Issue: #2 - New Faculty Majority E-NewsletterJuly 3, 2010

New Faculty Majority 

 The National Coalition for Adjunct & Contingent Equity
New Faculty Majority is Making Progress
by Maria Maisto, NFM President
Dear NFM Members:
 
I'm happy to report that our Unemployment Compensation Initiative has launched successfully and that faculty across the country are sending us important data as they file for benefits. In this issue, Steve Street describes his experience of filing successfully in New York. We are also hearing from people whose claims have been challenged and either granted or denied on appeal. All of this information will be crucial for us in persuading lawmakers that the "reasonable assurance" clause is often interpreted arbitrarily and needs to be clarified. 
 
Meanwhile, everyone who files a claim deserves our combined support,  practical and moral. Please check the UCI website soon for a list of state coordinators and an outline of their responsibilities. We welcome your leadership if no one has as yet volunteered for the position in your state. If you find on the list that a coordinator is already in place, please offer to help out.
 
As the campaign develops, we will be inviting you to share your own story on the website. We will also be focusing on particular issues and strategies that emerge as people file. Some members are interested to know how many contingent faculty have filed successfully in their state or from their institutions. The reports you file with us and the stories you write for us will help us to develop the full picture.
 
To our members who are also members of unions: as you know, we are eager to work in solidarity with unions to secure the right of unemployment insurance for all contingent faculty. New York State United Teachers has awarded us a $1000 grant, and we will soon be applying to AAUP, AFT, and NEA for support so we can maintain and develop the UCI website, gather and analyze data, provide individual assistance to faculty who are applying for benefits, and educate policymakers about the need to clarify laws and ensure they are fairly applied. If you would like your union to support our work, please let it know! 
 
Looking ahead, please consider whether you would like NFM to offer a group health insurance plan. Tracy Donhardt, our newest Board member, has been investigating the possibilities. Since many thousands of contingent faculty have limited or no access to health insurance, we are looking for ways to provide this benefit. Watch for a survey that will help us gauge interest.
 
In the meantime and ongoing, New Faculty Majority will continue to work on your behalf to achieve the equity we all deserve. I hope you saw the letter we wrote to the administration of East-West University in Chicago, which in our view is acting illegally to prevent the efforts of adjuncts there to unionize. I also hope you are following the positive news about the unionization drives of adjuncts in Michigan. Please add your voice to those supporting contingent faculty there as everywhere.
 
And here's wishing we could all meet one another in person at the ninth COCAL Conference in Quebec on August 13-15. If you go, please be sure to attend the NFM workshop on Saturday afternoon. We intend to begin a dialogue on new, practical ways to effect change.
 
Finally, as always, when you have ideas or comments about what we're doing or what we might do differently, please don't hesitate to contact me. And please encourage others to join New Faculty Majority, since it is only in large numbers that we can achieve our goals and be a voice that will be heeded.


All the best,
Maria Maisto's Signature
Maria Maisto, NFM President
An NFM Chapter Coming to a Campus Near You!
by Tracy Donhardt
New Faculty Majority has laid the groundwork for a national organization of adjunct and contingent faculty. Our leadership is comprised of adjunct, contingent, and tenured professors in many disciplines dedicated to achieving professional equity and advancing academic freedom for all.
 
NFM has launched a national initiative to help adjunct faculty exercise their rights for unemployment  insurance. And the group is exploring options to provide health insurance to its members, as well as other benefits down the road.
 
Now we need your help to build chapters - groups of adjunct and contingent faculty who will focus on specific geographic areas and local needs. Chapters will elect delegates to our first National Conference in 2011.
 
Chapters do more than spread the national message. Being local, chapters can help adjunct and contingent faculty at nearby colleges and universities with access to information, resources, professional development, and a host of other needs. Chapters can influence the local, state, and federal government, and they can educate and engage the wider community.
 
Chapters have the autonomy to recruit members, communicate with those members, and actively involve those members in initiatives the chapter identifies as necessary.
 
The fundamental message of NFM is that none of us has to do our work alone. We are preparing a toolkit that includes the national bylaws, sample chapter bylaws, resources, and other information to form and run a chapter. Board members are always available and eager to answer questions or address concerns.
 
If you are interested in forming a chapter or just getting more information, please contact Tracy Donhardt at tdonhard@iupui.edu or Maria Maisto at maria.maisto@newfacultymajority.info.
Non-Tenured Faculty: File for Unemployment 
by Jack Longmate
Unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state program that provides temporary financial assistance to workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. 
 
When the academic term ends, non-tenured faculty should do three things: (1) apply for unemployment; (2) if they are members of a union, inform their union that they are doing so and insist that the union support such applications in every way possible; and (3) inform the New Faculty Majority that they are doing so. 

Most contingent faculty do not file unemployment claims when they are separated from work. As Joe Berry, Beverly Stewart, and Helena Worthen explain in Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Contingent Faculty, most don't understand that they are "truly unemployed, without income, and without reasonable assurance of reemployment" (19).  

Sometimes colleges and universities suggest or imply that non-tenured faculty have "reasonable assurance of employment" because they have been offered a teaching job for the upcoming term. But if such jobs are dependent on "forecasted enrollment, funding, or other program decisions," they generally do not qualify as being "reasonable assurance." (In Washington State, RCW 50.44.055 makes clear that such conditions "are typically not reasonable assurances of employment.")
 
Why should contingents contact their union when they apply? Contingents who belong to unions have an interest in raising awareness and in establishing how much unions are willing and able to help. Often colleges and universities contract private, out-of-state "employment services" to represent the institution's interest (not the faculty member's interest) at hearings. While non-tenured faculty generally prevail in these hearings, it is best if the union is apprised of the challenge. The union may have good information to support an appeal and may provide a representative at the hearing. If no union representative is available, take Joe Berry's recommendation to form "a committee of two" and bring a friend or trusted colleague along.
 
Why should contingents let the New Faculty Majority know when they apply? NFM is collecting data about the process to serve as a basis for reforming the system.
 
Filing for unemployment is important not only for the temporary financial assistance it provides but also for the underlying principles it affirms. It is not fair for U.S. higher education to rely upon the armies of non-tenured faculty to teach a significant percentage of courses without complying with the employer-employee covenant. When U.S. higher education is made to reckon with the fact that the non-tenured faculty are living, breathing individuals, with lives and families and professional accomplishments-and not mechanical parts of a machine that can be exploited at will-perhaps non-tenured faculty can be treated with the dignity they deserve. 
 
The New Faculty Majority Unemployment Compensation Initiative is part of the wider movement in defense of contingent faculty. It is the first national effort of its type, and it deserves to succeed.
Adjuncts & Filing: What Shame's Got To Do with It
by Steve Street
In applying for unemployment compensation between teaching appointments, I had to overcome a sense of shame. I think of myself as non-judgmental, but the whole concept of unemployment compensation was associated strongly enough in my mind with people filling shopping carts with unhealthy foods that for 15 summers in the state where I live now, I didn't even think of applying.

Sometimes I had work between Spring and Fall semesters: a summer session at one of the nine schools or campuses I've taught for on a contingent basis in this area, freelance writing, test-grading, even manual labor for a reduction in rent. Between times, I've had savings to dip into, often while buying and reading books to prepare for the Fall courses for which I'd been scheduled, so eager was I to teach.  And I've always been lucky enough to have people in my life willing to make sure I didn't starve. Part of my shame surely came from that.

But it's the same shame that adjuncts are made to feel by institutions that relegate them to second-class status by paying them less than colleagues teaching equivalent courses, by not offering benefits or opportunities for advancement, and - at issue here - by providing no job security, even when issuing contracts that can be revoked at the last minute. Mine have always included some proviso like "contingent upon enrollment," even when my name's on the Fall schedule or a department chair has said my courses will likely run. Chairs will also say, even after the next semester's schedule has been posted and appointment letters gone out, "I just hope I don't have to cancel too many of these sections in August."

Forget shame. Employers who hire on a recurring basis but with temporary, nonbinding paperwork feel no pain at all, much less any of ours. Adjuncts who absorb the costs of their own on-again, off-again terms of employment are in effect subsidizing the system that exploits them. But employers of adjuncts who file unemployment claims will see a rise in their unemployment insurance premiums and other costs, which will be a motive to offer more binding, perhaps longer-term contracts that provide adjuncts more job security.

The unemployment payments I received last summer, along with an online/U.S.P.S. filing process and non-judgmental treatment from the Department of Labor staff I did have contact with, helped not only pay my rent and groceries but dispelled shame, anxiety, and a habitual feeling I hadn't even been aware of at the start of 15 school years: that even in September, I was already in the hole.
Taking it Digital: Social Media Musings 
The basic questions about social media are "what is it?" and "how do we use it?" and "why?" A short answer is that social media is a conversation, a dialogue  rather than a monologue, and that it uses digital communication tools to share information, raise awareness, build relationships, interact with others, and, above all, build community. 
 
NFM relies on the Internet to unite adjunct and contingent faculty nationwide and to build an irresistible movement for reform.
 
We blog (at The New Faculty Majority blog), we microblog or "tweet" (at New FacMajority on Twitter), and we have a social network page (The New Faculty Majority Coalition on Facebook). Each of these sites is linked with the others, and all are public: no registration or sign up is necessary for access.  
 
Since NFM social media are linked to each other and the main website, e.g. "networked," you can stay informed and connected by following as many or as few conversations as you choose. All are interactive although not to the same degree, and you can post comments as well as respond to comments posted by other visitors. We invite you to visit one or all, comment, reply, write on a wall, leave a link, make suggestions, ask questions - join a conversation or start one. 
 
While there is a more to come, here are a few good links until then:
 
 
With social media we are not just members of an audience. We are each a vital part of the conversation.
Supporting Ourselves 
This March, after we surveyed a sampling of members, the board of directors voted to solicit annual dues of $15 as a minimum suggested contribution. We hope this seems fair to you. NFM recognizes that summertime is an especially difficult financial time for adjunct faculty, so members who contribute $25 or more by September 30 will have paid dues both for 2010 and for 2011.
 
We are all volunteers, relying on one another. In our first year and a half of working countless hours to build a home organization for adjunct and contingent faculty, we have succeeded in claiming a place in the national conversation, most recently in The Huffington Post.  The first issue of our bimonthly newsletter described some of our projects; the present issue describes others.

It remains far more important for us to gather members than dues. But every organization needs sources of funding - even to do work that is rewarding in itself. With a growing membership, we shall soon establish the NFM Foundation to educate the public about employment practices at American colleges and universities and to secure foundation grants. For more specific projects in advocacy, legislative reform, and litigation, NFM needs your individual help, among other ways in the form of dues.
 
As soon as NFM has produced a bumper sticker, we'll send you one as a paid member helping to build public awareness and momentum for reform. On our website we welcome any suggestions you might have for a brilliant slogan.

Please give as much as you can, so NFM can continue to grow and to advance the cause of equity in higher education. If everyone responds to this appeal and as our membership increases, NFM will soon be able to afford a single assistant on a part-time basis to manage the membership list and administer the website. We are determined not to employ any staff until we can offer fair wages, and we pledge ourselves to work as volunteers until our larger work is done.
 
Dues are payable online at www.newfacultymajority.org or by check to

New Faculty Majority
1700 West Market Street #159
Akron, OH  44313-7002 
 
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NFM BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jen Bills
Ross Borden
Peter D.G. Brown
Tracy Donhardt
Eric Hultquist
William Lipkin (Treasurer)
Jack Longmate
Maria Maisto (President)
Sherryll Mleynek
Susan Raftery
Robert Samuels
Alan Trevithick
Rebecca Trussell
Vanessa Crary Vaile
Anne Wiegard (Secretary)
Matt Williams (Vice President)
Earl Yarington
 
NFM BOARD OF ADVISORS
Joe Berry
Marc Bousquet
Gwendolyn Bradley
Frank Cosco
Pablo Eisenberg
Judith Gappa
Elizabeth Hoffman
Deborah Louis
Richard Moser
Eileen E. Schell
Sandra Schroeder
 
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
NFM is dedicated to achieving professional equity and  advancing academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent faculty in American colleges and universities through advocacy,
education and litigation. NFM seeks the greatest possible degree of economic justice and academic freedom for all faculty and is committed to creating equitable, stable, non-exploitative academic environments that improve the quality of American higher education.
 
Any statements made or opinions held by the members of the Board of Directors or the NFM Advisory Board do not necessarily reflect the opinions of their employers or any other organizations or associations with which they may be affiliated.