VCU Adjunct Art Teachers Holding Campus Rally for Better Pay

A group of adjunct arts professors at Virginia Commonwealth University has circulated a petition calling for a pay increase to $2,000 per credit hour. The part-time teachers had been making $800 per credit taught, a number scheduled to increase to $1,000 per credit for the spring semester.

The group, VCUarts Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay, is holding a rally and petition drop on the morning of Friday, Dec. 8, at the school’s James Branch Cabell Library.

Complaints about pay for part-timers and other faculty are not a new issue at the school. Shawn Brixey, the new dean for the School of the Arts, already has worked with the administration to approve the 25 percent increase for adjunct pay this spring, using reserve funds. The administration is seeking permanent funding in the 2018-2019 budget with a minimum adjunct pay goal of $1,000 a credit hour that will be sent to the board of visitors for approval, Brixey says via email.

In a trend that can be seen throughout the country, the number of adjunct professors has increased dramatically over the last couple decades as schools find ways to cut costs to offset lower state funding. The VCU School of the Arts currently employs 202 adjuncts, or about 50 percent of its entire faculty, according to school officials. Adjuncts have never been considered full-time employees and their maximum teaching load, in accordance with the Manpower Act, is limited to 29 hours per week.

These part-time teachers make around $10,000 a year, which ranks them last out of U.S. News top-rated 10 art schools, according to the petition. VCU regularly ranks among the top three public art schools in the country.

The protesting adjuncts’ group has been around for six months with a fluctuating membership. Many choose to remain anonymous for fear of losing contract renewals.

“A lot of people feel exploited,” says member and artist Heide Trepanier, who has worked as an adjunct at VCU in the past and adds that the school previously used her art in a promotional manner. “Things like the School of the Arts don’t pull in big funding,” she says, “so their big way of [making] money is pulling in more students and cutting costs. You have these upper-level administrators earning hundreds of thousands of dollars and most the people there teaching, who are in direct contact with the students, [have no chance] for full tenure track positions.”

Trepanier points out that adjuncts receive no benefits, no free parking, the cost of which she says translates to teaching one day a week free, and a lack of research resources. “[Moreover] adjuncts don’t have any say in the process,” she adds. “VCU is using a successful business model that is not working in higher education. Now they’ve got a problem because the majority is starting to organize.”

Brixey admits that adjunct compensation is market-driven and that the market indicates that VCU needs to “increase adjunct compensation overall” to be more competitive. But he notes the fiscal reality that budget cuts occurred last year, which leaves little discretion “beyond meeting unavoidable costs.” Throughout the years, tuition increases have, for the most part, replaced state funding cuts. He adds that the university’s administrative costs are “very low compared to like institutions” and that he’s working on generating new revenue streams to ease the tuition burden.

“We know that faculty compensation at VCU of all types – including for our teaching and research faculty and administrative and professional faculty – is below the average of that of our peers and fellow state tier 3 institutions,” Brixey explains via email. “The administration is working to improve that. They have made adjunct faculty compensation a top priority for the FY19 budget.”

The teacher’s group began sending letters to university President Michael Rao and Brixey in October. On Nov. 15, a meeting was held at the Depot to address their concerns with Brixey in attendance, who announced that his office had accessed reserve funds to increase adjunct pay to $1,000 per credit hour for the spring. Reaction from the crowd of about 80 adjunct and full-time professors and students was mixed.

“There are a lot of people who are hopeful,” Trepanier says. “Others are bitter and angry and feel they’ve been treated poorly for a long time, and they’ve heard it all before. I don’t think there’s any consensus.” Trepanier adds that diversity issues of staff are also impacted by the low pay, considering not many can afford to work for so little money.

Brixey is in favor of tying adjunct faculty pay increases to full-time faculty raises and also announced that he is in the process of forming a task force to focus on research funds and professional development for adjuncts.

“We need to get a full picture of what the other issues are, outside of compensation, before we can evaluate them and address them,” Brixey says.


Mark Naison: The Genius of Luis Torres

Mark Naison salutes a principal in the Bronx, Luis Torres, who has overshadowed the Success Academy co-located in his Building because his school is more innovative, more dynamic than the test-taking machine at SA.

Mark calls him “a genius.”

“One of the most brilliant and important achievements of PS 55’s visionary Principal, Luis E Torres, is that through innovative programming and a relentless public relations campaign, he has totally overshadowed the Success Academy Charter School co-located in his building! Normally, Success Academy tries to humiliate and stigmatize the public schools it is co-located by pointing out how much better it’s performance is! Not at PS 55! Here, the action, innovation and excitement is all with the public school, whether it is the scientific and pedagogical innovations of the Green Bronx Machine, the school based agriculture program housed at the School; the full service Medical clinic Principal Torres has created; or the school’s championship step team and basketball team! People from all over the city and the nation come to see what Principal Torres has done; while Success Academy stays in the background.”

Was it competition that spurred Torres’ creativity? Or was he an exemplary principal who wanted the best for his students regardless of the competition?

Segregation in the District of Columbia: A New Analysis

The Albert Shanker Institute is noted for the high quality of the studies it releases, thanks largely to the high standards set by social scientist Matthew DiCarlo.

Its latest product is a study of school segregation in the District of Columbia.

Unlike many other studies, this one includes private and charter schools.

The press release, with a summary of results, is here:


I said earlier there would be only one post today. This was supposed to appear tomorrow, not today. It is a good study, but I wanted you to know I meant to have only one post today and I goofed again.

Check Out The Trailer For “Permanent” Filmed In Richmond

A trailer has been released for “Permanent,” the coming-of-age comedy which filmed last summer in Central Virginia, including Richmond.

The film, written and directed by University of Virginia graduate Colette Burson (“Hung”) stars Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) and Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”).

Set in the 1980s, the story is based on a memorable moment from Burson’s high school career at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon, Va.

Last August, the movie filmed on Pump House Drive near Maymont, according to the Times Dispatch.

VCU Rams Men’s Basketball: 2017-2018 Preview

The Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball program has enjoyed 11 consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins. More important, it has made seven consecutive postseason appearances in the NCAA’s national championship tournament. Top those numbers off with 99 consecutive sell-outs at the Siegel Center, and it adds up to lofty expectations.

The Rams’ new head coach, Mike Rhoades, 45, doesn’t need to be told that Rams fans have developed high expectations. That, in spite of the number 10 factor, which is how many players on the roster who’ll be playing their first game in a VCU uniform at the Nov. 10 season opener: Grambling State at home at 7 p.m. on MASN.

Before Rhoades’ three-year stint as head coach at Rice University (2014-17), he spent five years as an assistant on former Rams head coach Shaka Smart’s bench. So, Rhoades also knows loyal Rams fans want to see a fast tempo, and he has already promised to deliver exactly that.

The likely starting five for that first tilt includes the four men who played for Rhoades’ predecessor, Will Wade, last season. They are: 6-foot-7-inch senior Justin Tillman, a preseason all-conference pick, 6-foot-1-inch senior point guard Jonathan Williams, 6-foot-5-inch sophomore De’Riante Jenkins, and 6-foot-4-inch sophomore Malik Crowfield. The fifth man will probably be 6-foot-7-inch Khris Lane, a senior transfer with one season of eligibility.

At a recent news conference, Rhoades said he plans to play 10 or 11 men in his regular rotation. The most likely sixth man could be 6-foot-6-inch sophomore Issac Vann. He red-shirted last season, meaning he practiced with the team but didn’t play in games. He looks like a scorer.

It appears the next four off the bench will be (in alphabetical order): freshman Lewis Djonkam, freshman Tyler Maye, freshman Marcus Santos-Silver, sophomore transfer Mike’l Simms. Of those four, look for Maye and Simms to develop into significant contributors.

Speaking of expectations, the Atlantic 10 Conference’s beat reporters rated VCU as No. 4 in their preseason poll. With so many new players being counted on to make important contributions that prediction says something about media respect for the program.

As senior leaders, Tillman and Williams need to become more steady and dependable for the Rams to reach their goals this season. Speaking of expectations, what’s the best thing about having so many new players?

With a smile, Rhoades said to reporters, “They’re going to get better.”

Doughnuts for Manchester

There never can be enough doughnuts. And Church Hill Ventures, owned by Michael and Laura Hild, plans to bring them to Manchester. A recent story on our site detailed the couple’s plans to open the Butter Bean Market & Cafe, and this new spot, Hot Diggity Doughnuts, will be across the street at 1213 Hull St. It’s the second piece of the puzzle that the Hilds are fitting together to revitalize the decaying business corridor of the Manchester neighborhood.

What makes these doughnuts different? Each will be made to order and, even more significant to some, the bakery will serve craft cocktails, wine and beer, along with coffee drinks.Construction will start in just a few weeks and the Hilds plan to open the doughnut shop in the first quarter of 2018.