Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unionizing Vermont Adjuncts Reflect a National Trend by Alex Keefe, Annie Russell and Amanda Shepar

“Within the past three weeks, adjunct professors at three educational institutions in Vermont have announced that they've voted to organize unions

“Adjuncts at St. Michael’s College, Burlington College and Champlain College all say they want better pay, more benefits and stable working conditions.

Peter Hans Matthews, a labor economist at Middlebury College, says that the recent events reflect a trend that reaches far beyond Vermont. ‘The face of education has changed drastically in the past half century,’ Matthews explains. ‘Fifty years ago, 70 percent of all academics were tenured or tenured tracked. At this point … 19 to 20 percent are tenured or tenured tracked. The rest are adjuncts who work under a variety of conditions, often not particularly hospitable.’

“Matthews, who is a tenured professor, sees the rising use of adjunct professors as a result of institutions responding to pressure to keep costs down. He worries that this is affecting the quality of education throughout the country. ‘Adjuncts simply don’t have time to spend in contact with students; they don’t have the time to supervise research; they don’t have the time really to inspire students, which is why they went into teaching in the first place,” Matthews says.

“This isn’t necessarily the fault of the adjunct professors, Matthew thinks, but simply a result of poor working conditions, low pay and lack of time. ‘The median pay for a three-credit course for adjuncts across the United States is about $3,000, which means that even if you teach [a heavy load] you would be making an amount that still qualifies you for food stamps in most of the United States,’ Matthews says. 

“As for the working conditions, Matthews explains that most adjunct professors don’t have health insurance and often don’t feel like they are part of the faculty. ‘They have very little say in curriculum; they have very little say in votes and they often don’t have offices. In some cases, they work out of cars as they scramble from class to class,’ says Matthews.

“So, can colleges in Vermont afford to meet the needs of adjunct professors? Matthews thinks so. He explains that it’s important to look at institutions nearby that have gone through the same experience. ‘Tufts University [in Boston] underwent a recent campaign and I think both sides would argue that they found common ground. And it wasn’t just about compensation, but also about working conditions and professional support. We’re often talking about accommodations that aren’t necessarily hugely expensive,’ Matthew says. But he points out that it is clear monetary compensation for adjuncts needs to go up as well.”


“Memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely as an adjunct of corporate power. Civic freedom has been reduced to the notion of consumption, education has been reduced to a form of training, and agency has been narrowed to the consumer logic of choice legitimated by a narrow belief in defining one's goals almost entirely around self-interests rather than shared responsibilities of democratic sociability…” (Henry A. Giroux, Higher Education and the New Brutalism).

“We are the stoop laborers of higher education: adjunct professors. As colleges and universities rev for the fall semester, the stony exploitation of the adjunct faculty continues, providing cheap labor for America’s campuses, from small community colleges to knowledge factories with 40,000 students” (Colman McCarthy, Adjunct professors fight for crumbs on campus).

University and College Adjunct Faculty Remuneration per Course in Illinois:

Medians compared
All Illinois: $2,700
All 4-year private not-for-profit: $3,000

Pay is based on three-credit courses.

A Sample:

Augustana College: $4,500 per course
Aurora University: $2,400 - $4,000 per course
Benedictine University: $2,250 - $2,750 per course
College of DuPage: $2,440 - $4,880 per course
Columbia College: $1,400 - $6,360 per course

DePaul University: $3,000 - $6,000 per course
Dominican University: $2,300 - $3,200 per course
Eastern Illinois University: $3,000 - $7,667 per course
Elgin Community College: $2,118 - $3,360 per course
Elmhurst College: $3,000 - $3,227 per course

Illinois Institute of Technology: $3,000 - $9,500 per course
Illinois State University: $3,500 - $6,400 per course
Illinois Wesleyan University: $3,000 per course
Lake Forest College: $6,500 per course
Lewis University: $2,700 - $3,000 per course

Loyola University: $4,000 - $12,000 per course
North Central College: $780 - $2,460 per course
Northeastern Illinois University: $5,475 per course
Northern Illinois University: $2,700 - $5,000 per course
North Park University: $2,680 -$4,800 per course

Northwestern University: $3,000 - $8,586 per course
Oakton Community College: $2,000 - $6,000 per course
Roosevelt University: $2,100 - $4,750 per course
Southern Illinois University: $3,000 - $6,000 per course
University of Chicago: $3,500 - $5,000 per course

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: $2,625 - $8,400 per course
University of Illinois at Chicago: $4,000 - $8,000 per course
University of Illinois at Springfield: $5,500 per course
Waubonsee Community College: $1,875 - $2,100 per course
Wheaton College: $2,775 - $3,700 per course

The above information is from The Adjunct Project.

Ending the Exploitation of and the Reliance on a Contingent Academic Labor System in Higher Education from the American Federation of Teachers:

WHEREAS, American colleges and universities have long been recognized as world leaders in higher education, both in instruction and in research; and

WHEREAS, access to and success in higher education are more important than ever to ensure that students reach their fullest potential and that the United States continues to develop as a just society, a vibrant democracy and an engine of opportunity; and

WHEREAS, frontline academic workers—college faculty—are central to the mission of providing a high-quality education to students; and

WHEREAS, this promise demands that students be taught and mentored by faculty and staff who are well-prepared, professionally supported and guaranteed a voice in academic decisions; and

WHEREAS, this reputation is being undermined by the systematic dismantling of the structures that contributed to the system’s efficacy and quality; and

WHEREAS, the promise of higher education is under attack by those who demand and pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and de-professionalization; and

WHEREAS, state appropriations for higher education per full-time enrollment have been cut to their lowest level in 25 years, an ongoing disinvestment that disproportionately impacts institutions serving those who have traditionally been excluded from higher education; and

WHEREAS, state disinvestment has also led to an instructional workforce in which more than 75 percent of available jobs are contingent; and

WHEREAS, the exclusion of three-quarters of faculty from permanence, shared governance and the full protection of academic freedom weakens the entire college or university, and the weakening of shared governance has contributed to the undermining of academic quality as administrators attempt to seize control of the curriculum from faculty; and

WHEREAS, contingent faculty face precarious employment situations from term to term; uncertainty about their prospects for being rehired, despite rehiring being a repetitive process that occurs every term; uncertainty or late notifications about what courses they will be teaching when they are rehired, which affect their ability to prepare for these courses; and

WHEREAS, while contingent faculty are among the most talented and dedicated of educators, their working conditions affect student learning conditions: Contingent faculty’s lack of access to equitable pay and benefits, lack of job security, lack of access to professional supports, and lack of access to a voice in their workplace and profession place constraints on the quality of the education they are providing; and

WHEREAS, polling data show that almost half of contingent faculty would prefer full-time, tenure-track positions; and

WHEREAS, the institutional practice of relying on a system of labor that exploits a large number of precarious faculty undermines the educational and civic missions of our colleges and universities; and

WHEREAS, if we are to reclaim the promise of higher education and provide a high-quality college experience for all students, we must begin with a fundamental reinvestment in the higher education instructional staff, and we must demand an end to the reliance on an underpaid and under supported contingent workforce:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers reaffirm its commitment to ending the practice of contingent employment as the normalized state of employment for faculty, as well as to improving the lives of contingent faculty by ending the rank exploitation of the majority of the higher education instructional workforce; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with contingent faculty to organize local unions for the purpose of collective bargaining in order to improve their lives and working conditions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will conduct research on the impact of contingency on the lives of faculty, on academic institutions, on students and on the economy—where low wages not only prevent workers from contributing to economic growth, but also promote taxpayer subsidization for services that are accessible to those employed in stable jobs; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to work with its affiliates and promote their successes in collective bargaining to bring about the  elimination of contingency within the instructional workforce by advocating for faculty currently in contingent positions and all new faculty entering the workforce to achieve:

Pay equity, including compensation for class preparation time and office hours;

Equitable access to employee benefits;

Access to and compensation for opportunities for professional development;

Meaningful job security, including job security comparable to tenure, long-term academic appointment contracts or certificates of continuing employment, which guarantee the presumption of rehiring;

Opportunities for career advancement, including conversion opportunities to full-time, tenure-track positions;

Enforceable standards for the timely notification of teaching appointments;

Protections for academic freedom, regardless of tenure status; and

Full inclusion in and compensation for participation in all institutional work, including service, research and governance; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to work with and mobilize its affiliates to increase funding for instruction and student support services and ensure that these funds are used to build a stable and professional faculty corps and expand access for contingent faculty to healthcare, retirement and unemployment insurance; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to engage in collective action with our affiliates, our members, our students and our communities to build a movement that educates people about the impact of contingency on the lives of teachers and their students and on the quality of education and effectively advocates for high-quality, student-centered public colleges and universities that are grounded by a stable, professional instructional workforce; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work toward these ends in unity with students, parents, faculty, staff and the community to reclaim the promise of higher education.

(2014)  from AFT Resolutions

For more articles about College Adjunct Faculty/a social injustice, click on the tab “college adjuncts” below this blog’s masthead. 

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