Starving the arts at NJCU
Students, parents, profs protest programs; salary cuts
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Aug 27, 2017 | 5266 views | 4 4 comments | 161 161 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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In an effort to halt what they believe will be severe cuts to parts of the arts program at New Jersey City University – possibly involving cuts to the music program and others -- students, parents and some teachers held a protest rally in front of the arts building on Aug. 24.

At risk, the protestors believe, may be the Media Arts Department MFA Program-Integrated Media Arts Production (IMAP) at New Jersey City University (NJCU).

“The NJCU administration has suspended enrollment in our program citing ‘unsustainability’ after being in existence for only one and a half years,” according to a petition students initiated this week. “The administration suspended the application before the enrollment deadline.”

The administration in turn blames the failure of enrollment on the faculty of the Media Arts Department’s Inter-Media Arts Program.

Students are concerned that the school may be using this as an excuse to fire a popular department chair, Dr. Min Kim.

Although the conflict appears to have been escalating since the school hired a new dean to head the department, the issue came to a head in mid-August when several adjunct professors said the school notified adjunct professors that provide students with one-on-one lessons that they will receive a 50 percent cut in pay starting in September.

But NJCU President Sue Henderson disputed these claims.

“There has not been a change in the pay of the adjuncts,” she said.

And official statement from the school suggests that the matter has been resolved after the protest, although the official position is that no change would take place.

“The University will make no modifications to programs, curriculum, or faculty within the Music, Dance and Theatre (MDT) program.,” said Ellen Wayman-Gordon, assistant vice president for Public Information. “ All MDT students and faculty have been informed that no changes will occur.”

The conflict apparently came after the school came to a contract agreement with full-time staff, including moderate pay increases. The agreement was ratified by their union. The adjunct professors, who work essentially on a freelance basis, have an agreement with the union but no formal representation.

About 35 students gathered in front of the campus arts buildings bearing protest signs to attempt to get the administration to change its directive – this included some members of the teachers union, who came out in support of the adjunct professors. Although security people stood nearby, the demonstration was peaceful, full of applause for speakers and jeers at the administration.

The change could affect as many as 90 adjunct teachers in the arts department, and could result in a loss of staff, some protesters said.

The Arts Department is overseen by a dean, to whom other department heads report. These department heads usually request a specific number of adjunct professors, who then provide various services such as one on one teaching.

The staff apparently only found out about the cuts in mid-August, two weeks prior to the start of school.

Adjunct professors teach courses up to 15 credits, and were told that the college intends to pay half the rate they paid in the past.

This could result in many of these adjunct professors refusing to work, and would leave the arts department short of teaching staff in the new school year.

Students and others said they attempted to contact the administration on this matter and were unsuccessful.

Many programs affected

Brittney Crawford, a music education student at NJCU, called the budget cuts “shocking and sudden,” specifically targeting music, dance and theater programs.

“In particular, this has affected the adjunct faculty who teach one-on-one lessons,” she said. “The cuts also affect full time faculty who now cannot teach as many students as they have traditionally done.”

She said many students attend NJCU specifically for the purpose of studying privately with professors they consider the best in their respective instruments.

“Some students come here to study under particular professors,” said Allen Farnham, music instructor in the NJCU jazz program. “Many students treat this as a conservatory.”

Estimates of total number of adjuncts affect vary, though it could impact as many as 90, 10 of whom come from the jazz program alone.

“This affects the whole music program,” Farnham said, noting that adjuncts could seek work at other universities rather than accept the pay cut. Many of these adjuncts have been employed at the school for decades.

Roseanna Vitro, a music and voice instructor, said she has been teaching at NJCU for 19 years and has seen some music students move onto significant careers.

A Grammy-nominated performer, Vitro said she has even worked on albums with students who have gone through the program here.

She said adjuncts work without benefits such as health insurance that regular staff at the school get, and often work odd hours.

The protest also got support from other teachers on campus such as Max Herman, an associate professor of sociology at the university.

George Hauiland, district supervisor for music at North Bergen High School, has a son in the program, and said he attempted to contact the administration over the matter for several days and could not get through.

Shari Gill, an alumnus, called the school’s cuts “harsh,” and came on short notice and without consulting any of the people impacted.

Several students said they were concerned about a new dean hired to oversee the arts program, whose background is mostly in literature and not theater or music.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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August 29, 2017
Music 99, I would then question your definition of "impeccable ethics." I know many music department adjuncts who probably would as well.
August 28, 2017

Although agreed upon by the union and the State OF NJ, the adjunct faculty contract has not yet been ratified. The full time contract is a separate agreement, and only the full time contract has been ratified. Currently, the right of administration to cut the number of credits paid for a class applies to full time faculty only. The university chose not to wait until the contract was ratified to cut the hours for music instructors, who are mainly adjunct faculty.

Second, Min Kim is NOT a popular department chair, in fact, she is not very well liked by adjunct faculty in MDT(who teach about 90% of the classes in her department). Her policy is to assign classes at the last minute in order to get around a late cancellation fee in the adjunct faculty contract. This results in late checks for adjunct faculty, especially those teaching instrument instruction. And it is not uncommon for adjunct faculty at NJCU to be paid late. A significant number of those late payments are from the music department.

Most students are probably unaware of the fact that adjunct faculty at New Jersey city University have no benefits, no job security or paid office hours. Although department chairs are union members, when it comes to the reappointment of adjunct faculty, they often disregard the Best Practices recommended by the union.

The cuts in credit hours could also extend to adjunct faculty teaching studios in fine arts and labs in science, if the contract is ratified.
August 28, 2017
Having worked at NJCU for over a decade, I have witnessed Dr. Min Kim's immense efforts to improve the NJCU Music Department's attractiveness and reputation. She is very popular among students and faculty who recognize the need to have a Chair with impeccable ethics and great talent. The widespread use of adjuncts is not specific to NJCU. In all fairness, one needs to acknowledge Dr. Kim's constant efforts to improve adjunct faculty's status at NJCU. Without her fighting for us, I believe that our situation would worsen very quickly, under a higher administration that is only trying to cover up for its own financial failures.
JC Native
August 27, 2017
The new Dean referred to in the article is Dr. Joao Sedycias, a linguicist. One of the other curious moves he has made this summer is to tell department chairs in the Arts and Sciences that he doesn't want faculty teaching more than one section of a class, in order to give students "more options".

This means that if NJCU has a faculty member whose expertise is genetics, and that's the only person on campus with expertise in that area...they will only be able to teach one class in genetics per semester. Other faculty whose expertise is cell biology will have to teach genetics instead. It's head-scratching, to say the least.