Many of you have been wondering when negotiations will begin...we don't know. The KVCCFT bargaining team is ready and has sent two letters to the appropriate administrators and their legal counsel stating so. In our second letter, sent on October 3rd, we requested additional information on part-time faculty policies, specifically, "excessive student complaints, the paid or unpaid (?) absentee policy, the use of IDEA in evaluation performance, protocol for scheduling, grievance policy, etc." These policies cannot be found in the Part-time Faculty Handbook or Instructional Manual. The Board of Trustees must approve negotiations, and it met on October 9. To-date we have not received a reply or any correspondence whatsoever.
Your KVCCFT bargaining team is dedicated to keeping you informed. We'll continue to post to this blog with any updates. Please contact one of your officers or stewards if you have further questions.
After a couple of incidences this week, KVCCFT believes it is imminent for you to know your rights in regards to being summoned to a meeting with management/administration.
If called to a meeting with management/administration, read the following statement to management/administration BEFORE the meeting starts!!! "If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Without representation present, then...
I choose not to participate in this discussion."
AFT will be sending individual "Weingarten Rights" cards for all KVCCFT members. This will allow you to have a copy of these rights with you at all times. If you have any questions, feel free to contact a KVCCFT officer or steward.
While it was once common for nearly all college professors to be tenure-track, full-time employees, these days a growing number are adjuncts: part-time employees who are hired on a contractual basis. In the past, these part-timers helped the university expand their course offerings or shared their own expertise in their field with students, but at many schools today, adjuncts teach more courses in certain departments than the full-time professors on staff. The growth in adjunct faculty has largely been driven by economic reasons, as universities look to cut costs by hiring faculty they can pay less and don’t have to offer benefits, rather than seeking out more full-time professors. This may save schools money, but many are beginning to believe that it’s a pretty poor deal in the long run, both for students who may not get the attention they need and the overworked and underpaid adjuncts.
In truth, little may have been made of the growing number of adjunct faculty if they were generally treated fairly and given support by universities, but unfortunately, at many schools that simply hasn’t been the case. Poor pay, no job security, and little respect from administrators makes adjunct work stressful and in some cases unsustainable, as well as preventing schools from opening up new full-time positions that would offer many adjuncts a way out of the insecurity of part-time work. As new studies have made the real depth of the problem clearer, protests have grown and adjuncts, full-time professors, and students alike are beginning to stand up en masse to push universities to make changes. Here we highlight some of the facts uncovered by that recent research, displaying some of the most serious problems caused by the growth of often exploitative practices in adjunct work.
Adjuncts may often fly below-the-radar, but they aren’t a rarity on college campuses, at least not these days. Today, adjuncts account for almost three quarters of the instructors in higher education. This is a marked increase from the 22% of faculty they comprised in 1970.
It should come as no surprise then that adjuncts are responsible for teaching a hefty chunk of undergraduate courses, especially large, introductory courses, which are often avoided by full-time faculty because they are grading-heavy and can be tedious to teach year after year.
Think your job is stressful? Imagine trying to prepare a semester’s worth of material — a syllabus, readings, projects, and assignments — in less than three weeks. That’s just what most adjuncts do. A survey of adjuncts by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education found that 33% of adjuncts are given three weeks or less to prepare, 17% less than two weeks, 18% between two and three weeks. What’s worse, it’s not only stressful for teachers, but that lack of time to prepare can also lead to diminished learning experiences for students.
The same survey also found that adjuncts rarely have access to resources they would need to prepare their course materials more than two weeks before classes begin. Forty-seven percent report limited access to copying, 45% library services, and 21% curriculum guidelines, all essentials for getting ready to teach students.
In addition to missing out on basics like copiers and libraries, adjuncts are also getting shorted when it comes to access to the technology required to perform their jobs. A survey found that 41% of adjuncts were not provided with access to a campus phone, little over half either had no access to a computer or only gained access to one less than two weeks before classes started.
Preparing for a course can take a significant amount of supplies and resources, which we’ve already discussed aren’t always easy for adjuncts to access at the colleges where they teach. As a result, many resort to buying their own supplies out of pocket, which can add up quickly in large courses and takes away from the already low salaries adjuncts are paid.
Not only are adjuncts spending their own money on supplies, but they’re also not always being paid for the time they spend prepping for courses. Even worse, when adjuncts finally are paid, many get checks as much as a month after they start working, a violation of many state employment laws that mandate pay on a bi-weekly or semi-monthly basis. Some colleges also require training that can take adjuncts as much as 20 hours to complete, time which, while a job requirement, is often unpaid.
Not only do adjunct professors not know what classes they’ll be teaching, students rarely know who’ll be teaching their courses. Because courses are assigned at the last minute, adjuncts often show up as simply “staff” on student schedules. This not only demeans the work they do but also gives students little chance to learn about their professors before heading to class.
As stressful as it is to be an adjunct, many can’t escape it if they want to keep working in their chosen field. The National Education Association (NEA) reports that about 33% of adjuncts have been working as part-time faculty for at least 10 years. Affirming these results, a survey at the Union County College found that two-thirds of adjuncts employed there had been part-time for five years and half had been doing it for more than 10 years.
If you’ve gone to college, you know it isn’t always easy to get used to a new campus. Now imagine you’re trying to work there, with no one to help you figure out where things are, introduce you to coworkers, or help you understand the guidelines of your department. That’s the situation that many adjuncts are in, with the vast majority receiving no campus or department orientation. What’s worse, a whopping 49% of adjuncts are new to the campus.
Adjunct compensation hasn’t kept up with inflation (neither have full-time professor salaries, but that’s another issue) and that means that many are struggling to get by on what they’re paid. At SUNY New Paltz, for example, adjuncts’ compensation (when adjusted for inflation) has plummeted 49% since 1970. And it isn’t simply a matter of the university lacking funds: during the same time, the salaries of the president and other top administrators increased by 35%.
While some schools are willing to pay adjuncts fair salaries, many more offer little compensation for the work done by adjuncts. At an average of five classes a semester (if they’re lucky), getting paid $2,000 per class, those adjuncts earn just $20,000 a year, dangerously close to the poverty line. At this rate, adjuncts are paid only 30% of what full-time faculty earn.
Some online universities have recently cut adjunct salaries, in some cases by as much as 33%. Argosy University is one example, with adjuncts teaching online at the school taking a substantial pay cut. Now, many are only paid $1,600 for undergraduate courses and $1,800 for graduate courses. That kind of cut makes it even harder for adjuncts to make ends meet.
While highly educated Ph.D. and master’s grads aren’t the likeliest recipients of government assistance, many adjuncts simply don’t make enough money to get by without relying on welfare or food stamps. The most recent U.S. Census found that of the 22 million Americans with master’s degrees or higher, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance. Even sadder, that number is more than double what it was in 2007. To put things into perspective, the poverty line in 2012 for a single mother with two children is $19,090, a figure that many adjuncts barely out-earn.
Sadly, the reluctance of colleges to hire more full-time faculty does have an impact on students. A study published in Educational Policy found that courses taught by adjuncts who are not well-supported by their institutions tended to increase dropout rates in first year students by about 10% to 30%.
The average full-time, tenured professor teaches three courses or fewer each semester. This allows for high-quality instruction and curriculum design, as well as time to focus on research and professional development, both of which benefit students. It is not uncommon for adjuncts to teach five courses a semester, with research, prep, and professional development having to be done on their own time.
As part-time employees, adjuncts don’t qualify for the health care and retirement benefits offered to most full-time professors at American colleges. While adjuncts could buy health care on their own or set up retirement plans, few make enough to afford those kinds of expenditures, leaving both their health and future security in question. Add in dependents, which many adjuncts have, and the lack of those benefits becomes even more serious.
While adjuncts may not get the same pay as full professors, they’re still expected to fulfill many of the same responsibilities, including meeting with students who have questions or concerns about their courses. In many cases, public spaces like libraries and coffee shops won’t suffice, as laws require these kinds of conversations to occur in private. Yet adjuncts aren’t even provided with a shared office on many, if not most, college campuses, making it very difficult to provide the support students need.
Academia has become incredibly competitive over the past two decades. Since the 1990s, the number of new Ph.D. graduates has grown by more than 50%, yet the number of full-time positions at colleges has remained the same or declined as colleges look to hire more adjuncts. The problem has become so bad that the American Federation of Teachers is pushing legislation that will mandate that at least 75% of classes be taught by tenured or tenure-track teachers.
One way adjuncts have been fighting back against poor working conditions is by unionizing. It seems to be helping. On unionized campuses, 34.3% of adjuncts get health benefits and 60.1% get retirement benefits. On non-unionized campuses, just 13.8% get health benefits and 27.5% get retirement benefits. There’s still a long way to go, however. Currently, just 59% of adjuncts work in positions covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Because there aren’t many classes taught over the summer, there aren’t many openings for adjuncts to teach. This can cause some serious problems. Not only do adjuncts not get paid when they’re not working (and most have to seek out other forms of employment to get by), but many lose the benefits they get from the university if they’re not working a set number of hours. That means health insurance could drop off for those three months, or in any semester an adjunct can’t pick up enough hours to qualify.
Even if adjuncts are out of work over the summer or during semesters when work is light, many don’t qualify for unemployment benefits or are blocked from doing so by the colleges where they teach. Why? Current unemployment laws block people from receiving benefits if they have a “reasonable assurance” of continued employment, which many colleges interpret as applying to the intention to rehire letters they give adjuncts. Yet, these letters aren’t a guarantee and are contingent on many factors like enrollment and available funds which are out of the control of adjuncts.
Many new grads see adjunct work as a stepping stone to a full-time position or a way to get experience while they wait for a job to open up. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Adjuncts are rarely hired on in a full-time capacity at the universities where they work, and the longer individuals work as adjuncts, the harder it is to find a tenure-track position.
Adjuncts are often jokingly called “roads scholars” (a play on Rhodes Scholars) because many spend so much time commuting from one college to another to teach. A survey of 500 adjuncts found that 54% were teaching at multiple institutions, and of those 29% were teaching at two schools, 11% at three, and 6% at an insane four institutions.
Being an adjunct professor can be a lonely profession. Adjuncts get to interact with students, but many don’t get a chance to establish relationships with professors or other faculty at the colleges where they teach. Part of it may be academic politics, but much more likely the lack of connection is due to the fact that most adjuncts simply don’t have the time to get to know colleagues, attend conferences, or engage in professional discourse as they balance teaching multiple courses at multiple universities.
Collective Bargaining: A Voice for Fair Wages and Benefits
Protects Working Families:
Collective bargaining keeps us safe and gives workers a voice to negotiate for
fair wages, benefits and pensions.
Levels the Playing Field for All Workers: Corporate CEOs are making millions in salary and bonuses, yet the
people who actually do the work have seen their wages and benefits cut.
Workers need protections from corporations
that arbitrarily cut wages, benefits, and pensions, and ship jobs overseas,
just to squeeze out more profits.
Why Your Support Makes a Difference:Lansing politicians are
rolling back current laws that protect wages, hours, and safe working
Keep Us Safe: Collective
bargaining gives firefighters, police officers, and nurses a voice to ensure
there is adequate staffing to keep our communities safe.
Firefighters and police officers are able to
negotiate for training and the life-saving equipment they need to protect us.
Improves Education for Kids:
Education improves when teachers have a voice to negotiate on behalf of
students and are protected from arbitrary behavior by Lansing politicians.
Teachers are able to keep class sizes small
and improve achievements by providing more personal attention to students.
Collective bargaining ensures that teachers
receive training and instruction materials that help children learn while
keeping them safe in the classroom.
Saved Michigan Jobs: Collective
bargaining helped save Michigan’s auto industry because employers and employees
negotiated to lower costs for manufacturers, while also ensuring that Michigan
factories stayed open and jobs were brought back from overseas.
Powerful corporate special interests have
pledged to do whatever it takes to win and will spend millions of dollars to
defeat the proposal.