|Looking Back, Looking Forward
by Maria Maisto, NFM President
Welcome back to another school year, the second academic year of NFM's existence and, we think, a critical year in the struggle to reform higher education. This issue of our newsletter focuses on events and developments that took place over the summer.
The summer has been anything but a hiatus for those working to end exploitative employment practices at colleges and universities around the country. News of new adjunct unions in Michigan has been heartening, as has been the slow but steady progress on changing the Ohio legislation that prevents part-time faculty and graduate students from collective bargaining. The appalling situation at East-West University in Chicago has taken an encouraging turn as the National Labor Relations Board has filed an Unfair Labor Practices charge against the administration for its non-renewals of adjuncts who had tried to organize. Meanwhile, in contrast to East-West, the University of Dayton has provided a model of administration-faculty cooperation for the purpose of improving faculty working conditions. Finally, the biennial COCAL conference in mid-August in Quebec City brought activists together for support, solidarity, and renewed commitment to forging a practical solution to the problem of contingency.
At COCAL, our own Board members Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco introduced the draft of a groundbreaking practical, long-term action plan based on exemplary -- and more importantly, existing -- conditions at Vancouver Community College. As we had hoped, the plan has already generated vigorous discussion in the blogosphere and ideas for its continued development. In this newsletter, NFM Board members who attended COCAL describe thought-provoking ideas and information that were shared in Quebec. Look on our web site soon for links to podcasts of COCAL sessions.
Over the summer our Unemployment Compensation Initiative has been bringing faculty together for support and solidarity in their applications for this critical assistance. The Initiative has also begun generating important new data that will form the basis for a coordinated lobbying effort at state and national levels. We have received reports that demonstrate, concretely and often dramatically, what we have always known: that the "reasonable assurance" clause is poorly understood and inconsistently applied. As our UCI encourages faculty members to apply for benefits, however, and as one of our newest Board members Steve Street writes in this issue, we need to remind everyone of the importance of careful planning and support when denials occur and faculty members find themselves facing a hearing.
Please note that another new Board member, Paul Ehrlich, has assumed coordination of the UCI along with our resident social networker, Vanessa Vaile. Meanwhile, in the first of two articles, Paul describes the careers of adjunct research faculty in the sciences and technology. This group of contingent faculty is a potential source of a large number of new NFM members. Also in this issue, Tracy Donhardt updates you on our health insurance survey, which generated an impressive and extremely helpful response that is helping us to finalize our assessment of the health insurance plans that we will be able to make available to NFM members.
At NFM we have been participating in or following all of these developments while continuing to work on getting the organization up and running. Key to our progress has been our growing membership. Our collective voice will be heard more clearly as our numbers continue to rise, so please encourage people to join. Keep in mind that members do not have to be adjunct or contingent faculty themselves, just people committed to quality education through fair employment practices. In fact, we want members who represent all the sectors of society adversely affected by the unprofessional treatment of adjunct and contingent faculty - in other words, anyone -- student, faculty member, administrator, family member, employer, legislator, average citizen -- who cares about the quality of higher education and the right of workers to a living wage.
On the organizational front, we have received our 501(c) 6 tax-exempt status from the IRS and are constructing our affiliated 501(c)3, the NFM Foundation. The latter organization, which will be able to receive funding from foundations as well as individuals, will support efforts like research, public outreach and education, conference attendance and planning (to keep the issue in play in all ongoing conversations within and about higher education), and the establishment of special programs like emergency/legal assistance funds for adjunct and contingent faculty.
As you know, the start of a new school year is a particularly stressful time for adjunct and contingent faculty, as far too many of us are finalizing unpaid course preparation, scrambling to put together a last-minute, often overloaded work schedule just to approach a living wage, or appealing denials of summer unemployment insurance precipitated by penny-wise, pound-foolish institutions. NFM exists to make future summers and school years the appropriately professional experiences that students need and expect for the people who are charged with the all-important job of providing their education. We look forward to continuing to work with you and for you on this important mission.
All the best,
Maria Maisto, NFM President
|The Results of the Benefits Survey Are in!|
By Tracy Donhardt
An impressive number of you recently responded to a survey about your health and other benefit needs. As the survey indicated, New Faculty Majority is working on offering medical insurance to its members, as well as other benefits like dental, vision, and retirement. Here are the highlights of that survey:
- 66% of you "definitely need" medical insurance.
- 46% of you "definitely need" dental insurance.
- 31% of you "definitely need" vision insurance.
- 27% of you "definitely need" short- and/or long-term disability insurance.
- 20% of you "definitely need" life insurance.
- 22% of you "definitely need" a non-matching retirement plan. (Non-matching means you make the contributions on your own; there is no matching contribution from an employer or New Faculty Majority.)
- $217 per month is the average highest amount members said they could pay for medical insurance.
- 56% of you are interested in discounts on auto, home, or rental insurance -- we are working on this.
- Additional benefits you'd like to see New Faculty Majority offer: legal services, software/computer discounts, professional development funds, long-term health care, discounts on travel/car rental, and health club discounts -- we are working on these.
So where do we go from here? New Faculty Majority has sent the survey results to insurance carriers to develop plan options and rates for our group. We expect to have that information to share with you very shortly.
In response to many of you who asked about other benefits, please keep in mind that what New Faculty Majority can do for you in this area is limited. We are a group and so we can offer group health insurance and certain other benefits. But we're a fairly new group and we're not an employer, and so we cannot, at this time, offer a full indemnity medical plan, even one with a high deductible. It's possible, however, as New Faculty Majority grows and once we have existed for a longer period of time, insurance carriers will expand their offerings.
We also cannot offer cafeteria type plans because there is no ability to make pre-tax contributions, nor can we provide for payroll deductions to make payments for benefits. Similarly, we can't provide vacation or sick time pay, better parking, or better access to particular university services (library, cubicle space, etc.). We welcome questions you have about all this, so if you have any, please email me at email@example.com.
New Faculty Majority is addressing unemployment compensation with our National Unemployment Compensation Initiative. See information about this here
In the meantime, here are some comments we received with the survey. It's clear that while our individual situations often differ in many ways, our overall needs of equitable pay, benefits, security, and respect are not being met. I want full-time work. I want job security. I want a profession restored to faculty. I want advancement, an office, and a presence at the university. I want the benefit of being treated like the professional I am.
Health insurance is key to my family's security and survival. I just landed a tenure-track job. I still want to support this organization, though, and its mission. I spent 10 years as an adjunct, so I know what the issues are and I feel compelled to stay active on behalf of my colleagues who still struggle in the trenches.
Rather than rant on about injustice, I will merely state that my single mother welfare students have better health care benefits than me. They also receive reduced tuition and food stamps, while I am still struggling to pay my ancient student loans. This is a sad state of affairs.
This is a national shame. Collating and publishing your findings may advance public awareness as well as force universities to reevaluate their practices in both hiring and treating adjunct faculty equitably.
Why is it that the "little people" have to fight so hard just to be treated decently?
|Was Your UIC Claim Denied? Appeal, But Keep It Simple|
By Steve Street
My school's fall appointment letters, issued the preceding spring, read "This offer is ... conditioned upon a sufficient number of students enrolling in the course...," making the contract clearly speculative, to an adjunct's life and mind. And in the summer of 2009, the first time I'd thought to apply for UI payments after 15 years of working on such contracts, the Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance Division seemed to agree.
But in the summer of 2010, though my contract hadn't changed, my claim was denied. When I persisted, I was scheduled for a hearing a month later before an Administrative Law Judge. "As a claimant, you may have to REPAY BENEFITS ALREADY RECEIVED if a decision by a judge results in a decrease or a denial of your benefits," read my Notice of Hearing (emphasis its own), so I wanted to get this right.
Mindful of Joe Berry's advice after the 1991 Campbell decision in Illinois, in which an unrepresented adjunct was deemed to have "reasonable assurance of future employment" by the mere fact of having been re-hired year after year previously, regardless of what his contract said, I sought representation. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), a union affiliated with my own United University Professions, supports legislation currently in committee that would expressly guarantee the claims of part-time faculty in higher education whose contracts are dependent on enrollment, funding, or programmatic factors outside their control. But after a couple of unanswered queries, my local Labor Relations Specialist informed me that NYSUT's policy was not to represent individual members.
He did however direct me to a labor representative employed by a local law firm, not an attorney himself but experienced in UIC claims, who agreed to advise me and accompany me to my hearing pro bono, "because it's an interesting case." Lucky for me.
I'd meticulously prepared by going downtown to read my file, a claimant's right, and subpoenaing - another right - the secretary who'd told a UID caller that fall enrollments at my school were way up, so I had reasonable assurance. Not only was that news never communicated to me, but my program director had told the assembled faculty a month after appointment letters were issued that because of state budget uncertainty, all classes were in doubt. In spite of potential severe career damage I considered subpoenaing her; instead I asked her for a letter for the ALJ, which she declined to write. But I did have photocopies of my school's computer enrollment data at various times after the secretary's claim that I had reasonable assurance: these showed two of my three scheduled courses with enrollments fluctuating from 15, the cancellation number, to zero. I consolidated all this paperwork as attachments keyed to a two-page chronological explanation of every single possibly pertinent development in my claim.
These included some discrepancies on both parts: a phone message from the UID that I'd inadvertently deleted, for example, had been left with a call-back request by 7/21, but my claim denial was issued on 7/20; then a memo had been added to my file, faulting me for not calling back. Also the state labor law read in one place that claimants couldn't collect if "there is reasonable assurance of reemployment" - which indicates it merely exists, even if only from the employer's point of view - but in another place the law stipulated that "CLAIMANT must have reasonable reassurance....[emphasis mine]." I photocopied and highlighted that, too. In final preparation I watched Al Pacino's climactic scene
in "Justice for All." It's a kick - but no way to act at in a UIC hearing, as it turned out.
"No, no, no," my labor representative said, paging through my 10-page packet, tearing items out. Apparently, just as with teaching, it was possible to over prepare. Having appeared before my judge many times, my labor rep said I couldn't have picked a worse one: hardworking and humorless, he lived and breathed the law. Rule number one: the hearing would be his world. I wasn't going to be setting the pace or escorting anyone through events the way I saw them. I was going to be answering the judge's questions. "Don't bring up irrelevancies. Don't get things off your chest." My labor rep seemed a little nervous. We rehearsed. When had I last worked for my present employer, and when had I started?
Well, I'd just finished a summer course that I'd taken over for a colleague who'd fallen ill, and I'd answered a student's email about grades the night before, which was work, though that contract had been technically over for a week. As for starting, I'd first taught on this campus in 2003, though I'd been employed by the same university system since 1994, albeit on different campuses and always on the very kind of 10-month contingent contract in my packet, which began on September 1, 2009, so .... How long had I worked for my present employer?
Since September 1, 2003. My last contract ended May 31, 2010.
When we got in the judge's room I could see why: overworked like the rest of us, he seemed to be reading many of my documents closely for the first time, including the letter in which I requested a hearing, which detailed my claim from the start. My file had been compiled by several people in several branches of the Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance Division, each of them apparently glancing through and adding this or that memo that seemed to shore up the denial of my claim.
At a couple of points, the judge asked me whether I had anything to add. I emphasized only the "conditioned upon" sentence in my contract and the low enrollment figures throughout the summer. I never got into the discrepancy between call-back and decision dates. I never even got into the distinction been "there is" and "claimant has reasonable assurance," though I regretted that oversight as we walked out.
But though the judge had said I'd hear within two weeks, I received the letter the next day: "The initial determination is overruled. Claimant is allowed to receive benefits with respect to the issue herein."
Without my labor representative's coaching, I might well have blown it. What with pent-up frustrations from the seemingly contradictory notices I'd been receiving by mail from the UID for two months, the waiting and the uncertainty and the possibility of having to pay back my previous summer's payments, not to mention all the other frustrations of adjuncting that can seem to overlap ("And look at that salary too, Your Honor: is that enough to live on? I ask you!"), I could have repeatedly broken Rule #1.
But an ALJ hearing's an end point of a bureaucratic process: it's about justice, sure, but before that it's about paperwork. So when you do get a face at a hearing, don't get in it. Just bring representation if you can, know and focus on your essential particulars, believe in your rights, and answer the questions.
And share your stories with NFM. Good luck.
|NFM Makes a Strong Impression at COCAL IX|
By Anne Wiegard
Members of both the Board of Directors (Ross Borden, Peter Brown, Jack Longmate, Bob Samuels, Steve Street, Anne Wiegard, and Matt Williams ) and the NFM Board of Advisors (Joe Berry, Gwendolyn Bradley, Frank Cosco, Rich Moser, and Sandra Schroeder) attended COCAL IX in Quebec City, August 13-15.
New Faculty Majority presented its work at a session on Saturday morning.
Anne Wiegard, Matt Williams, Jack Longmate, and Frank Cosco
Anne Wiegard recounted the formation and accomplishments of NFM over the past 18 months. Matt Williams detailed the circumstances of his case of protest and termination at the University of Akron before showing audience members the Unemployment Compensation Initiative website and describing other current projects, such as our efforts to provide group health insurance and other benefits to our members. Finally, Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco provided an overview of their draft of the "Program for Change," which was followed by a lively discussion.
Board members were interviewed for a new film by Jennifer Marlow and Megan Fulwiler, academics working in the Albany area, who are making a documentary about the casualization of labor in higher education, particularly in English departments. Their film, "tentatively titled Con Job: The Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Labor, features interviews with ad-con writing instructors from across the nation to provide them the opportunity to tell their stories, in their own words." The filmmakers hope their documentary will be "a powerful way to convey the issues, challenges, and material conditions of this new faculty majority." We look forward to seeing the completed film.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of this conference was the opportunity to network. We had breakfast with the three Connecticut members of NFM who plan to start a chapter and helped them sketch out their next steps. We met a number of activists who are part of organizations whose members are potential members of NFM. Many people expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of the large union federations in the U.S. to achieve significant gains for ad-cons. Attendees are incensed by recent practices undermining the welfare of our colleagues, such as the unconscionable assignment of "overload" or "extra service" to tenure-track faculty while part-time employees at the same institution were being laid off.
NFM has an important role to play in mobilizing concerted campaigns to reform federal laws and hold unions more accountable to their contingent members. We have already received invitations from one group to attend events in California in the fall and next spring. The fact that so many people attending COCAL IX introduced themselves, expressed interest, and asked questions about our activities and plans, is strong evidence that NFM is on the map.
|Two Visions of Change at COCAL IX|
By Steve Street
|In one presentation, Program for Change guidelines that were introduced by NFM members at another session were shown how they might be adapted for local implementation. In fact, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a specific program for equity, called the Instructor Tenure Project (ITP), went from the proposal stage, through deliberation, amending, bitter controversy, and defeats, to approval by the largely tenured Boulder Faculty Association -- all in two and a half years.
After ITP authors and chief shepherds Don Eron and Suzanne Hudson proposed the project in January 2007, the ITP was studied by committees and sub-committees, was argued against by the very employees it was designed to enfranchise until approved in a referendum, was made the subject of a Provost's Task Force, was denied by the BFA's Executive Board, and was sent back to committees, all before finally being presented to the larger membership. The members approved more study in one more ad hoc committee before eventual endorsement.
The dissension got so bad that at one point "if there'd been any way to back out, we would have," Eron admitted. At stake were many of the issues addressed in the Program for Change, notably what it terms the "delinking" of job-security measures and salary. In the same way the "Instructor tenure track" that the ITP calls for "is distinct" from salary as well as from UC's "Professor tenure track," though the final recommendation is for equivalent title gradations in the new track (such as Assistant, Associate, etc.).
The term "tenure" itself in the ITP was dictated by Colorado state law, which stipulates that all of that state's higher public education faculty must be either tenure-eligible or at-will: there is no middle ground to explore, Hudson explained. In the same way, the Program for Change recommendations, many suggested based on conditions in British Columbia, can be adapted to imperatives in U.S. states and on individual campuses.
Also key to the success of the ITP (on its own campus, so far: the April 2010 recommendation was to send it on for study by other administrations and the larger UC faculty-governance body) was the guidance and backing of AAUP, whose "Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure" and other documents are cited throughout the proposal and the Resolution eventually approved by the Boulder Faculty Association. And AAUP's State Conference, as indicated in a 2009 FAQ, "intend[ed] to introduce the proposal at the 2010 state legislature" if it wasn't approved locally first.
But even individual contingent activists - at least this one -- can take heart at the way this proposal for equity has bridged the two entrenched faculty tiers in at least one place. Click here for more details and inspiration.
In Resonse to Responses
By Jack Longmate
|Recently, I reread some of the comments in response to several articles that have appeared in Inside Higher Ed where the Program for Change was mentioned. |
One was a criticism that, I think, is reflective of the abysmal state of faculty rights in the United States. It cast doubt on the value of the Program for Change's proposed transition from a purely probationary, precarious employment status to a non-probationary, normalized employment status by saying that some college administrators, when they realized that a contingent is on the verge of becoming eligible for the non-probationary status, would probably decide to lay off the contingent, thereby outsmarting or nullifying the system.
The arbitrary laying off of workers should be grounds for a grievance, and if a college exhibited a pattern of this sort of behavior, all the more so.
I think part of what we're dealing with here is what Thomas Kuhn might call a paradigm or a conceptual model of the world that comes with a bunch of received beliefs and its own view of reality. As such, with such a conceptual framework, we pick out pieces of reality that conforms to it, and thus it becomes circular and all the more resistant to change. We U.S. higher education faculty, especially we contingents, are so used to our subordinate status of living in a hole in the ground, that it's hard to envision a reality where we might have dignity or respect, or that we faculty might possibly have the right to oppose capricious actions by administrations.
As a union officer for about three years and a union member for about a decade, I have never been involved in a grievance. I think we have them, but I suspect that I am not alone in lacking that experience. This contrasts with the union culture of British Columbia, where I know there are grievances, but where they also have union stewards, which I don't believe are very common, if they exist at all, in U.S. faculty unions.
But an even greater distinction in the union culture is the strike. In British Columbia, strikes have taken place, along with strategically scheduled strike votes. Very few of us American activists have had the experience of putting ourselves on the line and persuading our co-workers to likewise take risks, to stand up to the administration. Remembering some of the sentiment expressed at COCAL, there is the perception of an absolute lack of solidarity between full-time and part-time faculty; some tenured faculty may view contingents in much the same way that striking workers might look at scabs.
We are certainly dealing with more than a mere financial issue. Yet other comments expressed doubt about the Program for Change by asking where the money would come from. Here again is the assumption that change is singularly a budgeted change. Yet things like establishing a seniority system, provisions for academic freedom, a fair and objective approach to evaluation, and elementary job protection either don't involve costs or involve nominal costs.
The first time I heard about the system in place at Vancouver Community College, where all faculty accrue seniority, where all faculty are either regularized with job protection or on tract to become regularized, where all faculty are compensated according to a single salary schedule, I had real trouble believing what I was hearing. I think it was because it contrasted so radically with the paradigm that had become fixed in my mind about how the world worked.
|Adjunct Researchers in Science and Technology|
By Paul Ehrlich
Non-tenured faculty with doctoral degrees in the fields of science and technology provide important contributions to research goals as well as to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses. Significant overlap exists in the treatment of non-tenure-track research faculty in fields associated with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and non-tenure-track teaching faculty, including teaching faculty, in other fields.
In a series of two articles, with the second to appear in the next newsletter, major aspects of the careers of non-tenure-track STEM researchers will be explained. This article focuses on the lack of job security.
Research efforts have become increasingly the work of teams rather than that of lone researchers or small groups with several technicians (or grad students) reporting to a laboratory director. In academia the increased size of research groups evolved over the last several decades as post-doctoral positions became the standard follow-up to the doctoral degree in many fields. The rationale for these positions was based on the additional training provided for newly graduated Ph.D.'s that emphasized the broadening of experience through research in a new subfield, at a different university, and with a new mentor. The typical post-doc would stay in one position for two to four years, generally considered sufficient to be considered for a tenure-track faculty position.
However, the current typical career trajectory indicates that the purpose of these positions has deviated significantly from the initial intent. Major changes include a greatly decreased likelihood of becoming a tenure-track faculty, while for those who eventually do join the tenure track, significantly more time required to become an independent researcher. Post-docs who never become tenure-track researchers or industrial/government laboratory directors are seen as temporary, low-cost laboratory workers.
Research grants awarded to tenured faculty usually provide support for post-doctoral positions. Granting agencies also support post-docs through training grants awarded to university departments, programs, or other units, and a small number of fellowships awarded directly to individuals. NIH fellowships can fund up to three years of post-doctoral training, with salaries (in 2010) starting at $37,368 for a first-year post-doc up to $51,552 for a post-doc who has completed seven years in similar positions.
Fellowships sometimes have specific requirements that can result in significant problems for the fellow. For example, recipients of NIH fellowships are at risk of being asked to pay back the stipend they receive during their first year if they do not work at least one additional year in health-related research or teaching. While this "payback provision" is rarely enforced, it is still a legal obligation unless waived, modified, or cancelled by the government. Post-doc positions supported by faculty research grants or training grants usually require annual reappointments, so these jobs are only secure for one year.
More importantly, job security is dependent on the faculty member's evaluation of the post-doc's research efforts and is frequently dependent on continued funding of one research grant. Furthermore, any change in the mentor's status, such as failure to gain tenure or the transfer to another university, will also greatly affect post-docs. Thus, most post-docs are under constant pressure due to the possibility that their mentor will lose confidence in their ability to produce high output of publishable research and/or lose grant funding for their position.
Post-docs without a stellar recommendation from their mentor are especially at risk for a very difficult job search because previous mentors (such as the thesis advisor) generally feel less responsible for providing assistance. In addition, problems with grant funding are common. In 2009 only 21% of NIH grant applications were funded while the success rate for renewing previously funded grants was 38%. The funding rate for National Science Foundation grant proposals was 32%.
Even though the success rate of senior faculty members with a good track record can be significantly higher, post-docs have plenty to worry about with respect to grant funding. Data is not generally available on the number of post-docs or adjunct researchers who have lost their position and become unemployed or find a job unrelated to their training. In addition, analyses of employment trends are usually not helpful since uncertainty in the status of post-docs is widespread. For example, statistics on employment provided by the American Chemical Society sometimes include post-docs as a separate category, neither employed nor unemployed, while at other times they are included in the same category as unemployed and part-time workers.
In the next newsletter the second article will focus on competition for employment, working conditions, and career progression for non-tenure-track researchers in science and technology.
|It's Not Easy to Ask for Money, But ... |
In the July newsletter, we told members that after surveying a sampling of members, the board of directors voted to solicit annual dues of $15 as a minimum suggested contribution. Because NFM knows that summertime is an especially difficult financial time for adjunct faculty, we said that members who contribute $25 or more by September 30 will have paid dues both for 2010 and for 2011.
We at NFM are all volunteers, relying on one another. While it remains far more important for us to gather members than dues, every organization needs sources of funding - even to do work that is rewarding in itself.
Dues are payable online at New Faculty Majority or by
New Faculty Majority
1700 West Market Street #159
Akron, OH 44313-7002
Those who join receive a free bumper sticker. To buy a bumper sticker, send $2.00 to the address above. Buy one for yourself and one for a colleague!
NFM UCI Site
|NFM BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Peter D.G. Brown
Paul Ehrlich Eric Hultquist
William Lipkin (Treasurer)
Maria Maisto (President)
Vanessa Crary Vaile
Anne Wiegard (Secretary)
Matt Williams (Vice President)
NFM BOARD OF ADVISORS
Eileen E. Schell
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.
Help in the collection of data!
The Coalition on the Academic Workforce survey of Contingent Faculty will open for responses on Sept. 28, 2010. The topic is working conditions of
contingent faculty - salaries, benefits, assignments, etc.
The survey can be found here.