Adjunct Faculty Fight for Fair Treatment

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Highlighting the disparities between full-time and part-time faculty at USF, a recent report, written by adjunct language professors Susanne Hoelscher and Shawn Doubiago, was released via the USF Faculty Association website on Nov. 6.

The document, titled “Faculty Employment at USF: Conditions, Concerns, and Suggestions,” raises concerns pertaining to the working conditions of the adjunct faculty at USF — conditions that some adjuncts feel lead to their marginalization as employees. These working conditions — including but not limited to, a lack of voting rights, lack of office space, lack of promotional opportunities, and insufficient compensation — not only affect faculty, but the quality of education students are receiving.

Part-time faculty “are spread too thin and this leads to a lack of availability,” said Jake McGoldrick, President of the American Federation of Teachers/California Federation of Teachers Local 4269 Part-Time Union. According to Doubiago, who also teaches at Berkeley City College, “many adjuncts teach at two different institutions with two different policies.” This is especially difficult because “adjuncts usually teach the larger core classes of 35 to 40 students.”

Additionally, Doubiago said it isn’t easy to “be an effective teacher while teaching four courses with 40 students in each class. The system is structured in such a way that we are struggling to do our jobs well with the conditions that we find ourselves in.” As Provost Jennifer Turpin pointed out, in a previous Foghorn article published on October 21, entitled “Adjunct Professor Salaries,” however, “USF pays adjunct faculty approximately double the national average for private comprehensive universities, according to CUPA, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.” This statistic is the direct result of negotiations made by the part-time Union over the years. Provost Turpin was not available to respond to follow up questions.

“Adjuncts don’t have a voice in crucial decisions made by departments,” said McGoldrick.

According to McGoldrick, the Union has successfully bargained for regular salary increases, health benefits, transportation benefits, 10% retirement benefits, free tuition for a family member, and free tuition for an additional family member after eight years of teaching, in addition to other negotiations. Though McGoldrick is proud of these union victories, he contended, “there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Adjunct faculty members differ from their full-time counterparts in their hours, obligations and salaries.

An adjunct professor makes a yearly salary of $32,666 if they are in the preferred hiring pool (PHP), and are teaching the usual eight units a semester, according to article 18.3 of the USF adjunct faculty contract for 2013-14. An adjunct professor in the non-preferred hiring pool makes $27,216 per year if teaching the same amount. The difference between the two relates to how a long the particular adjunct has been working at USF. It usually takes at least two years of teaching to be considered for the PHP, and adjuncts must demonstrate their teaching excellence to the deans who make the final decision. These figures starkly differ from full-time professor salaries, which range from $74,334 for a starting assistant professor, to $143,535 for the highest level full professor for 30 units of academic work per year, according to USF Faculty Association and Part-time Faculty Association collective bargaining agreements.

In addition to pay and workload, there are also discrepancies over lack office space, voting rights, and the division this creates between faculty members. As it stands, “Most [part-time] faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences are assigned to a large shared office space on 4th floor Gleeson,” according to the Doubiago/ Hoelscher report. “This communal office space is not adequate for student advising, class preparation, or other teaching related tasks,” it continues. This results in conveying “the clear impression to students that their faculty is divided into two groups with distinctly different statuses and importance.”

The writers of the document also take issue with the part-time socialization process. Adjuncts are not formally introduced to existing departmental faculty members upon arrival, and due to lack of office space and separation from full time faculty, there is limited interaction between the two groups. Doubiago feels that the system reinforces marginality, which is internalized by the adjunct faculty and leads to their demoralization. “It’s just like any society,” she said. “If you have people who are empowered, they are going to be much more invested and engaged.”

Another concern raised in the report is the lack of ability for adjuncts to vote at department meetings. “Adjuncts don’t have a voice in crucial decisions made by departments,” said McGoldrick.

Speaking to this problem, the Doubiago/Hoelscher report explains how depending on a given departments’ policies, adjuncts are invited to attend department meetings and are allowed to express their ideas, but aren’t allowed to vote. “Voting rights are essential in order to foster personal investment, commitment to the university, greater teaching effectiveness, and accountability,” stated Doubiago and Hoelscher in the report.

McGoldrick said the University justifies these working conditions because adjuncts are not seen as permanent employees. Provost Turpin confirmed this in the prior afforementioned article: “Many of our adjunct faculty teach for reasons besides salary including professional development, satisfaction from teaching, and a desire to give back to their profession. For this group, their salaries are supplementary to that from their full-time job.”

But McGoldrick said that these kind of adjuncts only a make up a small percentage of the part-time faculty at USF. He said that, as far as he knows, “about 90% of the adjunct faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences want a full-time job.”

This issue is not exclusive to USF, as it is happening nationwide. Politics professor Stephen Zunes explained this trend: “What we’re seeing across the country is pressure for universities to run on more of a corporate model, which is to cut costs. And one way of doing that, given that there is a surplus of PhD’s and other qualified people, is to take advantage of that fact by hiring adjuncts for substantially less salary and benefits than full-time faculty.”

McGoldrick agreed: “We live in a class society, and that’s reflected here at USF. The market is destroying higher education — absolutely destroying it.” These market fluctuations directly affect the adjunct faculty at USF.“We have to be content because it’s a buyers market,” said Hoelscher, explaining how current marketplace pressures adjunct faculty to acquiesce to their work conditions. “But we also have to bring in an element of ethics and morality into this. Just because this is what the market allows you to do, doesn’t mean you should be exploiting people.”

One solution Hoelscher and Doubiago propose in the report is to create a new category of fulltime faculty. “As has been done at other universities, like Santa Clara, a new category of FT [full-time] appointments could be established, which are preferably filled by incumbent PT [part-time] faculty based on clearly defined guidelines such as programmatic needs and teaching excellence.” But Hoelscher understands this is no easy task: “The difficulty in making this kind of a promotion part of our contracts is that it would need to be negotiated between the administration and the full-time union, and we would need strong support from the full-time faculty for USFFA to take this on.”

Full-time philosophy professor Ronald Sundstrom has some qualms about this solution. He elaborated: “The suggestion by the two part-timers [Doubiago and Hoelscher] to make a special class of part-timers doesn’t solve these issues for the vast majority of part-timers. It just makes some not part-timers anymore.”

McGoldrick believes these problems can best be addressed through continuous union negotiations, but does feel the university community needs to engage in these conversations about work conditions. Hoelscher agreed: “Our first goal is to open a serious debate, and to make all parties involved recognize the necessity of engaging in it.”

Sundstrom believes that USF can be a model for the rest of the nation: “If USF is doing a decent or more than a decent job addressing these concerns, this could be an ideal we can hold up and use to criticize and contrast other universities. Not just to sell ourselves, but to push the debate as well.” He goes on, “The question of whether or not we are leading in this scenario is something that should be discussed. How we are having an effect on the national conversation is something that can also be discussed.”

“Social and economic justice begins at home,” said McGoldrick. And in order to bring about these USF ideals, Sundstrom believes that a serious debate is healthy: “The climate of the university – its intellectual life, its communal life – is improved by having a conversation. How do we treat the faculty? How do we treat the staff? How do we treat the students? These things are good subjects to talk about. Anytime there is a problem, more democracy is certainly a solution. Let’s have a discussion. Let’s have deliberation.”

 

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