Fordham endures disputes over faculty health care, unionizing

Kyle Pritz holds his broken glasses

Kyle Pritz holds his glasses, which broke during a struggle with Fordham security. Photo: Menachem Wecker

My article appears in National Catholic Reporter. Here’s the lede:

NEW YORK — Over coffee at Rex, the hip, Upper West Side shop that Fordham University students haunt, Kyle Pritz, 28, pauses to hold his glasses up sideways. It looks as if something has taken a bite out of the piece of the plastic temple that ought to cover the right hinge. The missing part broke off about five weeks prior during a struggle with Fordham security.

Sustaining injuries and broken glasses and getting slapped with disciplinary action by the Jesuit school, which forced him, he said, to take an incomplete rather than graduate on time, wasn’t how things were supposed to go. Pritz, who grew up an hour north of Manhattan in Carmel, New York, chose Fordham for its values and participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

As a veteran, Pritz paid neither tuition nor fees at Fordham, which has touted a “veteran-friendly” reputation since the Civil War. Raised Lutheran, he isn’t religious but was drawn to Fordham’s mission. “I like how the Jesuits’ conception of God is God in everything,” he said. He was also impressed with Fordham’s social justice emphasis and what he understood to be the Jesuit history of “standing with the oppressed against corrupt and unjust power structures.”

That same sense of social justice led Pritz, a philosophy and psychology double major, to join about 50 students and faculty on April 27 outside Walsh Library, some 9.5 miles north of Rex on Fordham’s Bronx campus. The group voiced support for contingent, or adjunct, faculty, whose unionizing efforts the administration sought to block on religious grounds. The protesters then walked a couple of minutes northeast to Cunniffe House, home to the office of Jesuit Fr. Joseph McShane, Fordham’s president.

What happened next is the subject of much dispute between the administration and professors and students, and it is one of several incidents that threaten to further divide a campus upon which 80 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty on April 19 voted — at a rate of 88 percent — no confidence in McShane.

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