.
Young Democratic Socialists at VCU hosted a protest on the potential tuition hike last week, and posted their own demands on Rao’s door. In addition to the demands Students for Equal Adjunct Pay are making, YDS is calling for better accessibility to VCU’s finances, in addition to access to the university’s real estate foundation.
This week, the Student Government Association and BOV are holding a public forum to address concerns about next year’s budget.
Students for Equal Adjunct Pay also plan to finalize demonstration plans in the next week.
“We want to talk about what you’re comfortable with and what you think your friends would be comfortable with. How do you think is the best way to go about making a change?” Rafle said. “What we’re doing right now is about the students. Ultimately, we’d like to involve the adjuncts but right now, we’re thinking about ourselves. Let’s be selfish.”
Correction: April 10, 2018
In an earlier version of this article, a quote indicated VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art was certified by Working Artists and the Greater Economy. The ICA at VCU is not W.A.G.E. certified, but the ICA in Philadelphia is.
Correction: April 10, 2018
An earlier version of this article stated VCUarts adjuncts make $1,000 per credit hour with a six-credit cap each semester. That is the minimum amount adjunct professors make at the School of the Arts. The actual amount is set by the market and the amount the school’s budget can bear. Department chairs can pay adjuncts more than that amount.
SaraRose Martin, News Editor