Mary-Faith Cerasoli, a New-York area adjunct professor of Spanish and Italian, visited the hospital Wednesday after a five-day hunger strike outside of Nassau Community College. Cerasoli, who taught at Nassau this year, said she was protesting unfair working conditions for adjunct faculty there, including a recent proposal – never voted on – by the Board of Trustees to fire those adjuncts who went on strike in September over union contract negotiations. Cerasoli also says she wants New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to respond to her call to help improve working conditions for adjuncts. Declared healthy by a doctor, she is continuing her strike.
“Institutions of higher education provide working conditions that starve many contingent faculty of their livelihoods,” Cerasoli said in a statement, “so I felt a hunger strike was exactly the right way to highlight the problem, particularly at Nassau, a college that just recently retaliated against adjunct faculty who took a stand against exploitation by striking earlier this year.”
In March, Cerasoli gained national media attention when she protested outside New York State’s Department of Education wearing a vest saying “Homeless Prof.” Racked with student loan debt, she does not have a home and at times lives out of her car. Cerasoli said she has appealed to Cuomo to help adjuncts, but she has not heard back.
Cerasoli’s supporters have taken to Twitter under #hungryhomelessprof. The hashtag is similar to one that was created last year memorializing Margaret Mary Vojtko, an elderly adjunct professor of French who died alone and homeless after working for many years at Duquesne University. A Facebook page dedicated to the strike encourages adjunct supporters to show solidarity with Cerasoli by skipping a meal and by other means.
Cerasoli, who has a thyroid condition, is drinking only water and sleeping in her car during the strike.
Nassau Community College officials did not respond to a request for comment. Cuomo's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Charles Loiacono, president of the Nassau Community College’s Adjunct Faculty Association, an independent union, said Cerasoli’s “plight is a disgrace to academe. She is a victim of the shameful treatment adjuncts receive throughout the system.”