If adjuncts want more workplace rights, they have to take them. As Inside HigherEd reports, “That message was echoed throughout a discussion on non-tenure-track faculty rights here Monday at the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, or COCAL, conference. It’s being held this week at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.
“The biennial gathering draws participants from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and adjunct activist panelists from all three countries advocated striking as a real and valid means of achieving short- and long-term goals.
“Unless and until faculty, including part-time faculty, hit the streets and occupy the classrooms,” said Stanley Aronowitz, a tenured professor of sociology and urban education at the CUNY Graduate Center, “there won’t be any change of substance.”
“Aronowitz, who has worked as an adjunct professor several times throughout his career, said this idea applied even in those states where collective bargaining or strikes among public employees is prohibited by law. Faculty members at Nassau Community College who went on strike last year over protracted contract negotiations paid hefty fines for violating New York State’s Taylor Law, for example. (Under the law, the union was permitted to engage in collective bargaining, but not to strike.) But Aronowitz and other activists said that striking is a fundamental right that should be ensured by the First Amendment; without the right to strike, he said, collective bargaining too often becomes “collective begging.”Participants here responded to Aronowitz’s remarks on strikes with strong applause.
“Maria Teresa Lechuga, a Ph.D. candidate in pedagogy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, added: “We need to stop asking for permission to organize ourselves.” Panelists said that striking is always a “last resort,” to be exercised only when adjunct faculty members and administrators can’t otherwise reach common ground. But in order to ensure public support when and if the time to strike comes, advocates said, adjuncts need to nurture relationships with other kinds of workers, along with parents and students.Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, said adjuncts shouldn’t be afraid to bring up their working conditions with their students. She said such conversations are part of students’ “civic education” — an essential part of their studies.
When you think about minimum-wage workers, college professors don’t readily come to mind. But many say that’s what they are these days, as NPR reports:
“Of all college instructors, 76 percent, or over 1 million, teach part time because institutions save a lot of money when they replace full-time, tenured faculty with itinerant teachers, better known as adjuncts.
“Kathleen Gallagher, a published poet and writer with advanced studies and a master’s degree, spent 20 years as an adjunct English professor at several colleges in Akron, Ohio. The most she’s ever made in a year is $21,000; last year, she made $17,000.
“After one college laid her off last summer, Gallagher was desperately short of money, so she sold her plasma. “It is embarrassing to talk on the radio and say, ‘I think I’ll have to go give some blood,’ ” she says with a sigh. “But I needed gasoline. I have applied for other work,” she says. “I had interviews, but then I remembered what I feel like in the classroom.” Gallagher tears up. She says teaching is her life, her calling. She’s always assumed that eventually, a college somewhere would offer her a full-time professorship, but that just doesn’t happen as often anymore. There’s a good reason for that, says Rex Ramsier, vice provost at the University of Akron, where Gallagher is teaching one class.
A movement catching on across American campuses where adjunct faculty members, the working poor of academia, are turning to collective action.
Only a quarter of the academic work force is tenured, or on track for tenure, down from more than a third in 1995, reports today’s New York
Times. ” The majority hold contingent jobs — mostly part-time adjuncts but also graduate assistants and full-time lecturers. And the Service Employees International Union, with members in health care, maintenance and public service, is moving hard and fast to add the adjuncts to their roster, organizing at private colleges in several urban areas.
“In Washington, it has unionized American University, Georgetown, George Washington and Montgomery College. In the Los Angeles area, adjuncts at Whittier College and the University of La Verne just filed with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election. In Boston, Tufts University’s part-time faculty voted to join the service employees’ union in September, and an October vote at Bentley University failed by two votes. Campaigns are underway at Northeastern and Lesley.
“The S.E.I.U. strategy has the momentum right now,” said Adrianna Kezar, director of the University of Southern California’s Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success. “And we know that unionizing leads to pay increases and at least the beginnings of benefits.”
Collecting better data on adjunct employment on campus. Inviting adjuncts to participate in departmental
meetings and curriculum design. Some of the biggest ways institutions can improve the working conditions of adjunct faculty are free or cost little, debunking a common argument against rethinking higher education’s changing faculty make-up, reports InsideHigher Ed on a new study.
“Or so argues a new paper from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, a partnership between the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities to examine and develop the role of adjunct faculty.
“[Although] leaders in higher education do face budgetary constraints and uncertainty over future funding sources,it is a myth that resources are the sole reason that prevents us from ensuring that all our faculty members are adequately supported so they can provide the highest quality of instruction to their students,” reads Delphi’s “Dispelling the Myths: Locating the Resources Needed to Support Non-Tenure-Track Faculty.”
“The paper, written by Adrianna Kezar, director of the Delphi Project and professor of higher education at the University of Southern California, and Dan Maxey, Kezar’s research assistant, outlines a variety of practices institutions may adopt to better support all faculty – not just adjuncts – rated on a scale from “$” (free to marginal in cost) to “$$$$” (indicating a “more substantial” expense).
“Some obvious means of supporting adjunct instructors, who make up nearly three-fourths of the higher education work force — better pay, benefits — are costly. But others — such as enhancing data collection efforts to better track adjunct employment on campus, ensuring protections for academic freedom in faculty handbooks, and inviting adjuncts to participate in curricular discussions and governance – aren’t.
In many ways, the White House’s surprise announcement that it would delay the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act by one year, until January 2015, is good news for colleges and universities struggling to figure out just who will be covered under the law. InsideHigherEd says that “It gives institutions more time to decide how they’ll count adjunct instructors, whose credit hour-based schedules don’t fit neatly into the law’s existing metrics for qualifying for coverage.
“And while the announcement could lead to good news for adjuncts who have had their hours limited by colleges worried about the new provision taking effect, there was little celebration Wednesday. Colleges said that they were studying the situation, but no one was pledging to lift limits or restore hours to anyone.
“But in other ways, it adds a new layer of confusion onto what is already a complicated situation, particularly for those colleges that already have announced plans to limit adjuncts’ course loads to avoid having to provide them with health insurance as full-time employees. Questions remain as to whether institutions will temporarily backtrack on their plans, and if that’s even possible, given the timing of the announcement, so far into summer when planning for fall courses is already under way.
“I think that the government has poorly served institutions by announcing this delay so abruptly and so relatively close to the date of implementation,” said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and research of the American Association of Community Colleges – one of many organizations that’s asked the federal government to issue long-promised specific guidelines as to what constitutes a full-time employee in higher education under the law. (In January, the Internal Revenue Service asked higher education officials to use “reasonable” means of calculating faculty hours worked.)
“At the same time, Baime added, “We hope that colleges will take this additional time given to them to evaluate their approach to policies in this area and, even more importantly, ask the government exactly what’s expected of them as institutions.”