The Denial Twist

Listen to my blog entry here.

By now, if you haven’t already heard about it, you must be very busy with grading papers. The “it” to which I am referring is the Preliminary Report from the New York Commission on Higher Education. The United University Professions, (UUP) spent quite a bit of time “urging” New York’s Gov. Spitzer to fund additional full-time faculty slots. Of course, politicians need causes, and UUP’s then president William Scheuerman and UUP gave Spitzer what he needed. In December, Dr. William Scheuerman talked up the idea to newspapers around the state. In one, he is quoted as saying, “UUP believes that there should be at least 70 percent full-time academic faculty at each SUNY campus.” Currently, 62.2 percent of faculty are full-time, down from 73 percent in 1994.

Dr. Scheuerman was also quoted here as saying, “There’s a place for part-time professors, who may have a specialty or skill that’s not available in a department, [but] part-time professors may not stay at universities for the long term, so there is less stability….” This is simply a denial of the truth. Colleges typically hire many more faculty on the tenure-track than they ever intend to tenure. As a result, after 5-7 years, those full-time, tenure-line faculty who don’t win tenure leave.

On our website, we polled visitors and asked: “How many years have you taught as a temporary faculty member?” Here are the results.

1-3 years 137 votes 34%
4-7 years 133 votes 33%
8-11 years 72 votes 18%
12-15 years 29 votes 7%
16-19 years 13 votes 3%
20+ years 18 votes 4%

Adjunct Advocate published an interview with Dr. Scheuerman in 2001. In that interview he said, “You simply can’t have quality education when half the faculty is part-time. We used to have Rhodes scholars. Now we have roads scholars.” Fundamentally, I agree with him. When part-time faculty teach loads in excess of 100 percent to make ends meet, it’s just not possible to do one’s best work, I believe.

All that being said, I am very disconcerted that UUP’s leadership, as well as the AFT higher education leadership have chosen to focus solely on securing funding for more full-time faculty positions. That was the easier sell to the politicians, of course–more full-time faculty. What’s bothering me about the AFT’s multi-state drive to convince legislatures to pony up more funding for full-time faculty is that, despite the platitudes about the contributions of part-time faculty and their importance, the drive has left them twisting in the wind. For example, in New York, AFT affiliate UUP pushed for funding from the legislature which would benefit only full-time faculty members.

On January 25th, I sent along an email to UUP’s president Dr. Frederick Floss, as well as the union’s Vice President for Academics, Dr. Kenneth D. Kallio, for information concerning the recent contract negotiated by UUP. Officials negotiated across the board percentage raises for both full- and part-time faculty. I wanted to find out, in dollars, what the percentage raise meant. I also asked how many part-time faculty sit on the UUP’s Negotiating Committee and Executive Board.

As is often the case when I ask these questions, I haven’t heard anything back yet. As is wont to happen, UUP’s leaders just may be busy doing the denial twist.

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