This article has been updated to include comments from the director of communications for the university, Bob Howe.
By Victor Ordonez
Members of Fordham Faculty United (FFU) recently had their efforts to unionize adjunct faculty members hindered by the administration, who placed legal obstructions which allow Fordham to circumvent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because it is a religiously-affiliated institution.
Fordham Students United (FSU) protested on Fordham Rose Hill’s Keating steps on Tuesday, April 11, in response to the administrations legal plans to deter a union vote for Fordham Faculty United (FFU). FSU held President of the University Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. along with the greater administration, personally responsible for the impending legal action.
Multiple students held signs that specifically addressed McShane. One protestor held a sign that read, “Father McShane, whose feet do you wash?” A separate protesters’ dressed as McShane and washed the feet of fellow protester.
McShane impersonator and FSU member Gina Foley, FCRH ’18, organized the protest. Foley explained that during holy week, the washing of feet is a spiritual ritual that resembles Jesus washing the feet off his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. The act of washing protester feet is a metaphor that questions where McShane’s interests lie.
“It is holy week and holy Thursday is in two days,” said Foley. “We want to know who McShane values in the community and who is he serving.”
Foley said that McShane and the administration likely had ulterior motives that led to the prevention of FFU’s union vote. “The decision to not let adjuncts unionize serves corporate partnerships, it does not serve our students,” said Foley.
Foley said that previous FSU involvement with McShane boded well, as it seemed he and the administration would stay neutral based on an email response to an FSU petition. However, Foley and fellow protestors have since been disappointed by the administration’s lack of neutrality.
“When he said that he’d stay neutral we were very positive about how he would be treating adjuncts,” said Foley. “Since then he has decided not to give these people their label rights.”
FSU did not get permission from the administration or the Dean of students to protest on Fordham University ground, according to Foley. However, Foley said that her and the protesters were in no way breaking the rules nor disrupting classes.
Fellow FSU protestor Claire Del Sorbo, FCRH ’19, said that the protest was necessary in order to bring attention to current injustices against adjunct.
“It is easy to avert your eyes and just say ‘no thanks’ when someone is passing out flyers,” said Del Sorbo. “But when someone is making an open spectacle in public, you can’t really turn away from that.”
However, the obstacles preventing adjunct unionization is an issue that concerns most Fordham students, according to Del Sorbo.
“I believe Fordham university could clearly benefit from an adjunct union,” said Del Sorbo. “If you’re a student at this school, there is strong chance that you’ve had an adjunct as a professor. We should all care that they are overworked and underpaid”
Bob Howe, director of communications for the university, said in an email that the administration was surprised “because the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had voluntarily withdrawn its petition to represent our adjuncts.” Howe also said that since the SEIU withdrew the petition the union is free to file for recognition again.