As Adjunct Professors Unionize

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by major56, Mar 21, 2016.

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  1. major56

    major56 Active Member

    As Adjunct Professors Unionize, Debate Sharpens Over Cost to Schools
    Duke’s faculty vote to organize is latest in series of moves that could shrink number of available jobs

    By
    WSJ - Douglas Belkin
    Updated March 20, 2016 1:55 p.m. ET

    As Adjunct Professors Unionize, Debate Sharpens Over Cost to Schools - WSJ

    Article copy for those without WSJ access:

    Recent moves by adjunct professors to unionize at Duke University, the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota are heightening a debate over how much such steps will cost schools and whether the moves could radically shrink the jobs available to the low-level professors.

    A recent study found that U.S. universities’ costs could increase to a total of $24 billion from $4.3 billion for courses currently taught by adjuncts, if union targets for higher pay are met, according to a paper co-authored by Georgetown University business school professor Jason Brennan.

    In addition, the consolidation of courses to provide “good jobs,” meaning a full-time courseload and benefits to adjuncts, would mean that roughly 500,000 part-time adjunct positions would be lost, or about two-thirds of the 750,000 now in existence.
    “The money is going to have to come from somewhere, there will be some uncomfortable trade-offs,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview.

    Celia Morris, the president of the Boston higher education chapter of the Service Employees International Union and an adjunct professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., likened the spread of organized labor across U.S. college campuses to fast-food workers’ fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

    “To make only an economic argument is missing some of the point,” she said. “What we are trying to do is raise the bar and get people to understand that half the faculty in the country is not being treated fairly.”

    Employing adjunct professors on a part-time or even full-time basis offers flexibility and savings, so university administrators have fought union movements across the country. They argue that if adjuncts unionize and bargain for larger paychecks, the cost will be passed down to students. Ms. Morris said the costs could come from cuts in other areas and wouldn’t have to come from higher tuition.

    Adjunct faculty who teach four courses per semester at the national average of $2,700 per class earn about $22,000 a year. That compares with an average salary of $116,000 for full professors at public institutions and $148,000 for full professors at private schools, according to the American Association of University Professors.

    The SEIU has campaigned for $15,000 a class, though organizers call the number “aspirational.”

    Mr. Brennan reached his conclusion of the additional expense to schools by figuring out the cost of all the courses adjuncts taught if the cost per course rose to $15,000 from $2,700. The paper appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics in December 2015.

    On Friday afternoon, adjunct faculty at Duke University voted 174 to 29 in favor of unionization. In the past three years, faculty and graduate students at nearly 70 schools have voted to join a union—a clip of nearly one school every two weeks, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

    The vote at Duke will result in the first new private sector faculty union in a right to work state in decades, Mr. Herbert said.

    Unions, often associated with blue-collar jobs, have long represented faculty in states like California and New York. The recent unionization push on campus has been fueled by cuts to higher education funding and by low pay and little job security for part-time adjunct faculty.

    The union push at Duke, in conjunction with the SEIU, started more than a year ago, said Matteo Gilebbi a nontenure track professor of Italian language and culture who helped organize the movement.

    “We want to improve our working conditions. Many of my colleagues are on very short contracts with no job security and we don’t have a clear career track,” Mr. Gilebbi said. “We are a looking for more stable positions.”

    The school pushed back with its own campaign, but Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement Friday: “We respect the decision of Duke’s adjunct faculty to form a union and remain committed to their success as valuable contributors to the university’s academic mission.”
     
  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    This is one of the things that perplexes me when adjuncts call for the consolidation of part time positions into full time ones. Do they really not realize that if they get what they want, the odds are better than fifty-fifty that, on an individual basis, they will literally end up with nothing?
     
  3. major56

    major56 Active Member

    I’m not sure that they do grasp the probable outcome/s you suggest Steve …
     
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Also, we hear all the time about a glut of people wanting adjunct jobs, right? So if these unionized adjuncts go on strike won't the union just hire people (I know they're called scabs) to take their place and move on? I don't know the rules about unions and all that.
     
  5. 03310151

    03310151 New Member

    Wow, that's lots of part-time jobs lost. What do all those part-time adjunct do to live? Other part-time jobs, full-time employed spouses? Welfare?


    They seem like such low paying jobs and most that I've talked to say they are not that great (they don't complain incessantly like public primary school teachers do, but they're up there).
     
  6. major56

    major56 Active Member

    Exactly … examples of demand outstripping supply.
     
  7. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Isn't the point to have more full-time jobs? A lot of people teach part-time due to the shortage of full-time jobs. The share of college faculty jobs that are part-time has gone way up, but where is the cost savings to the students? How come tuition rates are still going up faster than the rate of inflation?

    Honestly, there is one class of adjuncts who will benefit from more full-time positions: those with degrees for traditional schools. Since there will be less open positions, there will be more competition. Graduates of more prestigious schools with more research experience will be more competitive. Instead of having to settle for part-time positions, they will have more full-time positions available to them.

    Is having more part-time jobs just to have more jobs a good thing? That's like reducing the unemployment rate by forcing more people to work part-time hours in order to create more openings. It doesn't solve the problem; it just creates more.
     
  8. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    At least from an economic perspective, you're right that adjuncts are disposable. It takes conscious leadership to think about part time workers as stakeholders with whom it's worth it in the long run to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
     
  9. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I think it also depends upon who is occupying these part-time jobs. I'm a part-time adjunct. But I pay my bills with my full-time job. Were I trying to live on my adjunct salary I would absolutely qualify for government benefits. But there are people who do it. I know of at least three part-time adjuncts at my college (only one has a doctorate) who have no other revenue source beyond teaching.

    I agree that having a whole bunch of part-time jobs doesn't help the problem. But put yourself in the position of a college or university. I have, say, 100 adjuncts who are covering the courseload that maybe 50 full-time professors or instructors would cover (optimistic, I know). I save money on benefits. I save money on sabbaticals. I save money on paying for conferences. I save money on office space because I can cram them 5 to an office. If one leaves I just reshuffle the ones that remain. None of them are irreplaceable. And if they get fed up and unionize or walk out, well, there's a line of people standing outside clamoring for adjunct work.

    Personally, I think adjunct positions should be relatively few. They're a great way to get working practitioners into the door to teach. But it has become a dumping ground for academics-in-potentiality. Worse yet, that dumping ground makes a lot of sense for the university which is why they do it. So until the schools have a reason to make a meaningful change I cannot imagine one will be forthcoming. If they do consolidate many of those jobs into full time positions, well, then half of the present adjuncts will be happy and the other half will be unemployed.

    I don't want to sound cruel but if you run straight into a doctoral program, without regard for the present job market, thinking you'll get to wear leather elbow patches and smoke a pipe while teaching Chaucer then perhaps you should fully embrace the risk that is associated with that choice. You're either going to "make it" or you won't. To me, these adjuncts complaining about wanting full time pay and benefits is a bit like extras complaining that they want speaking roles or threatening to walk out. They can do that. They'll be replaced. And nothing will change in the end.
     
  10. edowave

    edowave Active Member

    Most of the adjuncts I run into now tend to be people that are retired, either from academia, private industry , or government. They are teaching not because of the money, but because they are looking for something to do in retirement. Some of these people even told me they wouldn't mind teaching for free.
     
  11. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    If the supply is going to correct itself, some people are going to have to suffer with the hopes that others will think twice before getting a doctorate only for the purpose of getting a position in academia. Even though I am perfectly fine with not working in academia, I do know that all but one of the graduates of my PhD program have full-time jobs. One started as a lecturer, but was offered a tenure-track position the next year. There is no oversupply of people with PhDs in Criminal Justice or Criminology.

    When I attended community colleges and for-profit schools online, I had a lot of adjunct instructors who worked full-time jobs. When I worked in an on ground program at a for-profit, I had a lot of coworkers whose only source of income was their part-time job, and they were nowhere near retirement. A lot of the lecturers at my public university are hoping to find a full-time job. I get the general sense that a lot of the lecturers at traditional schools are looking for tenure-track positions. I read an article a year or two ago about a lot of people graduating with PhDs in the natural sciences and being stuck in postdocs for a few years because they can't find jobs as professors.
     
  12. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Those of you who teach at these schools know better than me but I don't hear much about these universities being that kind of enlightened employers. It's more than a little ironic because these are the people who give out all those leadership degrees.
     
  13. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    In my opinion, eliminating or severely restricting adjunct positions would deprive students of teachers who have actual experience in the subjects they teach. Academics and research are all well and good, but in some subjects (Business and Criminal Justice, to name but two), I believe that practical experience is just as important, if not more so, than getting journal articles published or teaching 5 courses per semester.

    Not to mention, I'd want absolutely nothing to do with the SEIU. They're one step removed from a Mafia extortion racket.
     
  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    A few do. But generally, yes, it does seem like a market opportunity.
     
  15. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I'm sure it depends upon where you teach and, to an extent, the subjects taught. The majority of adjuncts I work with have full time jobs. That said, I work in the business department of a community college. One of our more prominent adjuncts is a well known local insurance broker, for example.

    The nursing adjuncts tend to all be nurses. The dental hygienist program has a few adjuncts who are retired or semi-retired dentists etc.

    But when you get to the natural and social sciences I do see a fair number of people who are either doing this for their only livelihood or are, at least, trying to use it as a stepping stone to a full-time position.

    I'm in a unique spot, though. My CC is a SUNY school. So getting hired there means a decent wage (depending upon your definition of "decent") and a retirement package. Some of the social science jobs were taken up by former high school teachers who, with their masters in hand, more than qualified for a tenure track job and are able to finish out their careers with less union BS and having students who ostensibly want to be there.

    At a school where I taught in PA, full time jobs were few and far between. You could teach there indefinitely with a bachelor's degree (here you can only teach for 2 years at which point you can continue only if you have a graduate degree at that time) and part-timers routinely were maxed out on courses for very, very little pay. I knew an English instructor there who was struggling with a nearly full courseload and a $22k paycheck that would have been closer to $40k if they gave him one more course per semester and officially designated him as "full time."

    So, as with any anecdotal story we might share, your observation may be completely valid. But I've seen some people as sanantone describes as well. And there doesn't appear to be a "typical" situation for adjuncts across higher ed because of these differences. I have no doubt that the situation here is better than in PA because the former involves the civil service system while the latter does not.
     
  16. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Undergraduate CJ students aren't going to come out any better prepared. CJ is not as applied as it claims to be. It's sociology-lite with a little bit of law thrown in.
     
  17. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    When my father earned his associates degree he actually earned a degree in "Police Science" which wasn't sociology-lite at all. It was subject matter relevant to police officers often taught by former or current police officers.

    A cursory search shows very few of those programs. It looks like schools sort of adopted CJ as the go-to degree for people want to do anything even remotely related to law enforcement. Even his alma mater seems to have abandoned the old police studies program in favor of CJ. So is police studies still considered a discipline? Is it a subset of CJ now (as it appears as a concentration in the CJ program at John Jay)?

    The reason I ask is because if all of the practical programs were rolled up into a largely theoretical program then that's going to cause a separate, but equally "bad" issue with students not actually getting the education that will further their goals coupled with putting professors, adjunct or otherwise, in front of them who are simply not equipped to meet their needs.
     
  18. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    That totally depends on who's teaching it. If you have professors with impeccable credentials, record of publishing, and obtaining grants, but they've never actually been out in a police sector car shagging calls, then of course it's going to be more about theory.

    If you have teachers with real field experience, which cannot be taught at any level of academia, the students are going to be far better prepared to enter the real world.

    I highly recommend the book Signal Zero by Dr. George Kirkham, who was a Criminology Professor at Florida State who took up a challenge from one of his students, and became an actual police officer for a few months. His life was never the same after that.

    Professor-turned-police officer went from FSU to Jacksonville's mean streets | jacksonville.com
     
  19. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I disagree. I have real world experience and have taught CJ courses. Telling war stories is not the same as training students. Unless it is a program that is designed to prepare students for a license or certification, they aren't going to be trained to do anything. At best, they'll learn stuff that will help them be caseworkers.

    All of my community college CJ instructors had real world experience. I didn't notice a difference. One of my CJ instructor at Colorado Technical University was a sergeant at a police department. I didn't notice a difference with him either. However, all of these courses were taken online. At CTU, though, the instructor did give live lectures.

    I recommend no specific degree for becoming a police officer. I don't think there's been research on on-the-job performance, but there has been a couple of studies on academy performance. Those with degrees tend to perform better in the academy, but those with CJ degrees do not perform better than cadets with other degrees.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2016
  20. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    What is your real world experience? I've been a full-time police officer for 28 years, and one constant I've seen on my instructor reviews is that students enjoy the dose of reality that I bring to the classroom.

    Then you had some crappy teachers in community college.
     

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