by Kayla Tucker
A Grand Rapids Community College adjunct professor filed a court injunction at the Kent County 17th Circuit Court to stop the Board of Trustees from ratifying a new faculty contract that will decrease the pay of some adjunct professors. The judge was not able to review the injunction before the meeting, so the vote went on as planned and a large number of the college’s adjunct faculty will see their pay decreased.
This is not the first time the full-time faculty at GRCC have bargained a contract which has reduced pay for the college’s hundreds of adjunct faculty. AdjunctNation published a piece in 2013 titled “Michigan Faculty Union Contract Protects $100K+ Pay For FTers & Cuts Adjunct Pay.”
“It does not seem like we (adjuncts) are represented adequately,” said William Nathan Sneller, an adjunct faculty member who teaches mechanical design at GRCC. “We only get half a vote. We can’t carry more than one absentee vote with us. The schedule is very conducive to full-time faculty members for showing up and very difficult for adjuncts.”
The GRCC Faculty Association represents over 500 adjuncts, as well as the college’s full-time faculty.
Sneller is one of the adjuncts who will be affected by this pay cut.
“I assumed it was going to be approved,” said Faculty Association President Frank Conner. “I do believe that we, as a society, do not value adjuncts to the level we should and often times they’re not treated fairly.” Connor’s pay as a GRCC faculty member will be increased by over $2,700 over the next three years, thanks to the new contract.
“Newer adjuncts have an increase, long term adjuncts have the same rate or a cut, (and) composition instructors took the biggest cut,” said Michael Miller, adjunct representative, who is one of the English professors most affected by the pay cuts.
Faculty Association President Frank Conner said about 20 percent of adjunct professors will receive a 5 percent pay cut under the new contract. Sneller said the number of adjuncts affected would be about 125.
Conner said these pay changes were decided by comparing adjunct pay rates at other colleges.
Sneller, who has worked at the college for seven years, said the pay cut that adjuncts are receiving in the first year of the contract is almost equal to the pay raise full-time professors will see.
“When details of the proposed agreement were provided, full-time faculty were given yearly increases of $1,110, $800 and $800 over the next three years, respectively,” Sneller stated in the injunction. “Adjuncts teaching eight credits or more over two semesters were given a pay cut of $1,120 (for bachelor’s degree non-new adjuncts). Adjuncts teaching eight or more composition courses received a pay cut of at least $1,424 (for master’s degree non-new-adjuncts).”
Sneller goes on to say that “the full-time faculty negotiated to their own benefit at the expense of the adjuncts.”
“I think the adjuncts need to speak for themselves,” Sneller said.
Miller said those at the negotiating table, including him, do their best to negotiate for everybody, but he still has concerns.
“I’m one of those adjuncts affected,” Miller said. “The pay decrease is frustrating … It seems very hurtful that they would want to compare us to other colleges and use that to justify a pay decrease.”
Sneller filed the injunction to stop the board from reviewing the contract and give the faculty association more time to make the contract fair for adjuncts. If the injunction is approved, Sneller hopes to see the vote numbers from the Dec. 9 meeting made public and a recount put in place. He also hopes to see adjuncts represent themselves.
“There are a lot of people who are afraid,” Sneller said. “I think we’re all professionals and we can realize that we’re just negotiating fairly … I have the highest confidence in the faculty association that we can all behave as professionals.”
Karin Gallagher is one of the adjunct professors affected by the contract. She said that college thinks adjunct pay is “excessive,” but she strongly disagrees.
“While this contract is not the worst case scenario, and we are being told to be grateful that it is what it is, I cannot express how disappointing it is to find out administration does not actually value our efforts and dedication,” Gallagher said. “Because GRCC pays better, I have made a home here. I love my job. I love this college. I also need to be able to pay bills. I am not a part of a two-income home. I have to buy my own health insurance.”
“I would like to know the average salary for the GRCC administrators who deem my pay to be excessive. And I challenge them to live on an adjunct salary with no benefits and no certainty from semester to semester.”
Miller said he thinks there’s a positive side to the situation.
“I think adjuncts will be more united and involved in the processes now because of this,” Miller said.