Strategies for Overcoming Inequality in Higher Education:
Supporting Adjunct Faculty and Their Students -- October 26, 2015 2 pm
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Room SVC 209-08
Introductions & Overview of Issue
Maria Maisto, Adjunct Professor of English, OH; Co-founder and President/ED,
New Faculty Majority, NFM Foundation, Ohio Part-time Faculty Association,
Jim Miller, Executive Director, Brave New Films
Panel Discussion & Question/Answer Session Moderator: Maria Maisto
Strategy 1: Alleviating Loan Debt Burdens for Students and Adjuncts
Loretta Ragsdell, IL Adjunct Professor of English, President of CCCLOC (City Colleges Contingent Labor Organizing Committee), IEA/NEA, City Colleges of Chicago
Alexandra Flores-Quilty, President, US Student Association
Adjunct Faculty were once students who invested in education, expecting the promised return that did not come, and now have loan debt and are not making enough money from their work as adjuncts to repay them. They need professional pay and loan debt forgiveness.
Students are being made to compensate for public disinvestment in higher education by incurring huge debt to cover institutional expenditures that are not going to instruction. Maintaining a huge contingent workforce has huge hidden costs and so adjunct working conditions increase the overall cost of higher education for students.
Suggested Actions: Support for the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act and other student loan relief efforts; exposure and analysis of the hidden costs to students and faculty of the contingent employment system.
Strategy 2: Collecting Accurate Data and Holding Institutions Accountable
Marisa Allison, VA; PhD Candidate in Sociology, George Mason University, Member, Mason Coalition of Academic Labor/SEIU 500, and Research Director, New Faculty Majority Foundation
Kim Laffont, FL; Former Adjunct Professor, Co-founder, South Florida Part-time Faculty Association
Colleges and universities have been able to expand contingent employment practices because they are not required to be transparent about the numbers or the working conditions of contingent faculty. In 2004, the National Center for Education Statistics discontinued the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, which used to provide important information including about demographics, workload, job satisfaction, and compensation. This is especially troubling given that women and people of color are disproportionately represented among faculty in precarious contingent positions.
Another effort to provide data to the public has been the College Scorecard, which does not provide any information about faculty working conditions -- information that is key to understanding the value of a prospective college relative to the cost. Faculty have had to resort to efforts such as the CAW Survey and the Adjunct Project in order to collect information that institutions should be required to provide.
Suggested Actions: Reinstate the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty and require colleges and universities to accurately report, and to disclose to the public, the working conditions of all of their faculty, including numbers, compensation, and access to institutional support.
Strategy 3: Transforming Compensation Policies for Adjuncts
Bonnie Halloran, MI; Lecturer in Anthropology, President, Lecturers' Employee Organization, AFT 6244 University of Michigan
Cathy Burns, FL; Adjunct Professor of English; Co-founder, South Florida Part-time Faculty Association
Contingent faculty are falling through the cracks of wage and hour laws designed to protect workers from abuse and exploitation. Recent attention to employee misclassification and overtime revision proposals have exposed the degree to which existing wage and hour laws are inadequate for protecting the rights of contingent faculty. While classification as "exempt," including designation as "learned professionals," acknowledges and even safeguards contingent faculty professional autonomy, it does not recognize the massive shift to part-time, low-wage employment that has stricken the professoriate. The Learned Professional exemption, ironically, blocks contingent faculty access to overtime regulations that would require them to be paid a living wage and to be protected from the widespread wage theft that currently takes place.
Similarly, institutional manipulations of employee status, for example as so-called "part-time," are used to block contingent faculty access to basic rights and protections, from timely pay to family leave, sick leave, and retirement. Adjunct faculty need equal pay for equal work, and part-time needs to mean pro-rated to full-time, not full-time work for part-time pay.
Suggested Actions: Revision of existing wage and hour laws to properly recognize the nature of faculty work and ensure that all faculty have access to basic workplace rights and protections.
Strategy 4: Ensuring that Adjunct Faculty Have Access to Unemployment Insurance
Judy Olson, CA; Lecturer in English, California State University Los Angeles, CFA-LA Lecturers' Representative, Secretary, California Teachers Association Contingent Faculty Caucus, Delegate, CTA State Council, Chair, Contingent Faculty Caucus, National Education Association; Vice Chair, NFM Foundation
Matt Williams, OH; Former Adjunct Professor of Communications; Co-founder and Board member, New Faculty Majority and NFM Foundation, Co-founder, Ohio Part-time Faculty Association; Former Member, Summit County Republican Party Executive Board
Access to unemployment when one is separated from work is a basic right for all workers in this country. Adjuncts who are hired and fired at will, on contracts that last only as long as a semester or year, should have access to unemployment between terms, just as workers in seasonal industries do. Current law states that "reasonable assurance of continued employment" -- a provision invented to apply to full-time, K-12 teachers with continuing contracts -- bars teachers from collecting unemployment during times when academic terms are not in session. This provision is improperly applied to contingent faculty.
In California, legal action has established adjunct faculty rights to unemployment insurance. A request that the Department of Labor issue a guidance letter to the states explaining that adjunct faculty do not have "reasonable assurance of continued employment" and that the provision in the federal statute does not apply to college faculty has not yielded a response.
Suggested Actions: Help getting an explanation and response from the DOL; if necessary, legislation to change the federal statute.
Hosted by: New Faculty Majority and the NFM Foundation in cooperation with The National Education Association Participants: American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union, Ohio Part-time Faculty Association, SEIU Coalition on Academic Labor/SEIU 500, South Florida Part-time Faculty Association, United Steelworkers Adjunct Faculty Association