Monday, January 5, 2015

The rising voice of adjunct faculty

California colleges see surge in efforts to unionize adjunct faculty (LA Times)
     A wave of union organizing at college campuses across California and the nation in recent months is being fueled by part-time faculty who are increasingly discontented over working conditions and a lack of job security.
     At nearly a dozen private colleges in California, adjunct professors are holding first-time contract negotiations or are campaigning to win the right to do so. Those instructors complain of working semester to semester without knowing whether they will be kept on, lacking health benefits and in some cases having to commute among several campuses to make a living.
     While union activists say they look forward to better working terms and a greater voice in how campuses are governed, many college administrators say they are worried that such union contracts could mean less flexibility in academic hiring and higher tuition costs.
     Service Employees International Union chapters in the Los Angeles area and in Northern California this week won faculty elections to represent part-time professors at Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester and Dominican University of California in San Rafael, and part-timers and non-permanent full-timers at St. Mary's College of California in Moraga. In recent months, the union succeeded in hard-fought votes among part-time faculty at Whittier College, Mills College and California College of the Arts in Oakland, San Francisco Art Institute and Laguna College of Art and Design.
. . .
     Even as unions lose membership in other industries, they have found friendlier turf in academia. Outside California, organized labor has won recent elections at several large private institutions, including Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Tufts in the Boston area.
     New contracts for part-time faculty at those schools boost pay and, without guarantees, contain formal rules about notifying instructors in advance about teaching assignments and the length of contracts. Colleges seeking to avoid unionization contend those pacts are no better than what could be obtained without the unions. (Part-time and untenured faculty at many public universities, including UC and Cal State, long have been represented by unions.)
     The unusual number of union campaigns springs from the use of more part-time instructors as a way to reduce the hiring of tenure-track faculty, 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 pro-union response is coming from adjuncts who, he said, constitute "a large group of people who are highly educated, highly motivated and highly experienced."
     About half of U.S. college and university faculty were full-time in 2011, down from 77% 40 years before that, U.S. Department of Education data show. Part-time instructors teach about a fourth of all classes at research universities and more than a third of courses at community colleges, according to a study by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, a group of education and research associations….

90-year-old postcard
1889: first official OC map

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