Philly’s UArts Faculty Reach Hard-Won Contract Agreement

Faculty at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts (UArts) won a tentative union contract last week, a day after the collective announced a vote to authorize a strike. Professors have until Wednesday, February 14, to ratify the agreement, the first since they unionized in 2020. The contract was hard-won: The bargaining team met with UArts administration more than 70 times since the start of negotiations in March 2021.

The new three-year contract, which would apply retrospectively to January 1 and extend through June 2026, guarantees annual raises, a tiered compensation system, health care stipends for part-time faculty, and a path toward longer term teaching contracts, among other gains. Part-time and full-time teachers will see average raises of 13% and 11%, respectively.

Adjunct faculty members, who comprise 85% of UArts professors, will now earn a minimum of $1,275 per credit — a significant increase for teachers who previously made as little as $700. Full-time faculty will see incomes of at least $57,850, up from the lowest salary of $51,000. 

Laura Frazure, an assistant professor of fine arts and sculpture who joined the UArts faculty over two decades ago as an adjunct and is now a full-time professor, said students “deserve an empowered and well-supported faculty.”

“With our support, and by working closely together, our students become dedicated artists and creative leaders,” Frazure told Hyperallergic. “As a member of the faculty union bargaining team, I cannot stress enough how important this first contract will be towards giving faculty a meaningful voice and in creating real equity for the university of the arts.”

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Part-time and full-time professors at UArts will see average raises of 13% and 11%, respectively.

Chair of the UArts Board of Trustees Judson Aaron noted in a statement that the contract was “negotiated diligently and meticulously” and is a “reflection of our institution’s commitment to meeting the needs of our faculty and community at large.” The school’s President Kerry Walk, who assumed her post six months ago, said it is “heartening to see the two sides come together to uphold UArts’ academic excellence across the visual, performing, and creative arts.”

Senior acting student Brenna Patzer called the faculty’s teaching efforts “substantial,” noting that professors taught “enthusiastically” in the pandemic-induced online setting and quickly adapted to the return of in-person teaching. 

“They have continuously and wholeheartedly shown up for us students, so it was an easy decision to show up for them in the fight for this contract,” Patzer told Hyperallergic. “It is long overdue, but I am so glad it is finally here.” 

UArts staff members, who unionized in 2022, are still negotiating for their first contract.

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