Pay Dispute Heats Up at N.Y.U.'s Florence Campus

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LONDON -- The long-running dispute between faculty members at the Florence campus of New York University and the program's administrators took a new turn this month when the American Association of University Professors wrote a letter to Ellyn Toscano, the program's executive director, questioning the university's "commitment to academic freedom and shared faculty governance in academic decision making."

In a letter dated May 2, the A.A.U.P. said that it had received reports that N.Y.U. had cut the pay of adjunct faculty members who do most of the teaching on the campus in Italy and also had failed to give appropriate notice to faculty members who had been dismissed.

In a response published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Toscano denied that any faculty members' pay had been reduced. She added that, owing to changes in Italian labor law, "compensation was redistributed among benefits and take-home pay."

The intervention by the A.A.U.P., the largest organization of U.S. academics, came in response to allegations by faculty members at N.Y.U.'s home campus that some teachers in Florence had been dismissed for trying to organize a labor union, a charge Ms. Toscano also disputed.

In March, the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, N.Y.U.'s largest school, approved a vote of "no confidence" in John Sexton, the university's president, who has been a prime mover in developing its campuses and study centers around the world.

Faculty members at the Gallatin School, an N.Y.U. college, passed a similar motion May 3, a move followed by faculty at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development on May 9.

Relations have been frayed since September, when teachers returning to the classroom in Florence said they had been offered new contracts with substantial pay reductions.

The contracts, mandated by changes in Italian labor law, were supposed to turn teachers working on a freelance basis into permanent employees. But Alan Pascuzzi, an American who has been teaching art in Florence since 1995, said that, while some faculty members had been given "permanent contracts that were actually permanent," others had not been. His contact, though deemed "permanent," expired in May. He noted that the new contracts put the cost of new benefits onto the faculty members rather than the university.

In her letter, Ms. Toscano said that changes to courses offered in Florence had been made after "consultations with representatives of those departments." However, both the head of N.Y.U.'s art history department and the director of undergraduate studies said in a statement that it was not "clear, even to us, who specifically was/is responsible" for the university's decision to drop studio art classes from its Florence program.

John Beckmann, a spokesman for the university, told the NYULocal blog that facilities at La Pietra, N.Y.U.'s 15th-century villa in Florence, "were never adequate for the specialized needs of the studio arts program."

Mr. Pascuzzi said his classes had been moved to smaller rooms, forcing a reduction in student numbers. In January, Mr. Pascuzzi was involved in efforts to form a union for Florence teachers. In February, he found that none of his courses had been scheduled for the spring semester. "They didn't fire us," he said. "They just didn't give us any more work."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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