Darini Nicholas (She/Her)
Adjunct Instructor, Social Science & Cultural Studies
Darini Nicholas, President-Elect
I am thrilled to be running for Union Office with my fellow esteemed teammates Elæ Moss, Velina Manolova, and Jennifer Miller. While my position is slated for President, I am happy to say that I agreed to run on the premise that the executive leadership will govern as a horizontal unit. This is a historic opportunity for Pratt to have a Union of Faculty that will not only operate as a collective, but will represent an inclusive body of diverse and expanded membership.
My team and I will embody the transparency we want to see at Pratt. We will invite faculty to set the very platforms we demand. We will fight for pay parity and equity, which will include raising the pay of tenured and tenure-track women by an average of 15% because that is how far their pay falls beneath their colleagues here at Pratt. We will continue our fight for financial transparency for faculty and upper administration. We will invite faculty to revise union and election bylaws, setting term limits for Executive office and holding timely elections. Our executive team cannot do this alone. It will require the shared skill and expertise of us all. We are all empowered leaders in this movement for change.
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I grew up during Sri Lanka’s civil war between the two ethnic groups Tamils and Sinhala, which exposed me at an impressionable age to racial and ethnic inequalities and to what institutionalized discrimination looked like. Since immigrating with my family to the US, I have continued to fight against all forms of racial injustice, as well as, gender, and social and economic inequity. I have also worked towards climate justice throughout my activist and academic career.
I began my organizing with affinity groups and sit-ins at anti-globalization and anti-Neoliberalist protests in the late 90s against the WTO, IMF and World Bank. I also studied and practiced autonomous forms of democratic governance within various anarchist collectives in Vermont. I participated in a people of colour delegation from the US that showed solidarity with the Autonomous Municipalities of La Realidad and Oventique in Chiapas, Mexico through the Zapatista Indigenous protests against the NAFTA policies that denied their sovereignty. I supported the students’ strike at UNAM in 1999 against the State’s privatization policies instituted by the IMF’s austerity conditions for paying back national debt.
I became involved with advocacy efforts around labour issues concerning the rights of workers, helping run a living wage campaign with the Vermont Workers’ Center. In 2002, I organized the University of Vermont’s part-time faculty into a Union with AFT, the United Academics. I have continued to participate in all manner of local protests for equal pay for equal work with UUP and for numerous other local and global causes in NYC.
I have been a Social Science and Cultural Studies Union delegate at Pratt for at least a decade. My penchant for justice, equity, and environmental sustainability informs my teaching pedagogy. My aim as an educator is to support a just and informed generation of artists both within and beyond the walls of Pratt. My commitment to critical education with working class students of Local 3 IBEW at the Van Arsdale School for Labour Studies has garnered accolades amongst students, who enjoy applying Marxist principles to their everyday lives. So I ask, how might we, as faculty at Pratt channel our scholarship and shared knowledge to improve our everyday lives and working conditions?
Elæ Moss (They/Them)
Adjunct Professor, Humanities & Media Studies
Elæ Moss, Vice President-Elect
I’m Elæ, and I am running with my colleagues Jennifer Miller, Darini Nicholas, and Velina Manolova as the Pratt United Faculty Front (PUFF) slate. We are running together because we believe we can only win equal pay for equal work, better healthcare, and secure retirement by becoming a transparent Union that embodies social justice.
I am a 3rd generation working class Brooklynite who comes from generations of Union family – mostly members of ILGWU, the garment workers Union. My grandmother and her sisters worked in the Navy Yard and local USO’s during WWII, where my great-aunt was literally Rosie the Riveter.
I grew up watching my single mother fight unfair wages, meager benefits, and a nonexistent retirement package as she went back to school to become an underpaid teacher at a settlement house. I grew up deeply influenced by the radical groups that extended scholarship and entry to me as a kid with my background and limited resources.
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Starting in Junior High, I became engaged in service work and activism in New York City and beyond, largely through Quaker, socialist Jewish and Italian networks, as well as via Kinderland’s radical activist camp. Ever since, I have organized and participated in environmental, housing, human rights, queer, trans and disability advocacy work and many other social justice campaigns, initiatives, and rallies in the city and the region.
These passions fuel my interdisciplinary research and practice across the arts and humanities, design, social and citizen science that troubles the impact built, social and institutional systems have on place and people. In my last two decades as scholar and educator, I’ve worked tirelessly to fight for, build, and iterate radical infrastructural alternatives to capital models – in housing, resource sharing, education and learning, publishing, open source tech, and beyond.
At Pratt, I’ve actively worked to learn the ins and outs of our institution: since arriving I’ve been part of countless interdisciplinary initiatives, working groups, curriculum committees, collaborated on minor development, and done service throughout my time here, first as a visitor and then / now as an Adjunct. Previously, I taught at CCNY where I spent over a decade as a member of PSC-CUNY. I sought out membership in the Pratt UFCT Union immediately upon my arrival at Pratt in 2017 – but found little support or room for involvement. As an unpartnered person who now is without any family safety net or financial support, battling multiple chronic illnesses, teaching at Pratt requires other jobs to even stay afloat and ensure I have the medical coverage and care I need, when our contract and benefits fail me. These contracts have also ensured that, like all our contingent faculty, I’m not eligible for unemployment or service-based debt relief. Full-time colleagues with chronic illnesses and disabilities both visible and non are struggling to pay medical bills, too, under recent cuts to the healthcare plan. I’m running for Vice President on the PUFF slate because I know our Union can do better – and because our platform is dedicated to shared labor amongst allied Union members, not reinforcing hierarchical power.
Union work can be thankless, and wear leadership down, to the point that I fear we’ve been accepting the unacceptable, and have stopped hoping and fighting for truly better…not just scraps, meager concessions from those holding the purse strings. I am thrilled to be part of a united PUFF slate and committed to transparency and shared labor. Likewise, I am thrilled to see Pratt Faculty – and students – inspired and enlivened by solidarity efforts at campuses across the country. I am confident we can usher in equitable, fair contracts when we stand united. I also believe deeply that with equity comes the opportunity to do our jobs with our students and pedagogy at the core of our decision making – that it is absolutely essential for the transformation of higher education in this country into a future-facing system, ready for the continued challenges ahead. Because… they’re coming.
Velina Manolova (She/They)
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Humanities & Media Studies
Velina Manolova, Secretary-Elect
I am running on the PUFF slate with Darini Nicholas, Elæ Moss, and Jennifer Miller.
I am running for Union office because I believe labor organizing is the most effective and logical way to remedy the inequalities, the divisive hierarchies, and the many faces of exploitation within academia and higher education.
I have experienced these unequal and exploitative dynamics as well as the power of collective organizing as a doctoral student and adjunct at CUNY, and later, an adjunct at Pratt and NYU. The modes of exploitation within a systemically underfunded public municipal university system like CUNY and expensive private institutions like Pratt and NYU manifest differently but arise from the same source: the invisibilization of pedagogical and other academic labor and the manufactured scarcity of academic positions with adequate pay and benefits.
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As a member of the Communication and Arts Team (CAT) of ACT-UAW 7902, the Union representing NYU and New School part-time faculty, I mobilized faculty by creating political education social media content and facilitating reading group discussions about systemic inequalities within academia. As Secretary of UFCT 1460, I will open up channels of communication, especially around the contract negotiation process. I will also take the long-overdue step of developing a social media presence for the Union, so that we have a platform from which we can apply public pressure to the Pratt administration.
Pratt would not run without part-time faculty, its most exploited labor force, which makes up 85% of faculty. In most departments and schools, our pay is not competitive with part-timer pay at other NYC institutions. Furthermore, the healthcare and retirement benefits we are offered are dangerously inadequate. While full-time faculty receive better pay and benefits by comparison, their situation, too, leaves much to be desired. Their salaries are not competitive with full-time faculty salaries in one of the most expensive cities in the world; the 15% pay gap between male-identified and female-identified FT faculty at our self-avowedly progressive institution is appalling (see the Pay Transparency Survey Results); and the expectation of service supposedly covered by their salaries leaves room for further exploitation. Most Union contracts enumerate the rate of pay for every job title. This transparency greatly reduces racial and gender discrimination in pay. Our contract should do the same.
At Pratt, we are in a special position of having one Union that represents both part-time and full-time faculty. This is an opportunity to work toward the abolition of hierarchies and tiers – an opportunity wasted by the current Union leadership. Up until very recently, Pratt’s most vulnerable faculty, so-called Visitors, were actively discouraged from joining the Union. This academic year, I have been helping to spearhead efforts to spread awareness about the Union among all eligible teaching faculty through the Delegates’ Assembly (where I currently serve as my department’s delegate) and faculty organizing, which has coalesced around PUFF.
Like many workers across this city, nation, continent, and planet, Pratt faculty have had enough. Now is not the time for concessions. Now is the time for bold organizing inspired by the historic wins at NYU, Barnard, and The New School. My colleagues on the PUFF slate and I will make the negotiations process open and transparent, and we will continue to recruit faculty until everyone at Pratt has joined the Union.
A Union is only as strong as its members, and we can only win the rights and dignity we deserve if all faculty are invited to the table. If you believe in fair compensation, benefits, and dignity and respect for ALL faculty, vote for the entire PUFF slate: Darini Nicholas, Elæ Moss, Velina Manolova, and Jennifer Miller.
Jennifer Miller (She/Her)
Professor, Humanities & Media Studies
Jennifer Miller, Treasurer-Elect
I’m Jennifer Miller, and I am running with my colleagues Elæ Moss, Darini Nicholas, and Velina Manolova as the Pratt United Faculty Front (PUFF) slate.
Adjunct pay is abominable. We all know it, and it is time to fight to right this incredibly inequitable situation. We need to see, understand and resist the gender disparities at play in our pay scale. We need to correct the recent worsening of our healthcare with rising costs and declining service. Most Union contracts function to prevent healthcare cuts and counter pay inequities.
I am inspired by the energy and organizing chops of the new PUFF group and have decided to throw my hat in the ring. I come to this from a long history of political organizing and company management. Both of these skill sets will serve me well in this position. My political work started when I was a young Quaker in diapers shaking my fist at demonstrations to end the Vietnam War. Or maybe it was because I was hungry, but I was there. I went on to get arrested fighting nuclear power plants and warheads. I’ve been working against the war machine, for affordable housing, and, of course, in the fight for healthcare in the face of the devastating AIDS plague.
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My organizing efforts and art practice come together in my work with Circus Amok, a queer, political street theater extravaganza that tours the streets and parks of NY. We have kept this theater company alive for 25 years and I will bring this 25 years of experience to my work in the Union.
As the director of a company, I understand budgeting.. A minority of faculty are Union members, and adjunct poverty leaves our Union impoverished as well. We have insufficient revenue to fight for the contract we deserve. As treasurer, I will start a finance committee - open for any Union member to join - so that we can address our budget shortfalls transparently and cooperatively. Recruiting new members and winning big raises will require a collective effort. If you’re ready to be a part of it, I invite you to vote not only for myself but also for the rest of our slate that shares this vision for change: Elæ Moss, Darini Nicholas, and Velina Manolova.