Since the start of the pandemic, universities have used the crisis as an excuse to attack workers. Administrators at universities across the country responded to diminished tuition revenue by laying off faculty and staff en masse. In New York City alone, CUNY laid off almost 3,000 employees, mostly adjuncts and part-time staff in 2020; The New School dropped the axe on 122 workers.
These draconian cuts will continue as the crisis unfolds. William Paterson College in New Jersey has proposed eliminating 150 professors, nearly 40% of their full-time faculty, over the next three years in the face of declining enrollment and a budget deficit. Last-minute course cancellations due to low enrollment have left many CUNY adjuncts without jobs this semester. As in all sectors, the bosses have and will continue to ride out the crisis on the backs of the working people.
On top of the looming threat of continued layoffs, university workers have also been subjected to unsafe working conditions. During the ongoing Omicron wave, CUNY has required staff –even those whose jobs can be completed remotely – to continue to work primarily in-person without providing them adequate PPE. CUNY also lacks a vaccine mandate for its employees, putting students and staff at unnecessary risk. The insistence on in-person activity in the midst of record-high cases reflects a complete indifference towards the well-being of the school’s staff, faculty, and students. Universities have shown, time and time again, that they will prioritize their own financial interests above all else.
In the face of attacks by the bourgeoisie, the labor movement has responded in the form of strikes and unionization drives, across sectors and industries including higher ed. In December of last year, the University of California system recognized Student Researchers United-UAW in its entirety, representing over 17,000 workers. The recently-concluded Columbia student worker strike showed militant struggle against the administration’s refusal to put forward a fair contract. Students should support these developments as an opportunity to build collective power on campus and advance the position of revolutionary socialism.
Revolutionary students must seize on this moment in the labor movement by uniting ourselves not just with our organized comrades on campus, but with the entire working class, to aid their militancy and defend their interests. Towards an expansion of student-labor solidarity during the crisis and beyond!
COVID is the symptom, capitalism is the crisis. Socialism is the solution.
→ Read our COVID charter of demands for students.
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