Roughly one-third of the adjunct faculty of the Fine Arts department in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design has been abruptly laid off in a mass firing done just before the school adjourned for spring break, Artcritical.com reports.
Twelve teachers out of approximately 35–40 were fired or, as Artcritical writes, "given the Orwellian state of non-rehired," via e-mail notes telling them that there are no classes for them to teach in the upcoming academic year. Among those dismissed were two grand-parented faculty members — a designation assigned by the ACT-UAW, which represents the faculty there, referring to adjunct teachers who have been at the school for 12 years prior to the signing of the 2005 union contract.
Both of the grand-parented faculty had courses assigned to them for the 2009–10 academic year, which were "taken from them without discussion or replacement, against union rules," according to Peter Drake, a retained adjunct faculty member.
The dismissed faculty members had a wide range of experience at Parsons: one had worked there for only one year, another for 34. The subjects they taught included drawing, sculpture, painting, and theory practice.
Drake says that the firings are part of a major shift away from teaching traditional object making at the school. Almost all the remaining faculty members will be shifted to the BFA department, leaving the MFA department largely vacated.
The presidency of Bob Kerrey at the New School since 2001 has been highly controversial, with multiple firings of provosts, student protests and occupations of campus sites, and a senior faculty vote of no confidence in Kerrey last December.
UPDATE: Parsons has disputed the story, claiming among other things that the adjuncts in question were not fired, but rather either not retained or offered courses elsewhere in the university. Sven Travis, dean of the School of Art, Media and Technology, Parsons The New School for Design, offered the following statement:
"No cuts are being made to the number of faculty in the Fine Arts programs at Parsons; in fact, the faculty body is growing. Due to curricular changes underway in the programs, a handful of part-time faculty with probationary status under their union contract and who teach semester to semester have not been assigned for the fall, but may be assigned in the future subject to need."
"The New School employs some 1,700 part-time faculty throughout our eight schools. Each year a significant number of those faculty leave for other positions, or are simply not rehired due to changes in curriculum and enrollments. Most of our part-time faculty members are represented by a union and a large number of the faculty have seniority rights. We honor those rights by finding courses for them to teach throughout the eight schools, not just the school or department they may have originally been hired to teach. We take our obligation to these senior faculty members seriously."