Walking the strike lines with Columbia’s adjuncts.

I was downtown this morning with members of the p-fac, which represents the part-time adjunct faculty at Chicago’s Columbia College.

P-fac’s president, Diana Vallera, views the strike as an important action, not just for the adjuncts at Columbia, but the the 60% of college and university teaching staff across the country that are part-time and adjunct faculty members.

That too often means low pay, no benefits, no possibility of tenure, no right to complain or file grievances, large class size and working semester to semester.

I interviewed Diana along with my friend and theater teacher at Columbia, Andy Dymond, and Prexy Nesbitt who has taught at Columbia for 30 years.

Prexy was a guest on Hitting Left not too long ago.

My short interviews with Diana, Andy and Prexy will start off Friday’s Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers live at 11am on Chicago’s 105.5fm. We will also be joined in-studio with long-time political strategist and consultant Delmarie Cobb.

The situation facing adjuncts is dire.

My friend Glen Brown, who taught as an adjunct professor at Benedictine University for years, recently wrote:

It is well known that adjunct faculty work without job security, without the benefit of healthcare, and without an ethical living wage. Most universities’ priorities are their development of building projects and technology, management of revenues and investments and reducing operating costs, administrative/bureaucratic positions and salaries, and athletic programs and their resources. “…The truth is that teaching is a diminishing priority in universities. Years of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reports indicate that budgets for instruction are proportionally shrinking. Universities now devote less than one-third of their expenditures to instruction. Meanwhile, administrative positions have increased at more than 10 times the rate of tenured faculty positions. [Of course], sports and amenities are much more fun [and profitable]…” (Birmingham).

There is no equity for adjunct instructors. Courses staffed with contingent adjunct faculty cost the same student tuition and provide the same credits staffed by tenured full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty grade compositions and tests, write recommendations and advise students, devise and develop classes, create lesson plans and course materials and improve curricula, among other unpaid responsibilities.

There are no due process protections for adjunct faculty. There is no equal pay for equal work. There is no professional advancement. There is no equity in the lack of health insurance and retirement benefits available for adjunct faculty. There is little to no inclusion in the way higher education’s formal decision-making procedures and structures are made. Indeed, adjunct faculty are simply part-time contractors, “lecturers,” or non-essential “marginalized” hires who are disenfranchised from high-level governance and required to carry out most of the responsibilities of the full-time faculty (and sometimes at multiple institutions), but for less than one-fifth of the salary of the full-time faculty and without meaningful job security from one semester to another.

If you can, join the striking faculty at Columbia on Friday at 12 PM, 600 S. Michigan Avenue, Room 1309 B, at 11:50 AM. The next bargaining session will start at noon.

And tune into Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

Chicago’s Columbia College part-time faculty strike!

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Columbia College part-time faculty strike today.

In 2015 part-time faculty were debating decertification as an affiliate of the Illinois Education Association.

A majority voted to get out of the IEA, feeling that the union was not fighting for adjunct, part-time faculty.

The debate over decertification took place – in part – on this blog.

You can find the posts and comments from 2015 here.

Today members of the independent Part-time Faculty Association of Columbia College went out on strike.

They were joined by members of the Chicago Teachers Union and others who are appalled by the conditions of adjunct faculty, not just at Columbia, but across the country.

“We have part-time people who have to live out of their cars,” said Prexy Nesbitt, a faculty member who has taught African history at the school for thirty years. “We have part-time people who are struggling to get enough money to be able to make it to all the jobs that they have to go.”

The contract expired Aug. 31, and the faculty Association has been bargaining since July.

The union represents about 1,200 faculty members at Columbia College. The union said at least 50 classes were canceled today.

University of Chicago: ” We hope all members of our community will take the time to look more deeply into the challenges and potential negative consequences of a union and participate in dialogue around these issues.”

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University of Chicago.

To: Faculty and Graduate Students
From: Robert J. Zimmer and Daniel Diermeier
Re: NLRB Ruling on Student Assistants
Date: August 24, 2016

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that student teaching and research assistants at private universities have the right to unionize in their capacity as workers. For a number of months, the University of Chicago community has been engaged in active dialogue on this subject and its potential impact on the College, graduate students, faculty and the University as a whole. In light of the NLRB’s decision, it is more important than ever to reflect on the fundamental nature of education at UChicago, and the potential impact that graduate student unionization in particular could have on the University’s distinctive approach to research and education, including the relationship between graduate students and their faculty advisors.

It is the collective responsibility of students, faculty, staff and University leaders to ensure that the University of Chicago is a place where students can flourish. Central to the success of graduate students is the intellectual relationship between students and faculty, particularly between students and their advisors. These relationships reflect the University’s character as a place of intellectual openness and scholarly autonomy, where students and faculty constantly work together to push the boundaries of understanding. These formative and mutually advantageous collaborations often move in novel directions, across disciplinary lines and established responsibilities. Each student’s path reflects their own goals, interests, intellectual ambitions, and subject matter.

Ensuring that students are flourishing is not a simple or easy process. Ongoing attention is required to make sure programs are working well and adequately supporting students throughout their time at UChicago and beyond. Our graduate students already are active partners in identifying the elements of a successful education, and they have worked with the faculty, chairs, divisions, schools and the provost’s office to make many improvements. Bearing this progress in mind, and the fact that there is still more work to do, the fundamental question now is whether a graduate student labor union would advance or impede students’ overall educational goals.

While reasonable people can come to different conclusions on this point, it is vital that we maintain the special and individual nature of students’ educational experiences and opportunities for intellectual and professional growth. A graduate student labor union could impede such opportunities and, as a result, be detrimental to students’ education and preparation for future careers. It could also compromise the ability of faculty to mentor and support students on an individualized basis.

Students follow their own unique paths at the University in coordination with their faculty advisors and do so in a way that is quite different from the well-defined and important work of employees in skilled trades or clerical positions, where the University has had productive relationships with unions for many years. Unionization by its very nature will mean that a labor union, which may be unfamiliar with what is involved in developing outstanding scholars, will come between students and faculty to make crucial decisions on behalf of students. These decisions could range from which classes students teach, to how best to collaborate with scholars in other departments, to the steps students can take to further their long-term career development. Ceding the power to bargain over some or all of these decisions to a union, which by design focuses on the collective interests of members while they are in the union in the short-term, could make it more difficult for students to reach their individual educational goals.

Recent experiences demonstrate that efforts to enhance the graduate student experience are highly successful when graduate students, faculty, deans and the provost’s office work together directly. Dialogue among students and faculty has led to increased stipends under the Graduate Aid Initiative and increased remuneration for teaching, more support for students in the sciences, expansion of health insurance coverage, child care grants, and major investments in the Chicago Center for Teaching and UChicagoGRAD to help students with fellowships, pedagogical training, writing and presentation skills, and preparing for future careers. It is unclear whether a graduate student labor union would have achieved any of these outcomes.

Faculty and graduate students at the University of Chicago are not only engaged in scholarship, we are stewards of the legacy we have inherited. Together, we will help define the University’s future. If there is a union representation election here, students will have the opportunity to decide what course is best for their own education. We hope all members of our community will take the time to look more deeply into the challenges and potential negative consequences of a union and participate in dialogue around these issues.

Resolutions on Contingent Faculty passed at the annual business meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

My friend Les Perelman, inventor of the Babel Generator, reports that the national Conference on College Composition and Communication passed the following resolutions at the CCCC Annual Business Meeting held on Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Houston.

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Resolution 3

Whereas the Indianapolis Resolution, a collaboratively drafted resolution reenvisioning the Wyoming Resolution, provides a needed response to unfair labor practices experienced by contingent labor and other writing instructors;

Whereas the majority of postsecondary writing instruction is the responsibility of contingent labor who need and deserve the support of our professional organization; and 

Whereas, as of March 2016, the Indianapolis Resolution has received well over 300 endorsements, including current members of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Executive Committee and several other former members and officers;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that:

  • We ask that the chair commit to appointing a member to an interorganizational labor board in keeping with Section A of the Indianapolis Resolution.
  • We ask CCCC to work with relevant committees, task forces, and the general membership to mentor graduate students and contingent faculty on the realities of our labor conditions.
  • We ask CCCC journal editors and convention organizers to encourage labor-oriented research in keeping with Section C of the Indianapolis Resolution.

Resolution 4

Whereas the contingent status of an increasing cadre of writing instructors is seemingly entrenched in our institutions; and 

Whereas advocates for contingent writing faculty often need support on an ad hoc basis; 

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Conference on College Composition and Communication dedicate a liaison for contingency issues (e.g., fair labor standards, unemployment insurance claims, legal issues related to hiring/nonrenewals).

Resolution 5

Whereas contingent faculty often receive low pay for their work and are often precluded from summer teaching;

Whereas contingent faculty may lose teaching assignments at the last minute, thus making it impossible to find replacement work; and

Whereas many universities and unemployment offices invoke “reasonable assurance of continued employment” as grounds to deny unemployment claims between academic terms;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Conference on College Composition and Communication Chairperson issue a statement affirming that faculty on contingent appointments do not have “reasonable assurance of continued employment.”

Resolution 6

Whereas the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects employment data for tenure-track/tenured (TT/T) faculty but much less systematically for non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty; and

Whereas more complete employment data for NTT faculty improve advocacy efforts at the department, college, campus, and national levels;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Conference on College Composition and Communication call for NCES to reinstate the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty (and to collect the same employment data through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) for part­time and full­time NTT faculty as it does for TT/T faculty.

Resolution 7

Whereas laws such as the Affordable Care Act and the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Act stipulate minimum number of hours worked per week in order to determine eligibility based on guidelines that institutions sometimes use to report actual hours to the IRS and Department of Labor; and

Whereas CCCC is best positioned to articulate the ratio of in-class/out-of-class hours worked based on research and best practices in writing instruction;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Conference on College Composition and Communication articulate a minimum acceptable ratio of in-class/out-of-class hours worked for the purposes of calculations to determine eligibility for both health insurance and public student loan forgiveness.

[The Indianapolis Resolution can be found at http://www.compositionist.net/indianapolis-resolution.html]

Organizing and disorganizing adjuncts.

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I think I was the first to cover the story of the move by Chicago’s Columbia College adjuncts to disaffiliate from the IEA.

This week In These Times published a report on it.

The IEA took the unusual step of endorsing Kirk Dillard, a Republican candidate for Illinois Governor who lost to the private equity near-billionaire and viciously anti-union Republican Bruce Rauner during the 2014 primaries—moves many members strongly disagreed with.

The vote also comes from what they saw as a threat to their independence. The union’s website states that there is a risk of the IEA taking over the P-fac local, which is what precipitated the December 22 initiation of a motion to amend P-fac’s constitution and disaffiliate from the IEA, which would then be voted on by P-fac members. In December, the IEA sent a letter of audit to P-fac, which P-fac argued would be the first step to an IEA takeover.

Beverly Stewart, the IEA Higher Education Council Chairperson, denies that charge and notes that the IEA has never taken over a local before.

Though the vote for disaffiliation was lopsided, some P-fac members have criticized the speed of the process: disaffiliation took place between semesters, during the winter break, when not all teachers were on campus. Union officials say the timing was forced by IEA and the audit letter.

“P-fac isn’t rushing to try to get something done before we’re all back on campus,” says Carroll.  She says IEA bylaws require the entire process to be completed within four weeks.

According to the P-fac Facebook page, of the 585 P-fac members eligible to vote, 286 ballots were cast. The final tally was 232-50 in favor of disaffiliation.

Because of “poaching” agreements between the major unions, designed to prevent them from stealing members from one another, P-fac would not be able to reaffiliate with another union for at least a year. For that time, they would be independent, though their contract will remain intact. After a year, P-fac can affiliate with another union, but a P-fac spokesperson says they do not currently have plans to do so.

Despite the overwhelming vote for disaffiliation, support for the move within the ranks of P-fac, is not universal. Joe Fedorko is a member of P-fac through his adjunct position at Columbia, but he is also president of the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization, the IEA local for Chicago’s Roosevelt University’s adjuncts. A vocal opponent of disaffiliation, he says it goes against the very idea of a union.

“I think it’s totally unjustified on P-fac’s part,” he says. “They [P-fac leadership] don’t like when anybody tells them what they should do. This is just them trying to place themselves over the labor movement.”

But for Carroll, and the overwhelming majority of voting P-fac members, the choice is a simple one. “We’re connected to a state affiliate union that doesn’t represent our interests.”

And my friend and blogging colleague Glen Brown also posts on adjuncts today.

University and College Adjunct Faculty Remuneration per Course in Illinois:

Medians compared

All Illinois: $2,700

All 4-year private not-for-profit: $3,000

Pay is based on three-credit courses.

A Sample:

Augustana College: $4,500 per course

Aurora University: $2,400 – $4,000 per course

Benedictine University: $2,250 – $2,750 per course

College of DuPage: $2,440 – $4,880 per course

Columbia College: $1,400 – $6,360 per course

DePaul University: $3,000 – $6,000 per course

Dominican University: $2,300 – $3,200 per course

Eastern Illinois University: $3,000 – $7,667 per course

Elgin Community College: $2,118 – $3,360 per course

Elmhurst College: $3,000 – $3,227 per course

Illinois Institute of Technology: $3,000 – $9,500 per course

Illinois State University: $3,500 – $6,400 per course

Illinois Wesleyan University: $3,000 per course

Lake Forest College: $6,500 per course

Lewis University: $2,700 – $3,000 per course

Loyola University: $4,000 – $12,000 per course

North Central College: $780 – $2,460 per course

Northeastern Illinois University: $5,475 per course

Northern Illinois University: $2,700 – $5,000 per course

North Park University: $2,680 -$4,800 per course

Northwestern University: $3,000 – $8,586 per course

Oakton Community College: $2,000 – $6,000 per course

Roosevelt University: $2,100 – $4,750 per course

Southern Illinois University: $3,000 – $6,000 per course

University of Chicago: $3,500 – $5,000 per course

University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: $2,625 – $8,400 per course

University of Illinois at Chicago: $4,000 – $8,000 per course

University of Illinois at Springfield: $5,500 per course

Waubonsee Community College: $1,875 – $2,100 per course

Wheaton College: $2,775 – $3,700 per course

The above information is from The Adjunct Project.