|Contingent Faculty Working Conditions Matter
by Maria Maisto, NFM President
Teachers' Working Conditions = Students' Learning Conditions...
If you have never heard this expression, we hope that you will soon say it to yourself every morning (or evening) on your way to work. We hope that you explain it to colleagues, administrators, students and neighbors in everyday conversation about the profession whose importance everyone acknowledges but whose working conditions are higher education's dirty little secret. And we hope that it will appear in bold letters and brave statements on placards and postcards, letters to the editor and letters to legislators, as you join with us to reform higher education once and for all. Long the slogan of faculty activists and their supporters in the most successfully unionized states, it is also one of our guiding principles at NFM, and I am proud to invoke it as I welcome you to the very first issue of our newsletter!
We are pleased to be able to add this communication channel to those (our blog, Twitter, and Facebook accounts) maintained by the efforts of our resident expert social networker, Vanessa Crary Vaile. Our goal for this and future editions of the newsletter is to provide you with regular updates on our activities, profiles of activists and efforts around the country, and practical advice to support your efforts to advocate for adjunct and contingent faculty in your community and beyond.
In this issue, I hope you'll carefully read Peter Brown's report on our origins and on the highlights of our first year as the only national organization devoted exclusively to adjunct and contingent faculty equity. Building a new national organization from scratch is not an easy task; however, with very little money and much donated time and effort, we have been able to get the organization incorporated, into the media and onto the conference circuit. We are now waiting for determination of our non-profit status, which will allow us to fundraise in earnest. We continue to work hard while we wait. Peter has also provided a list of our volunteer needs; please take a look and see if you--or anyone you know--can help us out!
Our biggest news is that we have decided to focus on unemployment insurance for adjunct and contingent faculty as our first major national initiative. In terms of both principle and practice, this makes eminent sense because it allows us to prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable constituents (adjuncts on term contracts with no other sources of income) while also building on the considerable organizational, advocacy, and legislative efforts of unions and of activists like Joe Berry. We are also delighted to report that NFM chapters are beginning to form: so far, preliminary steps have been taken in Ohio, Connecticut, Indiana, and Florida. Among the advantages of chapter formation: once NFM gets its nonprofit determination, its nonprofit status will transfer to chapters. This will be of enormous help for local fundraising efforts and other activities. Finally, our first member-initiated Project (please see our Bylawsfor an explanation of NFM Projects) will be an appeal to faith-based institutions to examine the contradictions between policies of contingent academic employment and the moral/ethical principles on which they are founded. Yvonne Bruce, a charter NFM member and part-time professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland, has drafted a letter that will be sent by NFM to the presidents of all Catholic colleges and universities, as well as to associations of Catholic colleges and universities, in the hope that they will step up to the moral leadership that their missions demand. If you would like to participate in this project or propose another one, please don't hesitate to contact us.
As adjunct and contingent faculty, we know what it's like to surmount considerable obstacles every day in order to do the important work of educating our students. NFM is putting this experience to good use on behalf of our colleagues and our profession because we believe that ultimately, it is the best way to serve our students. Join us, encourage others to join us, help us in whatever way you can. "Teachers' working conditions = students' learning conditions." Let's transform this worthy slogan from a warning and a rallying cry into a new definition of professionalism and student success.
All the best,
Maria Maisto, NFM President
|Get Up...Stand Up...File for Your Rights!
by Maria Maisto, NFM President
|NFM is proud to announce that we have launched a national initiative to secure unemployment insurance (UI) for adjunct and contingent faculty in between their terms of employment. Our goals are to encourage and support contingent faculty as they apply and to lobby the federal government to change the problematic "reasonable assurance" clause in federal unemployment law-the clause that has been invoked, in error and far too often, in order to deny faculty members a basic economic right.
When the NFM Board voted to take this on as its first major national initiative, we outlined the following as the rationale:
1. This campaign is an effort to help our most vulnerable constituents to gain access to resources that they need, to which they are entitled, and which they are too often denied. Many adjunct faculty members do not know that they can apply for UI in between terms, or are discouraged from filing. This initiative is meant to provide contingent faculty with support and solidarity as they claim this basic right. In other words, we will not be advocating for a brand new right but rather a right that already exists; even though it is inconsistently applied, there is legal precedent for it. Unemployment insurance is regularly denied to part-time faculty but is occasionally awarded to individuals who prevail in their appeals of denial and is regularly awarded to faculty in California, where the Cervisi decision
was decided by the CA Court of Appeals in 1989.
Many of the faculty unions have made some gains in this area or affirmed the need for this effort; however, they have never been able to launch a coordinated national campaign. We are well positioned to do so and see this as an ideal arena in which we can work with the three national faculty associations on a concrete issue of common interest. Joe Berry
, who has already done most of the groundwork on this issue, will be a primary consultant on the project.
2. Unemployment insurance is an issue that is timely and understandable to the general public and will be a good way to introduce the subject of contingent faculty rights to a broader audience, which is one of our primary goals. We hope this initiative will show our good faith, since we cannot be faulted for working to make institutions comply with existing law or for working to clarify and update a very vague and problematic legal standard. Furthermore, we want to help expose problematic or illegal practices; the regular denial that occurs outside of California, for example, is often deliberately pursued by colleges and universities who hire firms such as Talx
for the sole purpose of contesting UI applications because they stand to gain from not having to pay out hundreds of claims. Explaining the reasoning and methods involved in the decisions of most colleges and universities to fight unemployment insurance for contingent faculty will begin to expose the fundamental problems and contradictions inherent in institutional policies of contingent faculty employment.
3. We are interested to see how institutions will respond to this kind of pressure. We would hope that a reasonable response to a vast increase in UI applications may be for institutions simply to begin offering continuing contracts, which would be, as Jack Longmate often points out, a no-cost first step toward job security and more firm legal ground from which to continue to chip away at the existing system of contingent faculty employment. We are of course aware that institutions may well have "creative" responses, but we think that engagement in the light of day can only help our cause.
4. A national campaign will help facilitate efforts to address the issue at both the state and federal levels and help lay the foundation for future efforts on equally important issues. States usually deny claims based on a misunderstanding of the phrase "reasonable assurance of continued employment," an outdated standard found in federal unemployment law that was intended to prevent K-12 educators from "double dipping" during their breaks. The disingenuousness of higher ed on this issue is evident in the fact that most institutions have it specifically written into their rules that contingent faculty DON'T have reasonable assurance of continued employment (for example, at the University of Akron the official rules state that adjuncts have "no expectancy whatsoever" of continued employment, and yet adjuncts from UA and elsewhere are denied UI all the time). We believe that a concerted national effort at both the state and federal levels will lead to the clarification or elimination of the phrase and affirm this right more clearly.
5. The tasks necessary to launch and sustain this initiative--outreach to contingent faculty, gathering and disseminating information, collaborating with colleagues and with allied organizations inside and outside of higher ed--are the same tasks necessary for building NFM as a membership and advocacy organization, and we think that having a concrete project to work on will be more attractive and understandable to many potential collaborators and funders.
We have formed a steering committee and are recruiting key experts and activists to help us proceed. In the meantime, we have already:
* begun identifying regional coordinators to oversee the process of gathering detailed information about unemployment insurance regulations and processes in individual states (if you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact us!)
* begun constructing a website at which this information will be stored and classified and to which contingent faculty members can go for information about the particulars of unemployment insurance in their states. The website will also make it possible to gather data on the application process and its results (something Joe Berry has advised us is crucial); faculty members will be asked to report back to us their experience applying for UI, as well as the outcome.
* begun planning a publicity and information campaign to encourage unemployment insurance application rallies and parties and to secure the support and cooperation of allied individuals and organizations
* begun planning a summer meeting to educate the leadership of this campaign on the salient issues and challenges related to this effort
* begun drawing up a budget to guide fundraising efforts to support this campaign
* formally invited AAUP, AFT and NEA to partner with us on securing this basic right for contingent faculty across the country and received initial expressions of support. Discussion with all three organizations is currently ongoing to determine the nature and scope of their involvement; if you are a member of any of these organizations, we urge you to encourage it to support this initiative as strongly as possible.
We are actively seeking partnership and support to include the following:
1. Publicizing the campaign and encouraging participation.
2. Providing financial support and/or collaborating with us on fundraising efforts.
3. Working with us on planning state and federal lobbying efforts.
We hope you will join us as we officially launch this initiative on May 1st - Mayday for Adjunct and Contingent Faculty!
|Highlights from NFM's First Year
by Peter D.G. Brown
For some time, there have been discussions within the contingent activist community about establishing a national organization to advocate for contingent equity. In 1996, the Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) was formed in Washington, DC. This coalition began organizing conferences every other year at different sites and also established an adjunct listserv. By 2008, some activists felt strongly that the time had come for even more than just these two initiatives.
We envisioned a national organization that could advocate on a continuous basis for the more than one million contingent instructors who now constitute the majority of teachers in American higher education. Such an advocacy organization might look something like the National Organization for Women (NOW) or one of the national civil rights organizations. Keith Hoeller and others proposed establishing such a structure at the 2008 COCAL meeting in San Diego, but the proposal was voted down.
I met with Joe Berry in Chicago early in January 2009 and discussed the prospect of a national organization with him. He has been a pioneer in organizing adjuncts there and elsewhere, has co-authored the leading text on applying for unemployment insurance and is a widely known and respected leader in the movement for adjunct and contingent equity. As a tenured professor, I was reluctant to get the ball rolling myself, as it seemed more appropriate for a non-tenured activist to assume the role of convener. However, when Joe declined to become involved in establishing a national organization, I felt we could not wait any longer and took the next step myself.
On February 2, 2009, I sketched out my vision in a message to the adj-l list, inviting people to work on an organizing committee. The message read in part:
I would now like to move ahead with forging a yet-to-be-named organization with the working title of National Coalition for Adjunct Equity (NCAE). The first step will be to invite known activists interested in working on forming such an organization to serve on an organizing committee. As currently envisioned, the coalition would eventually be governed by a Board of Directors, while other individuals would be invited to serve on an Advisory Board. The directors would determine the organizational structure and set policy, while the Advisory Board would provide input, some financial resources and liaison with other organizations. Among other educational and outreach projects, I see the need for the establishment of national legislative priorities and appropriate actions to support them.
This new NCAE is not designed to supplant or be in competition with unions or any other currently existing organization. They all have their purposes and have been run by highly dedicated folks from around the country.
I would like to see a fully independent national organization advocating exclusively for contingent faculty equity 52 weeks of the year. It should be led by adjunct and contingent faculty working together with tenured professors like myself, both inside and outside union structures. It should foster a grass-roots movement that will work toward empowering contingent academic labor around the country.
Within minutes, the first enthusiastic responses poured in, and we formed an organizing committee of about a dozen activists, who had their first "meeting" via a telephone conference call three weeks later. The participants at this initial meeting were Ross Borden (SUNY Cortland), Frank Cosco (Vancouver), Keith Hoeller (Green River CC), Jack Longmate (Olympia College, WA), Deborah Louis (Asheville Buncombe Technical CC and Eastern KY U), Maria Maisto (U Akron, OH), Rich Moser (Rutgers, NJ), Judy Olson (California SU at LA), Alan Trevithick (Fordham U & Westchester CC, NY), Anne Wiegard (SUNY Cortland) and myself (SUNY New Palz).
Deciding on a Name
At this initial meeting, we adopted the principle of majority rule as our decision-making procedure by a narrow vote of 6-5. The minority strongly favored consensus. On the other hand, Deborah Louis and Maria Maisto were unanimously elected to co-chair the NCAE coordinating committee, and I gladly relinquished my role of convener. It was decided to initially focus our efforts on drafting a mission statement and by-laws, while simultaneously developing procedures for communication and fundraising. A press release followed the next day, announcing our formation to the world at large.
Since last February, most of the original organizing committee has stayed on in some capacity, while new members have joined and some have left us entirely. We quickly learned that actually building a national organization is a lot more challenging than simply talking about forming one. After six weeks of thorough and sometimes exhausting discussions, the organizing committee formally adopted our official name in March 2009. Henceforth we would be known as New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct & Contingent Equity.
Creating Organizational Structures
In May 2009, Deborah Louis resigned as co-chair and Matt Williams (U Akron, OH) assumed the newly created position of vice chair. Since then, he has worked on developing and maintaining our website, filing for NFM's incorporation in the state of Ohio, providing organizational office space in Akron and working closely with Maria Maisto in leading NFM onto the national stage. Deb has remained with NFM, continuing to work on developing our by-laws and preparing our application for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS, both of which progressed slowly and occupied us for much of the rest of the year.
A major development in 2009 was the creation of NFM's Advisory Board. In addition to several previous members of our original Organizing Committee, the advisory board constitutes a distinguished panel of experts from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. They provide ongoing feedback to the Board of Directors, the leadership that evolved from the original Organizing Committee. The members of the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board are listed on the Leadership page of NFM's website: www.newfacultymajority.info.
Setting Organizational Goals
During the summer of 2009, NFM formulated its seven key organization goals on behalf of the over one million teachers in American higher education who are contingent academic labor:
· Equity in Compensation: Equal Pay for Equal Work
· Equity in Job Security: Automatic Contract Renewals after Probationary Period
· Equity in Academic Freedom: Freedom from Retaliation in All Teaching and Research
· Equity in Faculty Governance: Right to Participate Equally for All Faculty Members
· Equity in Professional Advancement: Progressive Salary Steps and Equal Access to Professional Development Opportunities for All Faculty
· Equity in Benefits: Access to the Same Health Insurance & Retirement Benefits for All
· Equity in Unemployment Insurance: Access to the Same Benefits as Other Employees between Jobs
These goals are not prioritized or listed in order of importance. As a matter of fact, our first major national campaign will focus on the last one listed, which will be coordinating an initiative to provide access to unemployment insurance for all those contingent instructors over breaks without a guarantee of continued employment.
Coming out with a Media Coup
September 10, 2009, was an important day in our short history, marking our organizational coming-out with something of a media coup. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a cover story on NFM focusing on our president, titled "An Activist Adjunct Shoulders the Weight of a New Advocacy Group". The very same day, an editorial by Maria Maisto appeared in Inside Higher Ed, "The Adjunct's Moment of Truth". Now NFM became known to a much wider academic audience, as we spurted to complete work on the by-laws and our IRS application.
A group of some of the more active members of the NFM Board of Directors met for the first time face to face over the weekend of March 12-14, 2010 in our new office space provided by Matt Williams in downtown Akron. Physically present were Anne Wiegard, Ross Borden and Peter Brown from New York, as well as Maria Maisto as NFM President and Matt Williams as NFM Vice President. We also teleconferenced with directors who could not be in Ohio: Bill Lipkin (Treasurer), Alan Trevithick and Jack Longmate, as well as Frank Cosco from the Advisory Board.
Anne has provided a more detailed summary of the meeting elsewhere in this issue of the NFM Newsletter. Those in attendance were able to critically review what we had accomplished during the first year and, more importantly, to begin developing concrete plans for our second year and beyond. There was a great deal of discussion surrounding our forthcoming Unemployment Compensation Initiative (UCI), as well long-range plans extending one or more decades into the future. We also met with local activists who want to form an Ohio chapter of NFM.
Since none of the members of the Board of Directors has much recent experience fundraising, it has taken us a while to research the field and begin to formulate a strategy for developing resources to sustain the organization. The idea of charging our members annual dues has been a contentious issue from the very beginning. It was not until our March meeting in Akron that we formally adopted a policy of asking our members for a suggested minimum fee of $15. We hope that many members will want and be able to contribute more. However, NFM membership contributions from cash-strapped adjuncts will not provide sufficient resources to rent, equip and staff an office to run the organization as behooves an effective national advocacy group.
It is clear that once we receive our federal tax-exempt status from the IRS later this year, we will need to engage in sustained fundraising efforts. In this connection, NFM was fortunate to be contacted earlier this year by Pablo Eisenberg, currently a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. He is a leading advocate for greater accountability and commitment by philanthropy in the United States and has offered to advise us as we proceed to undertake major fundraising initiatives.
NFM hits the Conference Circuit
Throughout 2010, the NFM leadership has scheduled attendance at a variety of regional, national and international conferences. Here is a selection:
March 24-27, Jack Longmate spoke at two sessions of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Convention that took place in Boston, MA.
March 25-27, Maria Maisto co-facilitated a workshop on "Supporting Deep Engagement of Faculty in New Approaches to Student Learning" at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) conference on Faculty Roles in High-Impact Practices in Philadelphia, PA.
Also in March, Jen Bills and Bill Lipkin attended the joint AFT/NEA Conference on Higher Education in San Jose, CA.
April 11-13, Maria Maisto, Matt Williams, Alan Trevithick and Peter Brown presented a panel on De-Marginalizing Contingent Faculty at the annual conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, NYC.
June 3-5, Maria Maisto and Steve Street will be speaking on contingent academic labor at the conference on How Class Works, SUNY Stony Brook, NY.
August 13-15, Maria Maisto, Ross Borden, Anne Wiegard, Peter Brown and others will be presenting a panel on NFM at the COCAL Conference at Université Laval in Québec City, Canada.
These conferences are excellent opportunities for us to introduce NFM to a wider audience of individuals and organizations, while networking with potential allies and supporters from around the country. Attendance at these events is expensive, and given NFM's limited resources, we seek funding wherever possible from outside sources. Some of us have also had to dig deep into our own pockets.
Unemployment Compensation Initiative
As outlined in greater detail by our President elsewhere in this Newsletter, NFM is preparing to launch a major national campaign to provide adjuncts and contingent faculty with access to unemployment insurance. We will be coordinating our Unemployment Compensation Initiative (UCI) with some of the leading national labor federations, along with other nonprofit organizations and government agencies. This campaign will be enormously challenging for our fledgling organization, but will also provide us with a great opportunity to serve our constituency, over one million strong, during a time of severe economic stress.
|Call for Volunteers
by Peter D.G. Brown
All of us here at NFM are volunteers, freely donating our time and talents to build the only national membership organization in American devoted exclusively to pursuing contingent equity on a sustained basis. We are looking for many more volunteers who would be interested in:
· Providing us with legal, nonprofit management, and fundraising expertise
· Working on the Newsletter
· Designing t-shirts, bumper stickers, posters, etc.
· Working on the Unemployment Compensation Initiative
· Starting a state or college chapter of NFM
· Blogging on contingent issues
· Writing letters to editors
· Calling radio talk shows
· Conducting academic research
· Recruiting members
· Serving on the NFM Board
· Distributing handbills & literature
· Producing videos
· Sharing your story on video
· Linking to NFM website from your website
· Donating Materials/Supplies to NFM
· Interning at NFM offices in Akron, Ohio
Even small donations of your time are greatly appreciated. Please contact us and get involved today:
Maria Maisto, President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Williams, Vice President: email@example.com
Anne Wiegard, Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
|NFM Financial News
by Bill Lipkin, NFM Treasurer
New Faculty Majority would like to thank everyone for their generous donations to the organization. We are working hard to achieve equity for adjuncts, and every donation helps us to take one more step toward that goal. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to make a contribution, we would encourage you to do so. We are making daily progress, and the NFM Board is using donations to furnish members with printed materials, ensure representation at conferences, and to otherwise advance the purposes of the organization. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
|Introducing New Chapters
Over the years, contingent faculty activists and organizers have talked about forming their own national organization, only to put the dream aside to focus on campus, state and regional issues. Distance and diversity hinder and might seem to block cooperative action on a broader, national scale. Just as strong state or campus organizations deal with local conditions, chapters speak to overcoming the obstacles of establishing a nationwide organization for contingent/adjunct faculty. Who is not already familiar with (or belongs to) chapters in other organizations? The chapter principle is not that different among organizations.
Local New Faculty Majority chapters will be affiliated groups that share our purpose and goals and support them within a state, region or on a specific campus. They are not bargaining units. The individual campus might seem the logical basis for chapter organization, but adjuncts/ contingents teaching at multiple colleges within a densely populated region might also form a multiple campus chapter. The inherent flexibility of chapters allows local groups to address issues and problems specific to their campus or region in ways appropriate to local conditions.
Depending on individual makeup, constituency and local conditions, NFM chapters will support and promote adjunct and contingent faculty both in the national coalition and in their local communities--organizing local events and projects, educating administrators, faculty, students and the general public about adjunct/contingent faculty issues and conditions, but also supporting national actions for change and initiatives, such as the Unemployment Compensation Initiative (UCI). Chapters will also be a point of contact for potential local volunteers, partners and supporters collaborating on specific local needs.
Watch for our next step, a Toolkit for Organizing Chapters. In the meantime, talk the idea up with your colleagues. Be ready to form a chapter and take your next steps. As for NFM's next steps (in addition to UCI), we are working on expanding the scope of chapters to offer access to benefits that might not otherwise be available.
Highlights of the Akron Meeting on March 13 & 14
by Anne Wiegard, NFM Secretary
|After a year of meeting virtually, the Akron Summit participants enjoyed being physically in the same room. We are already looking forward to our next in-person board meeting, possibly this summer in Chicago, and hope that more members will be able to attend. |
Peter Brown, Ross Borden and Anne Wiegard traveled to Akron for the weekend summit hosted by Maria Maisto and Matt Williams at the NFM office suite. Various other board members (Bill Lipkin, Steve Street, Alan Trevithick, Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco) were present via telephone during the second day of the meeting, which included the usual Sunday evening teleconference of all interested parties.
The agenda was ambitious:
I. Building Organizational Capacity: Budget, Recruiting, Chapter Formation
II. Unemployment Compensation Initiative
III. Strategic Planning: Setting Mid and Long-Range Goals with Timelines
IV. Meet and Greet and Organizing the Ohio NFM Chapter
V. Workshop on Website management
Continuing fundraising efforts by Maria and Matt have moved forward by leaps and bounds under the generous tutelage of Pablo Eisenberg. A door has been opened at the Gund Foundation in Ohio, and other possible donors are being identified and cultivated.
We unanimously passed a motion that we set our dues at a $15 suggested minimum due July 1, 2010, for this calendar year, for all members who join prior to that date, and that after that date, the $15 suggested minimum dues will be levied upon registration for the calendar year during which the member registers. We also approved a proposed budget, drafted by Bill Lipkin and Deb Louis, and a "Toolkit for New Members," drafted by Maria, that will be available on the NFM website.
Unemployment Compensation Initiative
The NFM Board decided at the Akron to undertake a national initiative to pursue a more equitable administration of unemployment compensation for adjunct & contingent faculty. This project is outlined in greater detail at several other points in this edition of the newsletter. The Board's adoption of this initiative at the Akron meeting was a major accomplishment for NFM.
Maria described the faith-based initiative kicked off by the moral arguments in Yvonne Bruce's draft of a letter to Catholic Universities about their treatment of contingent faculty. Yvonne came to the afternoon Meet and Greet and agreed to become the NFM coordinator of the faith-based initiative. Since Alan works at Fordham, he volunteered to also work on this project.
Other Strategic Planning
Many of our objectives are in line with the current agendas of other important organizations. All the unions have initiatives for contingents on the books, but none of them appears to be working hard enough on them. Of course, all colleges and universities are challenged fiscally right now, but in the contingent faculty workplace, there are plenty of important changes that do not require the expenditure of funds--such as establishing a seniority system and finite ends to the perpetual probationary job status that is so common with adjunct and part-time faculty assignments so that they might have a non-probationary status--but, rather, to keep pressing them to make room in their budgets for equitable terms and conditions for the majority of their workforce. The gains in Vancouver and California should make it realistic for us to achieve our goals more quickly than the time it took them.
Meet and Greet
For more than two hours, ten contingent faculty members from northeast Ohio discussed with NFM board members the plans for the UI campaign and NFM's other goals, as well as their specific issues at their own institutions. The Ohioans decided to meet on Sunday March 28 to organize an Ohio Chapter of NFM.
As Matt demonstrated the NFM website, we reviewed its current shortcomings and discussed how these issues might best be addressed. We looked at the membership list, and Maria volunteered to do the data management for membership. We made a list of ideas for articles for the NFM newsletter
NFM Opens National Headquarters
by Matt Williams, NFM Vice President
New Faculty Majority opened its national headquarters in March in a small office building immediately adjacent to The University of Akron in downtown Akron, Ohio. The office space is located in the basement of a three story brick office building, which houses a software development company, a law firm, and an office furnishings company. The address is 313 South High Street, Suite B, Akron, Ohio 44308.
Maria and Matt had the pleasure of welcoming Peter Brown, Anne Wiegard, and Ross Borden to Akron in March for a weekend work session and board meeting. During that weekend, NFM also hosted about a dozen ad/con faculty from The University of Akron and other surrounding colleges and universities for a meet and greet with the NFM board. Having an office space--modest as it is--affords NFM a home base for its operations and serves to project a professional presence. Matt and Maria plan to spend a considerable amount of time working from the office this summer on the Unemployment Compensation Initiative.
NFM's "subterranean" office, as Peter has so aptly characterized it, is apropos given the emergence of contingent faculty from the shadows of marginalization to the bright light of public awareness. We all embrace the notion that someday adjunct and contingent faculty will enjoy sufficient security in the circumstances of their employment to permit them to more openly advocate for their own just and equitable treatment.
NFM and the TESOL Convention
I was one of about 8,000 in attendance for the 2010 teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) convention that took place at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center March 24 through 27.|
As a disciplinary association, TESOL encompasses higher education, adult basic education, and K-12 teaching, along with public institutions and many private, entrepreneurial institutions. Since the teaching of English to speakers of other languages takes place across all institutional types worldwide, there is a decidedly international flavor to the convention.
Of all higher education disciplines, the teaching of English to speakers of other languages is among the most heavily dominated by non-tenured appointments. In fact, according to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the teaching of ESL is at the very top. As such, it is certainly appropriate for the issues of contingent faculty to be raised at the convention, the foremost meeting of educators connected with this field.
The prevalence of part-time positions in lieu of stable full-time tenured ones shows that ESL instruction has long been underfunded. But it is suffering still more severe setbacks now: during the budget crisis, some ESL programs, and the instructors who support them, are especially vulnerable to cuts.
Within TESOL, there are two organizational entities that deal with the questions of contingency: the Forum for Fair Employment and TESOL's Standing Committee on Employment Issues. The former maintains an information table during the convention and attempts to recruit activists to contribute to the effort, and I distributed some of the first run of NFM brochures here. TESOL's employment issues committee hopes to take part in COCAL in Quebec City, though TESOL support to send representatives has been cut this year.
I spoke at two sessions. In the Forum for Fair Employment academic session entitled "Employment Status: Effects and Actions," one of my first slides was a scanned version of my year-ending paystub, which showed my annual earnings as an adjunct English instructor to be $18,706 for working 66% of a full-time teaching load. I pointed out that such a salary is mischaracterized if it's called "low." It's a poverty-level salary. I then pointed out how faculty like me now make up the new faculty majority, and then made mention of NFM, with a slide that showed the website and the office building. I also reported on recent reports on contingent faculty, one being the Coalition on the Academic Workforce's "One Faculty Serving All Students," for which TESOL was a signatory.
Given the dismal budgetary health that most states find themselves in at present, now is not the best time to ask for higher wages, but what could be asked for, which does not make a budgetary impact, is job security. On this theme, I shared the job security resolution proposed at the MLA in December which is under consideration by the MLA membership right now, and suggested that TESOL might support it. I also said that an excellent way to help job security come about is to apply for unemployment insurance between terms. I was pleased that the idea of applying for UI seemed to take a young woman from the Midwest by surprise. Having Joe Berry's excellent pamphlet on hand I think made my suggestions more credible.
The other session I took part in, entitled "Building Professionalism through Improved Employment Conditions," was the academic session of the Standing Committee on Employment Issues, which I have had the honor of chairing this past year. While the most noteworthy development does not relate to contingent faculty directly, it is well worth considering. In Vancouver, BC, Canada, teachers at the largest private English language teaching institute, with over 150 teachers, unionized. This is, I believe, remarkable since Vancouver is a very competitive English language market, with many schools competing with one other, which would make it seem among the least likely of places to organize. But the organizers managed to get unanimous support from the staff.
At this private ESL institute, the teachers' union bargained salaries and working conditions that are either competitive with or better than those available in public community colleges in Washington State; the beginning salary, for example, is $50,000 annually (Canadian, which is slightly less in US currency, depending on the exchange rate, e.g., 44 to 48k). That beginning salary exceeds the beginning full-time tenured-track salary of my institution in Washington State. It is also noteworthy that, at the beginning of the negotiations, the employer sought a number of concessions from the teachers, but the union's president, Bari Blackhart, stood firm, secured the solidarity of the teaching staff, and filed for a strike vote, which brought about a change of heart, and the employer agreed to the terms the teachers wanted. Also, the same union, called the ETEA, which is now affiliated with the primary higher education union in British Columbia, the FPSE, has organized two other private schools in Vancouver. I believe that roughly 300 ESL teachers in Vancouver are now unionized.
Amid the miserable news of program cuts and layoffs, the strength that can come through solidarity is indeed encouraging. Maybe there is a lesson here for the contingent faculty movement.
|Notice of Proposed Change in NFM Bylaws |
The NFM Board proposes that Article VII, Section 3, Paragraph A be deleted, since we think that NFM Members should not have to choose between participating in chapters or participating in projects but should be free to do both:
"A. Members residing or working in a given state or region may elect to form either chapters or projects on the local level, but not both within any given state."
The current NFM Bylaws are posted on the NFM website. Proposed amendments to the Bylaws require 30 day's notice to the membership for review and comment. Please send any objections to Maria Maisto, at email@example.com.