Adjunct News

Taylor Fontes

The Changing Nature of Faculty

Posted on: August 4th, 2012 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

A report released this week entitled 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, is part of an ongoing project undertaken by a group of higher education experts, including faculty unions, to assess the relationship between the working conditions of adjunct faculty and student outcomes with the goal of improving both.

There is wide consensus that the current three-tiered faculty model is not working.  A new model being discussed, and according to the director of the project, Adrianna Kezar, who is an associate professor of higher education at USC, the model could potentially consist of full-time contingent positions with multi-year contracts (in lieu of tenure) and better integration into university life.  So essentially the project has multiple, sequential objectives:

1)   Fill in the gaps where data is missing on adjunct working conditions

2)   Determine how students are being affected by current adjunct working conditions (e.g., access to office space for meeting after class)

3)   Identify what needs improvement and whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs

4)   Establish a new model with guidelines for university leaders to implement

The project, which is funded by the Spencer Foundation, the Teagle Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is multi-faceted and comprehensive.  The hope is that by tapping into as many resources as possible, project participants will be able to collect valuable data and best practices.  This data will then be posted to the project’s website so that universities can their own stats with regional and national data.

We have done a pretty good job of chronicling adjunct working conditions from a moral stance, which will appeal to some groups more than others.  But this type of research takes a pragmatic, academic approach to asserting why adjunct working conditions matter.  It is simply not enough, unfortunately, to appeal to one’s sense of empathy and to champion the adjunct cause on moral grounds. If it can be demonstrated that working conditions directly impact  student outcomes,the rationale for improving such conditions transcends emotion; it becomes a policy issue affecting all stakeholders.  But what are the implications if this is indeed the conclusion the researchers come to?  How can we be sure that the results don’t backfire and impugn adjuncts for falling short of their tenured colleagues?  The only way to accurately determine if it there is a statistically significant relationship between working conditions and student outcomes is to compare outcomes of students under adjunct faculty instruction to those of students under full-time, tenured faculty instruction, controlling for important variables such as qualifications and experience.  The results must be compelling enough if they are to be an impetus for real systemic change.

To read the full article by Kastuv Basu go to:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/08/03/new-effort-discuss-adjuncts-and-faculty-jobs

To read the report go to:

http://www.uscrossier.org/pullias/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Delphi-Project_Report-on-Working-Meeting_Web-Version-2.pdf

Taylor Fontes

Columbia College Chicago Violated Rights of Adjuncts’ Union, Labor-Relations Board Say

Posted on: July 19th, 2012 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

The Part-Time Faculty Association of Columbia College in Chicago achieved a small, yet significant victory on Tuesday when an administrative law judge for the NLRB found the administration in violation of labor-relations law.  The administration had refused to bargain in good faith and withheld information from the union that it had changed schedules for part-time faculty from three courses per semester to two.  The judge ordered that affected faculty be paid what they would have received for teaching a third course.

To read the full article by Peter Schmidt go to:

http://chronicle.com/article/Columbia-College-Chicago/132979/

Taylor Fontes

Part-Time Faculty Union Prez Publishes Op-Ed Calling His Own Members “Monsters”

Posted on: July 14th, 2012 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

Allow me to arbitrate between two adjunct faculty members who posted blogs on AdjunctNation.com this week.  Mark James Miller, who is president of the Part-Time Faculty Union at Hancock University in California, posted an editorial commenting on the rapid growth of adjuncts, who – as we all know – comprise 75% of faculty across colleges and universities in the United States today.

His words echo those of many that have come before him in the media in terms of what is happening to higher education with respect to adjuncts.  His core argument is that higher education cannot and will not sustain itself by exploiting its labor force.  His first line states: “The American higher education system has created a monster…” and that it has built a “house of sand,” suggesting that sooner or later is going to come down and administration will have no one to blame but themselves for investing so poorly in their institutions.

The post was confronted with bitter backlash by P.D. Lesko, who alleges that faculty unions such as the AFT and the AAUP are reproaching the very individuals that they represent and from whom they collect union dues.  (She calls them suckers, by the way).  She accuses Miller of calling adjuncts monsters and alludes to a 2008 essay written by former president of the AAUP, Cary Nelson, in which he refers to adjuncts as “fast food faculty” “vampires,” and “nameless bodies.”

While Dr. Nelson’s characterizations may are less defensible, I do believe that Mr. Miller’s use of the word “monster” was taken out of context. Miller never referred to adjuncts themselves as monsters.  He referred to the system that has been created by higher education as a monster.  I do not believe that Mr. Miller is “vilifying” as she puts it.  Rather, he portrays them as highly educated persons who are being used and abused while at the same time being held to the same standards as their tenured counterparts.  To reiterate: it is the system he is blaming, not the adjuncts.

And with all due respect to Ms. Lasko, her criticism of Mr. Miller’s editorial is more insulting to adjuncts because it implies that everything would be fine if people would just quit their name-calling.  All of this negative energy would be better channeled into fighting for increased salaries, better job security, more comprehensive benefits and satisfactory working conditions.  Then, just maybe, the pejorative connotation that the term “adjunct” evokes would cease altogether.   Lasko does make one point that should be noted, and that is misconception that there is a high turnover among adjunct faculty.  While that may be the case on some campuses, it is the exception as opposed to the rule.  But is seems as though she was incited to retaliate based on this singular erroneous claim and it soured her entire impression of the argument that Miller was attempting to convey.

The mistake being made here is labeling individuals as adjuncts as though it were some type of inherent character trait rather than the manifestation of a capitalist system.  There may be nothing at all that differentiates an adjunct from a tenured professor in terms of experience or qualifications, and you can be sure that students can’t tell the difference and administrators don’t want them to.  As Mr. Miller points out, one does not pay less or receive less credit when they take a course taught by an adjunct.  And he is not arguing that this should be the case.  What he is saying is that if we truly value higher education in this country we had better start putting our money where our expectations are.

Just a final note: the Hofstra AAUP has really shored up its efforts to call attention to adjunct issues over the past year.  We have worked, and continue to work, at building our adjunct membership in order to have a union that benefits all faculty.  If you think that you are a sucker for paying dues, then you must be willing to settle for the status quo.

To read the blog post by Mark James Miller go to:

http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=4430

To read the blog post response by P.D. Lesko to to:

http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=4452