Adjuncts Rally for Union at Temple University

by Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

The Adjunct Organizing Committee, a group that aims to unionize Temple’s part-time faculty, declared the week of Nov. 16th Adjunct Awareness Week. Members of the committee stood at the Bell Tower around noon every day through Nov. 20th.

The AOC has worked for several years to unionize adjuncts. Its goals are to gain some predictability in adjuncts’ courses, a clear path for promotion based on performance in teaching and research and equal pay and benefits for equal work.

This is the first year the committee organized Adjunct Awareness Week.

Adjunct American studies professor Regina Bannan said they chose to do so this year, “because the university is doing the Middle States Study for accreditation, and the Middle States standard is that all faculty should be treated as faculty. We decided to do this to raise awareness that Temple is not treating its adjuncts equally.”

Adjunct professors make up 46.5 percent of Temple’s faculty but do not receive the same pay and benefits awarded to full-time professors. Although the AOC has the support of the Temple Association of University Professionals and the American Federation of Teachers, its members still face great opposition in their quest for unionization.

“Most undergraduates do not know what ‘adjunct’ means,” Bannan said.

Adjunct professors are the part-time faculty who teach a maximum of two courses per semester, which range from highly specialized subject matter to high-volume and entry-level courses. According to a report by the AOC, although adjuncts account for approximately half the university’s faculty, they earn half as much as the lowest-paid, non-tenure-track full-time professor for teaching the same courses.

“Non-celebrity” adjuncts earn $14,000 for 12 credit hours and $19,000 for 16 credit hours. There are a few celebrity adjuncts, film and media arts adjunct Dan Friedlaender and English adjunct Frank Fucile said, who earn double that amount.

This is not the only way in which adjuncts are treated unfairly, they said.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one of six regional accrediting organizations, published the 90-page document “Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education,” which outlines the eligibility requirements institutions must meet in order to be accredited.

The 13th eligibility requirement stated in “Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education” is: “The institution’s faculty is sufficient in number, background and experience to support the programs offered and includes a core of faculty with sufficient responsibility to the institution to assure the continuity and coherence of the institution’s programs.”

Temple, however, does not meet this requirement.

“There’s not even a renewal of contract,” Bannan said. “Contracts are renewed every semester, so you do not know if you’ll be teaching next semester.”

A university cannot guarantee continuity and coherence of its programs if there is no guarantee of continuity among faculty, she added.

No. 14 of the eligibility requirements listed in “Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education” reads: “The institution maintains physical facilities for administration, faculty, students and programs and services that are appropriate for the institution’s mission and educational programs offered.”

Based on research conducted by the AOC, Temple also fails to meet this requirement by not providing adjuncts with offices. Adjuncts teach half of all undergraduate classes but are half as likely to have private offices where they’re able to meet with students.

In a survey conducted by the AOC, nearly 40 percent of adjuncts polled said they used their cars as offices. Some adjuncts, for instance, have trunks filled with paperwork or use their cars to transport musical instruments between home and work.

Adjuncts who do have access to offices usually have to share. In one extreme case, an estimated 30 adjuncts share one office.

“Most of us share offices, which is not as nice as having private offices,” Bannan said. “Most of the time, when students are meeting with their professors, it is to express grievances, and that is not the kind of meeting you want to have with an audience.”

Temple’s Middle-States Accreditation self-study states: “The university has published and implemented standards and procedures for all faculty and other professionals for promotion, tenure, grievance, discipline and dismissal.”

A document written by the AOC reports that “no such standards and procedures for adjuncts are available.”

But according to the university self-study, there exists “university-wide policy on adjunct appointments, as well as individual school and college appointment guidelines.”

The committee, however, wrote that it knew of “no such university-wide policy, nor of the guidelines for individual schools and colleges.”

The AOC also wrote in its response to Temple’s self-study for Middle States Accreditation that – despite the lack of communication of information that would allow adjuncts to determine their position in relation to other university professionals – the university “expresses sensitivity to the plight of adjuncts, many of whom are young, dependent on more than one adjunct position and vulnerable to exploitation.”

“The full-time faculty union is supporting our efforts,” Bannan said.

TAUP President Art Hochner was present on Berks Mall to help spread the word with members of the AOC during Adjunct Awareness Week.

Friedlaender said university administrators appear apathetic to the adjunct cause.

He said he’s heard numerous times from the administration things like, “No one’s holding a gun to your head. If you don’t like it here, you can leave.”

“It’s the Ayn Rand way of thinking,” Friedlaender said. “They’ve got you at a certain position, and because they’ve already got you, they don’t have to give you anything more.”

Temple’s administration has held up the progress of the AOC by failing to provide it with information necessary for unionization, members said.

“The problem is we have to figure out who are adjuncts because the university does not give us a list of all adjuncts,” Bannan said.

Members of the AOC said they are hopeful more adjuncts will join their organization because ultimately, Friedlaender and Bannan said, the adjuncts are here for the benefit of the students and the goals of the committee would benefit the students at Temple.

“We’re good teachers,” Fucile said, “and we want to teach here.”

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