Friday, May 30, 2014

BU Adjunct professors organizing vote to unionize by Taryn Ottaunick

“As part of a national movement to end the alleged injustices of adjunct professors, members of the Boston University adjunct faculty are working to unionize. 
“‘The adjunct professors are doing this in order to improve our working conditions and our working conditions translate directly to the learning environment of the students,’ said member of the organizing committee Maureen Sullivan, an adjunct professor at the College of Arts and Sciences. ‘That’s just really clear to everyone who is doing the organizing. It’s not just the Boston area, it’s all across the nation. That’s the bottom line.’

“One of the main concerns cited by members of the adjunct faculty was the lack of pay parity between adjunct professors compared to full-time tenured professors, Sullivan said. ‘Boston is a very expensive place to live and adjuncts at BU are paid pennies on the dollar of what tenure-track professors are paid,’ she said. ‘That just doesn’t translate into a living wage. It’s very difficult to actually have even a low standard of living in this area based on the pay we’re earning.’

“A full-time professor at BU earns an average of $157,000 a year, while the average BU adjunct professor earns $3,750 to $9,563 per course, according to the Adjunct Action BU Fact Sheet… Another grievance of adjunct professors is exclusion from faculty decisions and lack of provisions necessary to teach to their full potential, such as proper office spaces…

“‘Low wages and obligations from the other jobs many adjuncts must take on to make a living wage hinder their ability to devote ample time to student attention outside of the classroom, [Tinker Ready, adjunct professor in the College of Communication] said. ‘I try to find ways to squeeze the amount of time I spend on each class,’ she said. ‘I would say, depending on these hours, I make between $10 and $20 an hour… I try to fit it [adjunct teaching work] into 20 hours a week, but sometimes it’s hard. Some people think of it as only classroom time, but prep time and grading take up so much time. People say all we do is teach, but the reality is we all work in our fields … that’s what we bring to the schools.’

“The movement for a union at BU is in the beginning stages. Organizers on the BU committee are currently collecting signatures from members of the adjunct faculty in order to gain enough to establish a vote to unionize, said organizer Antonio Ochoa, a CAS adjunct professor…

“‘The national trend of adjunct unionization has spawned from large spikes in universities’ hiring of these faculty members as a means of providing labor at a lesser cost than full-time faculty, said former BU adjunct professor and current activist for Massachusetts Jobs for Justice Gillian Mason.

“‘Back in the early part of the 20th century, 25 percent of all college classes were taught by contingent faculty,’ Mason said. ‘Right now, 75 percent of classes are taught by contingent faculty. That’s a big motivator behind adjuncts demanding better, because more and more of the jobs in the universities are filled by adjuncts...’

“‘Adjuncts are a source of cheap labor, and a lot of administrators are trying to keep them that way,’ Mason said. ‘Once adjuncts start fighting for their rights and start demanding better [treatment], all of a sudden it becomes less economically advantageous for the administration to create all of these low-wage adjunct jobs…’

“‘Students are going to complain about their tuitions maybe going up, but I think they should look into the other ways the university is spending their tuition — administration salaries, fancy buildings,’ Ready said. ‘Is it more important to have a dorm that looks like a four-star hotel or a professor that can pay attention to their work? It’s something students might want to think about.’”

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