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VCU adjunct professors demand 172% pay increase

Roughly 100 Virginia Commonwealth University instructors are demanding what many adjuncts across the state want: a fair wage. Pay for adjunct instructors would more than double if requests are met.

Capital News Service

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By Katharine DeRosa

Roughly 100 Virginia Commonwealth University instructors are demanding what many adjuncts across the state want: a fair wage. Pay for adjunct instructors would more than double if requests are met.

Adjunct instructors marched last week through campus to VCU President Michael Rao’s office to deliver their demands, which include a meeting with Rao on March 19 and a response by March 30.

Tom Burkett, a founder of VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay, is an adjunct instructor at the VCU School of the Arts.

“We just kind of look at our pay as really a kind of one defining thing that can bring up the quality of life and the accessibility of teaching at the higher education level,” Burkett said.

The group delivered demands to the president’s office on March 4 because certain in-person and hybrid classes at the university began that day, Burkett said.

VCUarts employees first launched the group in 2017 because the majority of instructors at the School of Arts are adjuncts, Burkett said. VCUarts adjuncts comprise 51% of instructors, according to VCUarts spokesperson Teresa Engle Ilnicki. The university employed 691 adjunct faculty members this semester and 3,193 total faculty members last fall, according to VCU spokesperson Chris Katella.

VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay is making demands for all university adjuncts, not just VCUarts instructors. Burkett said the movement was revamped because of the lack of living wage for adjunct instructors. VCUarts adjuncts were paid $800 per credit hour in 2017 and the group demanded an increase to $2,000 per credit hour, according to a letter addressed to Rao. Most classes at VCU are three credit hours.

“We saw a small pay increase, but nothing that substantially met a livable wage,” Burkett said.

The base pay is the same for graduate and undergraduate adjunct instructors and increased from $1,000 to $1,100 over a year ago, according to VCU spokesperson Michael Porter. VCU budgeted almost $400 million on all instruction for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to the university’s budget.

VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay group now demands an increase in base pay from $1,100 per credit hour to $3,000 per credit hour, which is a 172% increase. The requested pay increase would bump adjuncts with a maximum teaching load above what some full-time faculty earn.

VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay, who want demands met by next semester, asked for a one-year contract for adjuncts. The group requested $1,000 compensation for canceled classes because of the labor that goes into development. The group also pushed for a policy that would limit adjunct cuts as demands are put into place.

VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay also wants access to health benefits. Adjuncts are currently not eligible for health benefits, according to Porter.

VCU adjuncts can teach a maximum of nine credits, or three classes, each fall and spring under the Manpower Control Act. Adjuncts are also eligible to teach six credits, or two classes, in the summer. If an adjunct instructor taught eight classes, they would make $26,400 per year.

The median household income in the city is just over $47,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly a quarter of the city’s residents live in poverty, census data show.

Adjunct instructors acknowledge their role as part-time workers when they sign contracts, Porter stated in an email.

“Many of them enjoy the flexibility of a part-time position,” Porter stated.

Old Dominion University in Norfolk pays adjunct instructors between $1,043 to $1,263 per credit hour depending on the adjunct employee’s rank, according to ODU’s website.

Adjuncts at Virginia Tech do not have a base pay, according to Michael Copper, compensation analyst at the university. The adjuncts are paid based on class demand and level of experience.

Burkett said the group has about 100 active members from different VCU departments who attend meetings.

“What we’re looking for is leadership that takes inequality and looks at it as a justice issue with the university and will respond,” Burkett said.

Jon Rajkovich, another member of VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay and a VCUarts instructor, said he wants the university to become a model for paying adjuncts fairly. He is “rooted” with his family in Richmond and is committed to teaching at VCU, but he wants to see compensation for adjuncts increase.

“I think that could happen,” Rajkovich said. “Especially with the right administration in place; it’s possible but it’s an upward push.”

The petition circulated on Twitter and Instagram and gained support from gubernatorial candidate and former delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy. The group is grateful Carroll Foy supports labor movements, Burkett said.

Carroll Foy said in a statement she’s witnessed Virginia schools be denied resources, and will work to ensure quality of public education.

“This disinvestment has hurt our educators, including adjunct professors who deserve to be paid a living wage and fair benefits,” Carroll Foy stated.

VCU Adjuncts for Fair Pay plans to protest until the university meets its demands.

“It’s not about pitying us; it’s about creating systemic change at the university level,” Burkett said.

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Delta CEO to Speak at University of Richmond commencement

Government and campus leaders will address law, MBA, and Continuing Studies grads.

RVAHub Staff

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The University of Richmond has announced the speakers for their 2021 commencement ceremonies.

  • Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, will deliver the speech during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony May 9.
  • Rita Davis, chief counsel to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, will deliver the address for the Richmond School of Law ceremony.
  • A variety of distinguished UR community members, including students, faculty and an alum will speak at the MBA and SPCS ceremonies.

Undergraduate, May 9, 9 a.m., Robins Stadium
As CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian leads a team of 75,000 global professionals. Under his leadership, Delta is transforming the air travel experience with generational investments in technology, aircraft, airport facilities, and Delta’s employees worldwide. A 20-year Delta veteran, Bastian has been a critical leader in Delta’s long-term strategy and champion of putting Delta’s shared values of honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance, and servant leadership at the core of every decision.

During his tenure as CEO, Delta has become the world’s most awarded airline, having been named The Wall Street Journal’s top U.S. airline; Fortune’s most admired airline worldwide; the most on-time global airline by FlightGlobal; and a Glassdoor Employee’s Choice company.

His commitment to putting the health and safety of employees and customers first amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in the airline’s industry-leading Delta CareStandard, enabling a cleaner, more reliable and safe travel experience for the long term.

Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as vice president – finance and controller and was promoted to senior vice president in 2000. He left Delta in 2005 and became senior vice president and chief financial officer of Acuity Brands. He returned to Delta six months later to become chief financial officer, and in 2007 was appointed to serve as Delta’s president.

Prior to joining Delta, Bastian held senior finance positions at Frito-Lay International and Pepsi-Cola International. He started his career with Price Waterhouse where he became an audit partner in its New York practice.

Richmond School of Law, May 8, 4 p.m., Robins Stadium
Rita Davis is chief counsel to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Davis is also a University of Richmond Law School graduate, class of 2000. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, she worked for nearly 15 years at Hunton & Williams, now Hunton Andrews Kurth, where she covered a broad range of commercial disputes on an international, federal, state, and local level. While in private practice, she was a bar leader and a recognized pro bono lawyer, devoting more than 1,350 hours to pro bono clients. While serving as chief counsel to the Governor, Davis has worked to facilitate the Governor’s initiatives to eliminate racial and social inequities in Virginia.

Robins School of Business MBA, May 7, 5:30 p.m., Robins Center
The MBA ceremony, which will celebrate both 2020 and 2021 graduates, will include two students as speakers this year.

Alexandra Wiles, class of 2020, earned both a Bachelor of Arts in leadership studies and an MBA from the University of Richmond. After devoting the first chapter of her career to non-profit fundraising and development with VPM and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, she recently joined Schnabel Engineering, a national professional consulting firm, as its human resources program manager. In this capacity, she leads and supports a variety of initiatives, including employee learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and succession planning. She also serves as the vice-chair of the board of directors of Virginia Voice, a non-profit serving Central Virginians who are blind or have vision impairments, and founded the organization’s Live Audio Description program.

Natasha Knight, class of 2020, is a program strategist and entrepreneur. She is a manager in Altria’s Corporate Citizenship department where she applies her public health and business management expertise to developing strategies for preventing underage use of tobacco and other risky behaviors and providing cessation support for adults who no longer wish to use tobacco. She is a certified career coach and recently launched Discover the Remarkable You, a coaching practice to help women create successful and fulfilling careers. She is also the co-founder of Taking It Pro, a career and professional development services firm for women of color. Knight received her undergraduate degree from Howard University. Her educational background also includes an MPH in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, a Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an MBA from the University of Richmond. 

School of Professional & Continuing Studies, May 8, 8 a.m. & 11:30 a.m., Robins Center

As part of a long-standing tradition, a graduating student, faculty member, and alumnus will speak at the SPCS graduation ceremonies, which this year will celebrate both graduates of the class of 2020 and 2021.

Distinguished Graduate

The SPCS student commencement speaker is selected by committee from among the top graduating students.

  • For 2020, the student speaker is Brian Krach. After spending eleven years as the sole proprietor of an independent insurance practice, Krach decided to return to higher education to personally challenge himself and experience “professional metamorphosis.” Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies in May 2020 and has since started law school at the University of Richmond.
  • For 2021, the student speaker is Cooper Sved. Sved is earning his Master of Teaching degree, including endorsements in elementary education and theatre education, to prepare for a career change to teaching. Sved earned his Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 and was active in Richmond’s theatre community both as an actor and an educator before returning to school to fulfill the requirements to earn his teaching license.

Distinguished Alumnus
The alumni speaker is the recipient of the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an SPCS alumni member and their support of SPCS.

  • The 2020 recipient is Eric Beatty, who earned his master’s degree in Human Resource Management in 2012. Beatty served on the SPCS Alumni Association Board from 2012-19, was the Board’s president from 2017-19, and currently serves on the SPCS Dean’s Ambassador’s Circle.
  • The 2021 recipient is Margaret Dalton, who earned her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in 2012. She’s been a member of the SPCS Alumni Association Board of Directors since 2014, having served as vice president, president, and past president. Margaret has been instrumental in the Board’s efforts to reshape its mission to focus on student and alumni engagement as well as expanded efforts to formalize project planning and communication efforts.

Distinguished Faculty Member
The faculty speaker is the recipient of the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award, which is selected by the SPCS student body and recognizes the teaching achievements of an adjunct faculty member.

  • The 2020 recipient is Meghan Rosatelli, an adjunct professor in English and the humanities in SPCS, where she teaches courses in American literature and culture.
  • The 2021 recipient is Drew Baker, an adjunct professor of education. A graduate of the Teacher Licensure Program, Baker currently serves Henrico County Schools in the Office of Professional Development, focusing his work on teacher-leadership development, action research, and supporting continuing education for teachers.

Additional details about the University of Richmond’s Commencement plans are available in this media release.

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University of Richmond to hold in-person commencement ceremonies with COVID safety protocols in place

Graduates will be permitted to invite two guests to attend their school-specific ceremonies and must adhere to COVID-safety precautions, including wearing masks and following physically distancing requirements. All guests will be ticketed in advance, and only ticketed guests will be admitted.

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The University of Richmond has announced plans to hold in-person Commencement ceremonies next month.

Graduates will be permitted to invite two guests to attend their school-specific ceremonies and must adhere to COVID-safety precautions, including wearing masks and following physically distancing requirements. All guests will be ticketed in advance, and only ticketed guests will be admitted.

The University will provide an option for students who choose to participate virtually that will also allow families and friends around the country and world to view the ceremonies and celebrate virtually with graduates.

These plans are in accordance with the guidelines and mandatory requirements provided to colleges and universities by Virginia Governor Northam on March 17.

“We are delighted to announce these plans,” said events manager Alicia Engels, who is leading the team planning Commencement. “We have worked diligently to develop a plan based on the state guidance that both safeguards our campus community and provides graduates an opportunity to celebrate an in-person Commencement.”

The schedule listed in date/time order will be as follows:

  • Robins School of Business MBA ceremony: TBA — planning still in process, and details are forthcoming.
  • School of Professional & Continuing Studies: Saturday, May 8, in the Robins Center — Class of 2020 at 8 a.m. and Class of 2021 at 11:30 a.m.
  • Richmond School of Law: Saturday, May 8, at 4 p.m. in Robins Stadium
  • Undergraduate (School of Arts & Sciences, Robins School of Business, and Jepson School of Leadership Studies): Sunday, May 9 at 9 a.m. in Robins Stadium

COVID Safety, Ticketing, and Seating

Adherence to the Governor’s Commencement guidelines requires careful management of the ticketing process. Each graduate will be allotted two guest tickets.

Compliance with state guidelines requires that all attendees wear masks and be seated 10 feet apart. Any close contact among graduates and faculty and staff in attendance must be eliminated. To account for these requirements, graduate seating will be assigned in advance in three-person groups —  graduates and their two guests will be seated together. Each graduate’s name will be read aloud during their school-specific ceremony, and they will be invited to stand at their seat to be recognized.

Additional information can be found at commencement.richmond.edu.

“This year’s Commencement weekend will be unlike any other in our University’s history,” wrote President Ronald A. Crutcher in a message shared with graduates earlier today. “We are thrilled the Governor’s guidelines will permit us to celebrate your graduation in person next month and will remain in contact with relevant updates as we work toward making possible this very special weekend.”

Commencement speakers for each ceremony will be announced soon.

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‘Superheroes’ keep hungry Virginia students fed during pandemic

Many Virginia public school students are returning to the classroom after a year away, but their access to school meals never stopped. No Kid Hungry Virginia recently hosted a discussion with three administrators to highlight how their districts made school meals available despite the pandemic. 

Capital News Service

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By Noah Fleischman

Many Virginia public school students are returning to the classroom after a year away, but their access to school meals never stopped.

No Kid Hungry Virginia recently hosted a discussion with three administrators to highlight how their districts made school meals available despite the pandemic. No Kid Hungry is an organization that works to make sure children have access to proper nutrition.

“When schools closed last March … we knew right away that we still had to feed our students,” said Chip Jones, superintendent of Cumberland County Public Schools. “That was the priority.”

Cumberland schools gave children a week’s worth of food at a time to take home. The pandemic made Jones appreciate the resources at Cumberland’s disposal, he said. It also made him think outside the box for getting meals to students.

“We’ve seen how much a school means to a community, and what a school can do for a community,” Jones said.

Jones said school nutrition workers—who prepare and serve school meals—kept students fed.

“School nutrition workers are usually some of the lowest paid professionals in the school community,” Jones said. “Yet, they were willing to take on one of the biggest jobs and be on the front lines.”

Clint Mitchell, principal at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School in Fairfax County, also praised school nutrition employees.

“Nutrition teams are superheroes,” Mitchell said. “They never complained about coming to work. They found a way to do it.”

Larry Wade, director of school nutrition at Chesapeake Public Schools, said staff only had a weekend to come up with a plan to feed students once schools closed.

The department developed multiple distribution models to get food to families, Wade said. That included “grab and go” service at schools and used school buses to transport multiple days worth of meals to families.

Fairfax County Public Schools also utilized the bus delivery system. Mitchell said some students didn’t have transportation to get to the “grab and go” sites.

A No Kid Hungry study found that 47% of American families live with hunger. The statistics are worse for Black and Latino families, 53% and 56%, respectively.

“Students of color are disproportionately impacted by the hunger crisis,” Mitchell said. “When it comes to equity, we must focus not only on school meals, but on transportation and public health issues as well.”

Fairfax County also added weekend meal pickups for those that couldn’t make it to the weekday grab and go locations, Mitchell said.

“It’s all about access,” Mitchell said. “When we talk about equity, it’s about making sure we provide our students with exactly what they need.”

The first wave of Mount Vernon Woods students returned to the classroom this week. Mitchell said with students in the building, it will help remove the “stigma that resides in standing in line at a grab and go site.”

“We are able to now serve more kids in the building,” Mitchell said. “I’m super proud our food service staff is ready to go in the morning with our meal service and our breakfast service by delivering meals to teachers at their door.”

Chesapeake, Cumberland and Fairfax school districts are among many in the state that provide free meals for students with U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers that were extended until Sept. 30.

The waivers provide a form of “universal meals,” said Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, in a February interview with Capital News Service. Roem is part of a national effort to establish universal school meals, or free school meals for all children, not just those who qualify for reduced breakfast and lunch. The General Assembly passed eight school meal bills since 2019 that Roem introduced. She said she won’t stop introducing these bills until the problem is solved.

“My ultimate goal is for universal free breakfast, free lunch that meets all of the USDA guidelines and standards available to any student who wants it without question, without payment,” Roem said. “Anyone who’s hungry eats.”

The waivers help all 45 schools in the Chesapeake Public Schools system provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks through curbside service, Wade said. Chesapeake schools provided more than 38,000 meals to students during winter break, he added.

“The waivers and flexibilities that have been offered, have opened the opportunity to see our program through a different lens and perspective,” Wade said. “By allowing students to receive meals regardless of their economic status, it’s allowed our communities to come together to support a need that’s always been there.”

Mitchell said the waivers are a start, but there are still things to be addressed.

“I think all children in this country should be fed when they walk through our doors, regardless of what school they’re in,” Mitchell said. “It’s a hunger issue, it’s an American issue, it’s an issue that we have to deal with directly, and I thank the USDA for taking the initial steps, but we still have work to do.”

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