NYU adjuncts will return from winter break with something they've never had before - their own health insurance.
The benefit was an important victory adjuncts won when they hammered out their first-ever contract with the university last spring.
Eligible adjuncts enrolled from Nov. 11 to 30, and many adjuncts are calling it a huge step forward in implementing other contract provisions, which included job security, wage increases and university recognition of their union.
'Health coverage immediately improves the workplace, and this makes NYU a desirable place to be for part-time faculty,' said Ward Regan, a School of Continuing and Professional Studies adjunct and interim president of United Auto Workers Local 7902. '[It] will attract better faculty.'
Coverage is determined by the number of hours an adjunct spends in the classroom. For adjuncts who taught a minimum of 126 hours of instruction in the classroom during the 2003-04 academic year, NYU will pay 75 percent of the cost of individualized coverage. NYU will pay half of the bills for those who taught between 84 and 126 hours.
CAS adjuncts, who are not allowed to teach more than one class a semester, were not able to qualify for anything more than the 50 percent subsidy, but some were still happy they qualified at all.
'I could not be more thrilled that I have health benefits,' said Judith Schoolman, an adjunct in the journalism department, whose child is also covered under the plan. 'Getting state-subsidized health care would have been a disaster.'
Adjuncts enrolled online chose between three insurance carriers: Aetna, Health Insurance Plan of New York (HIP) or Oxford.
'The university has worked hard to make sure people were getting their proper subsidiary packages and have made an effort to get it done and done right,' Regan said.
Though adjuncts are glad to finally have health coverage, some were upset it took so long to implement, since the contract was signed in April.
Unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts do not have dental coverage. Not all adjuncts signed up. Some are better covered under a spouse's plan.
'I didn't register for the plan because I'm in the extremely fortunate position of having a working wife whose health plan covers us and our baby,' journalism adjunct Dan Zevin said.
Some adjuncts said other employers offered better benefits.
Steinhardt adjunct Tracy Bersley gets medical, dental and vision coverage, as well as a pension, from the State University of New York at Purchase, where she is an adjunct.
'They offer benefits to professors who teach two classes for more than one semester, which is incredibly better than the peanuts that NYU has thrown us,' Bersley said in an e-mail.
Like it or not, adjuncts agreed some health care is better than none.
'I used to know someone who made his students bring a note from their doctor if they said they were too sick to come to class,' Zevin said. 'The thing is, he couldn't do the same thing himself ... he didn't have a doctor. He couldn't afford one. I think the adjunct union is finally going to change all that.'