The Faculty Senate at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas unanimously passed a proposal that would create two new positions on the governing body to represent contingent faculty—part time faculty including one-year appointments and adjuncts. Adjunct faculty have traditionally been shut out of faculty senates at their colleges and universities while their full-time colleagues debate whether adjuncts should be permitted to collectively bargaining or have tenure.
“We are shooting for something right now and eventually we hope to have more representative numbers,” Kelly Mendiola, chair of the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Adjuncts, said. “Ideally, eventually there will be representatives for each school.”
This proposal is one of three that the Ad Hoc Committee on Adjuncts has drafted this semester in light of the administration’s decision in the fall to enforce the Faculty Manual in a new way, which limited adjunct faculty to six hours a semester. Previously, adjuncts could teach nine hours.
That decision “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Mendiola said. “No one has been brave enough to address these issues until now.” Mendiola is now an associate professor of English Writing and Rhetoric, but she started teaching at St. Edward’s in 2002 as an adjunct professor.
This committee is currently temporary and was created in the fall in response to the administration’s decision, but it has found that St. Edward’s University has many issues to address that affect part-time faculty.
The committee is trying to become a permanent standing committee in the Faculty Senate. It wants to help develop long-term solutions for contingent faculty at St. Edward’s and look at controversial issues like adjunct pay. The group has also proposed that the Faculty Manual be revised to allow adjuncts to teach nine hours a semester.
The committee proposed the revisions at the Jan. 31 Faculty Senate meeting, but when the Faculty Manual is changed it has to be approved by the Faculty Manual Revision Committee and the Board of Trustees. Mendiola said it was their goal to present this proposal to the board during their February meeting. That did not happen, and they are now hoping the board will consider the proposal at their May meeting.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Mary Boyd previously said that under no circumstances will adjuncts teach more than six hours for the Fall 2014 semester.
Though the policy was initially supposed to begin in the 2014-2015 academic year, the administration has granted one more nine-hour semester to adjuncts. They can teach nine hours in Fall 2014, Mary Boyd, vice president of Academic Affairs said in an email interview last week.
According to the St. Edward’s University 2013-2014 Fact Book, the university has 269 adjuncts and 240 tenure track or tenure faculty.
Although the number of courses taught by full-time faculty outnumbers those taught by adjuncts, there are more adjuncts employed by the university than full-time staff. Adjuncts do not receive benefits and are paid on a per course basis.
Richard Kopec, president of the Faculty Senate, said, “Adjuncts are only paid to teach courses. Requiring them to participate in senate activities would exceed their contractual obligations.”
The proposal that passed recently had a line that said that contingent faculty members “should” be paid for their service on the Faculty Senate. However, the administration will have to approve this and allocate the funds.
Adjuncts “should be treated like the faculty that they are,” Drew Loewe, School of Humanities representative for the Faculty Senate, said.
The proposal that passed on Friday “is just one more step toward having more adjunct participation.”
Mendiola said that this representation is important for adjuncts because many do not speak up because they lack job security.
“An adjunct isn’t going to go up to the person who hired them that semester and ask a lot of questions because the person can just not be hired again with no reason,” she said.
Longtime adjunct Bev Van Note is pleased that the Ad Hoc Committee on Adjuncts is making progress.
“I’m thrilled that the Senate members were so supportive as to pass the proposal for representation.,” Van Note said.