Since 1991, Youngstown State University in Ohio has paid its 600 or so non-tenured instructors who hold master’s degrees $800 per credit hour, equal to $2,400 per three-credit course. Those with Ph.D.s earn $1,050 per credit hour, or $3,150 per three-credit course. It has been a quarter century since those per course pay rates were increased.
The story makes compelling copy. So does the story behind the story.
On Twitter, this short news piece posted on Feb. 22 by InsideHigherEd.com made the rounds: “25 Years Without a Raise.” It’s likely the InsideHigherEd.com reporter picked up on the news from a Feb. 9, 2016 piece published in YSU’s student newspaper, The Jambar. That piece, titled, “Adjunct Faculty Recognize 25 Years Since Last Pay Raise,” includes much of the same basic information published three weeks later by InsideHigherEd.com. The Jambar published a piece about the adjunct pay issue at YSU in 2015, as well. In 2013, the Youngstown, Ohio newspaper, The Vindicator, published a piece titled, “YSU part-time faculty earn low pay, few benefits.” Vindicator reporter Denise Dick told the paper’s readers that: YSU Adjuncts “taught about 37 percent of Youngstown State University class sections last year, but part-time instructors often have to reach beyond campus to make ends meet. It’s been at least 22 years since their last raise.”
The 133 responses to the Feb. 22, 2017 InsideHigherEd.com about the plight of the adjunct faculty who teach at Youngstown State University were predictable: outrage, empathy, shock, ignorance of institutional finance and anger.
Maria Maisto, the Ohio-based president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization, told InsideHigherEd.com she was “familiar with the situation at Youngstown State.” Maisto went on to explain: “Anecdotally, I can say that it’s not uncommon, especially in places like Ohio, where there are significant obstacles to unionizing and no interest or effort by colleges and universities to pay fair wages for work that is at the core of the mission.”
None of the reporters or Ms. Maisto explained why adjunct faculty at Youngstown State University haven’t had a pay raise since George H.W. Bush was president. None of the reporters dug into Youngstown State University’s (2016 or 2017) operating budgets, documents available online. Maria Maisto, who is the higher education media’s go-to “advocate” for adjunct faculty, suggested the problem was that the Youngstown State U adjuncts were not unionized. A recent study shows that the AFT, NEA and AAUP have, over the past decade, significantly reduced the number of part-time faculty groups unionized and increased the number of full-time faculty groups.
In 2013-2014, a group of YSU adjuncts put feelers out to the United Steelworkers, but the effort floundered.
The adjunct association at Youngstown State University is led by a retired full-time assoc. prof. turned adjunct named James Zupanic. Zupnic’s opinion about pay equity for adjuncts?
“The best situation would be to have a decent raise and competition with other universities,” Zupanic told The Jambar in Feb. 2017. “We can’t get out of whack with what other places are paying either, but I think an amount that would be significant [without] damaging the finances of the university would be very well appreciated.”
Zupanic told The Youngstown Vindicator in 2013 that the YSU adjunct association “isn’t looking at forming a union right now. Many in the part-time ranks likely wouldn’t support that. A lot of them have jobs in other companies or are business owners, and joining a union could place them in an awkward position.”
In the Feb. 2017 Jambar article Tony Armeni, a part-time art professor at YSU, offered up a much more credible explanation as to why the adjuncts’ efforts to unionize failed: “People were meeting and talking, but [it] really never gained much traction for a number of reasons. People didn’t want to stick their necks out and work contract labor essentially … We may come back next semester, we may not.” In other words, the adjunct faculty at YSU who were exploring unionization were scared of being fired.
James Zupanic’s lack of support for pay equity most certainly plays a part in YSU’s failure to raise its adjunct pay. Likewise, the New Faculty Majority’s President Maria Maisto’s comments do little to advocate on behalf of adjuncts or look critically at an issue she admits is widespread. Maisto in her InsideHigherEd.com comments, in effect, chastises the adjuncts at Youngstown State for not unionizing. However, there is a union at YSU and this union has bargained collective agreements that have codified and perpetuated the exploitation of that college’s adjunct faculty.
The 300 full-time faculty at Youngstown State University are represented by the Ohio Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). The YSU-OEA 2014-2017 agreement, together with YSU’s operating budgets show very clearly a pattern whereby the full-time faculty union sits at the very center of the why the college’s adjuncts have no been given raises.
Despite Article 2.3 of the union’s most recent contract:
Exclusions: The bargaining unit shall not include, and benefits provided by this Agreement shall not apply to, the following: adjunct faculty, including those who are offered part-time instructional appointments, part-time faculty who do not hold adjunct status.
the YSU-OEA could have voluntarily agreed to represent the 650 adjunct faculty and bargain collectively on behalf of those faculty. In fact, the full-timers’ most recent contract gives a slight nod to non-tenured faculty in Article 11 “Non-Reappointment of Non-Tenured Faculty”:
Notice: A faculty member other than those on a Term or Post-Doctoral contract who has completed less than two (2) academic years at the University and who is not to be reappointed must receive written notice, from the department chair or other appropriate administrative officer, by the first Friday of spring semester of the academic year in which the notification is made. A faculty member who has completed two (2) or more academic years at the University and who is not to be reappointed must receive written notice of that intention from the department chair or other appropriate administrative officer by November 15 of the academic year in which the notification is made. A faculty member on a Term or Post-Doctoral contract who is not to be reappointed must receive notice from the department chair or other appropriate administrative officer by March 1 of the academic year in which the recommendation is made. A faculty member on a Term or Post-Doctoral contract who receives written notice of non-reappointment may not appeal that decision.
Summer teaching assignments shall be offered to full-time faculty over part-time faculty.
and Article 13.3,
Full-time faculty already employed by the University, except in special and unusual circumstances, have a priority of employment in their given subject matter area over adjunct faculty.
guarantee that those notices of non-reappointment for non-tenured faculty required by Article 11 will need to be sent out.
Recent Operating Budgets Provide Details
Youngstown State University’s operating budgets paint an even more complete picture of how YSU’s administration and the faculty union have funneled money away from adjuncts and to full-time faculty, even as those full-time faculty teach a shrinking percentage of the college’s total credit hours. Adjuncts at YSU teach 51 percent of the college’s credit hours, yet in 2016 300 full-time faculty collected 75 percent of the $40.5 million the college allocated to faculty pay. Over just 24 months, adjunct faculty at YSU saw the amount allocated for their pay drop by 11 percent. Meanwhile, full-time faculty pay over the same period was reduced by 1.1 percent.
In 2016, YSU cut the overall amount allocated to all faculty pay:
Temporary / Part-Time Faculty
$9,885,604 allocated in 2015 was cut to $8,965,711 (-$919,893) or a 9.3 percent reduction in the amount paid to the college’s 650 adjunct faculty.
$30,710,870 allocated in 2015 was cut to $29,620,154 (-$1,090,716) or a 3.6 percent reduction is the amount paid to the college’s 300 full-time faculty.
In 2017, YSU allocated faculty pay thusly:
Temporary / Part-Time Faculty
$8,965,711 allocated in 2016 was lowered to $8,794,274 (-$171,437) or a 1.9 percent
decrease in the amount paid to the college’s 650 part-time faculty.
$29,620,154 allocated in 2016 was raised to$30,355,273 ($735,119) or a 2.5 percent increase in the amount paid to the college’s 300 full-time faculty.
For the 650 adjunct faculty at Youngstown State University, a Nov. 2016 amendment to the city of Youngstown’s Charter may be the answer to their prayers. The amendment requires employers to provide part-timers’ work schedules at least two weeks in advance, upon request; pay part-timers the same starting hourly wage as full-timers whose jobs “require equal skill, effort and responsibility;” and give them proportional access to sick leave, personal leave and vacation.
Ron Cole, Youngstown State University’s public information officer, said the university’s human resources department needs more information on the bill and its meaning before it can evaluate whether, or how, the bill affects the university.
Johanna Slivinske, a part-time YSU social work instructor and one of more than 650 part-time YSU faculty, said it appears to her the bill “would lead to increased pay equity for part-time faculty and for all part-time workers.”