Shelter and Solidarity: A Deep Dive with Artists and Activists

Uniting Higher Ed Labor to Fight for the Common Good, September 16, 2021

September 18, 2021

This summer, over 300 higher ed faculty, staff, and student leaders and activists from dozens of union locals in 30 states (representing over 400,000 higher ed workers!) came together to form a new nation-wide coalition: Higher Ed Labor United (HELU). Coming from across faculty ranks and staff job categories, including both tenure track and contingent faculty, undergraduate and graduate student workers, HELU is united in the belief that we need a higher education system that takes equity seriously, works for all, and puts the common good first.

S&S conducts a deep dive conversation with leading organizers in HELU as we discuss the short-term and long-term strategies--from the campus to the U.S. Congress!--for restoring the vision, the resources, and the labor conditions that can allow our system of higher learning to work for us all, students, workers, and the communities we serve.

Featured guests and respondent:

Nicola Walters is an organizer artist, public speaker, and teacher. She is a lecturer in the Department of Politics and Department of Sociology at Humboldt State University. She serves on the California Faculty Association's board of directors as the Membership and Organizing Chair. Nicola is the co-chair of the Labor Outreach Committee for Higher Ed Labor United.

Bryan Sacks is an adjunct instructor of philosophy at Drexel University, and also an adjunct instructor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. He also teaches philosophy at Rutgers’ Camden campus. He is pursuing a Ph.D in Media Studies in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers, where he is also the Vice President of the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, the union of adjunct instructors. He's been an adjunct for 30 years, teaching more than 350 classes across several disciplines and more than a dozen universities in that time.

Colena Sesanker is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Gateway Community College, Political Director for the 4Cs (SEIU1973), Faculty chair of the Faculty Advisory committee to the CT board of Regents, and a member of the Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Ed exec board.

Nicole Braun (respondent) has been teaching sociology as a struggling and exploited adjunct for over 2 decades. She currently lives in Chicago and like many others, is tired of the status quo in academia and otherwise. She believes HELU brings hope and inspiration and that the movement is going to create real change and bring true justice for many who have been suffering for years.