The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

Adjunct professors take issues statewide

” Many students have felt the effects of the poor economy recently. Most assume that their professors are immune from the turmoil it has caused. After all, how could a professor at a successful university have trouble making ends meet? Matthew Williams, an assistant lecturer of communication at the University of Akron, knows the feeling all too well.”

Many students have felt the effects of the poor economy recently.

Most assume that their professors are immune from the turmoil it has caused. After all, how could a professor at a successful university have trouble making ends meet?

Matthew Williams, an assistant lecturer of communication at the University of Akron, knows the feeling all too well.

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Williams, the vice president of New Faculty Majority, also does marketing and web consulting, delivers trailers on occasion and does other odd jobs to pay the bills and feed his family.

NFM is a new coalition for adjunct and contingent equity. Adjunct and contingent professors are part-time professors.

Many of these part-time professors want to teach full-time, but to do so has been a struggle.

Williams and fellow NFM member, Maria Maisto, attended the AAUP Summit on Higher Education Staffing meeting in the beginning of October.

The meeting, which was held in Columbus, included representatives from many organizations and two members of the state legislature. The main purpose was to discuss the staffing crisis in higher education in Ohio.

The real transformative thing that happened during that particular meeting was the fact that it didn’t really start out being all about adjunct and contingent issues. My colleagues and I were really able to take that summit in a very positive direction. Leaving that summit, the one thing that really everybody was in agreement on was that we need to pursue the passage of senate bill 129, Williams said.

Senate bill 129 would essentially revise Ohio law to remove the exclusion of graduate assistants and part time faculty from definition of state employees for collective bargaining purposes, he explained.

As of now, adjunct and contingent faculty members are not considered state employees for collective bargaining purposes. Collective bargaining is the negotiation of an employer with a group of employees to determine the conditions of employment.

We can unionize, Williams added. However, it’s up to the university to decide if it wants to recognize our union.
He explained that the law can be changed, but it all still comes down to whether or not the part-time faculty would be willing to take the next step and form a union.

Williams wishes that the university administration would sit down with part-time faculty and talk about the fact that even though they are working at just below a full-time teaching load, they struggle to make a living and cannot afford things such as health insurance.

We’re out there; they know what we’re doing, he added.

We have been in contact with, although not recently, Angelo-Gene Monaco, the vice president of human resources and employee relations. He knows what we’re doing and he knows what we are, yet the administration has not invited us to have a conversation about this issue.

We could approach the administration directly, but there are links to over 200 publications on our website, links to over 50 books and numerous videos and movies have been produced on this issue, yet the university administration simply continues to ignore the issue, he said.

He added that it’s not just UA’s administration that has been ignoring their attempts; numerous colleges and administrations across the country have been doing the same thing.

Asked why he believes the administration has yet to approach part-time faculty, he replied that contemplation of the issue is too painful.

We’re talking about competition over resources, he said.

Whenever you’re dealing with that, it’s difficult to give somebody something without taking away from someplace else.

The bottom line is that we’re not talking about the suitability of the location of our parking or whether we have an office space that’s ten square feet larger. We’re talking about whether we have a living wage, access to health insurance and fundamental benefits and whether we have any meaningful academic protection, Williams explained.

He wonders how an individual can put in decades of work at the same institute without any opportunity for recognition of that service other than a simple letter saying ‘thank you’.

Williams explained that he left his job at the Board of Elections when he decided that he wanted to put as much effort as he could into teaching.

It’s not like I had this great expectation of what teaching could provide me outside of that I really just love doing it, he said.

Then the economy tanked and a lot of my consulting work dried up.

He then became more reliant on teaching as a source of income.

There are those who simply enjoy being in the classroom. That’s it for me, but it’s a double-edged sword, he explained.

There are a few reasons it is so difficult for part-time faculty members to become full-time.

There is a very well entrenched institutional bias, he pointed out.

Williams believes that those who are in a position to hire are unlikely to hire someone who is adjunct or contingent because they are viewed as damaged goods. They see the adjunct or contingent faculty member as unable to get a job on a full-time tenure track.

He also has noticed that the number of tenure track opportunities has been disappearing. That leaves fewer opportunities to part-time faculty.

Another thing to take into consideration is the number of individuals with advanced degrees has been rapidly growing, which increases competition for the already waning number of opportunities in higher education.

Higher education administration needs to be proactive on this issue. They need to get out there and look at what they can do to help mitigate a situation where they are really becoming exploiters and abusers of labor, he said.

Williams explained that the university is continually creating new buildings, facilities and programs.

It’s creating a very shiny bucket, he said.

He understands the need to attract and bring students in.

Enrollment is up. The university’s facilities are fantastic. No one is arguing with that, he explained.

He went on to explain that the university now needs to focus more on retention of students. That is, keeping students at UA.

I’ve worked in student affairs. The notion that student affairs keeps students in the university is, I think, a flawed argument, he said.

He believes that the interaction with the instructional staff that has the biggest impact on whether or not a student is satisfied with the university.

Williams described what the university is doing as asking part-time professors to do a job with one hand tied behind their backs.

We’ve got a beautiful institution now. The university now needs to turn its focus inward on increasing the opportunities for faculty so that we can provide the best quality experience possible.

He points out that finding the balance between trying to make ends meet and still giving students the best that they can is difficult.

The shiny bucket has a really big hole in it, he said.

Williams explained that the current problems facing adjunct and contingent faculty have grown over the past ten or fifteen years.

He works the equivalent of 39.6 hours per week, according to university calculations. He teaches 4 classes.

Beginning next week, Williams will be tea
ching six days a week between UA and Stark State.

Add in his marketing and web consulting job and other odd jobs he does to make ends meet, and it isn’t difficult to realize that Williams is a very busy person.

He names that as a main reason there are only a handful of part-time faculty from UA involved in NFM.

So many adjunct and contingent faculty members are so busy working extra jobs and still putting their all into their teaching that it is difficult for them to find the time to devote to NFM.

Aside from UA faculty, NFM has increased its membership to approximately 500 members in the past month.

I’ve been getting almost daily phone calls from colleagues around the state [interested in NFM], Williams said.

Full-time and tenure track professors make an average of $2,500 per credit hour. The most adjunct and contingent professors can make is $1,000 per credit hour.

Part-time professors are able to teach a maximum of 21 credit hours during the academic school year and up to 9 credit hours during the summer. These courses, especially the summer ones, are not always guaranteed.

Williams said that the most a part-time professor could make in one year if they taught all possible credits, including summer courses, is approximately $33,000 with no benefits.

The administration is keeping us just below full-time status, he said.

Campus Equity Week will be held at UA Oct. 26-30. It is a nationwide awareness campaign. It will focus on adjunct and contingent faculty, according to Williams.

There is also a display set up in Bierce Library right outside of the Bierce Coffee Shop.

It is necessary for us to get out there and talk about the disadvantages that are being encountered by individuals like me and some of my colleagues, but really, at the end of the day it’s a quality of education issue, Williams explained.

NFM has not yet engaged in a heavy marketing campaign, but they plan to soon.

Williams wants to create opportunities for students, faculty and staff to become more aware of the situation.

What the administration is doing to us is like asking a groundskeeper to only use their left hand or hop on one foot and do as good as a job, even if they are fully motivated to do so, he said.

There are simply limitations there.

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