I Strongly Object

I recently read a piece about New Jersey Governor Corzine’s pension reform plan. The long and short of it is that the Governor’s proposal would exclude anyone working fewer than 30 hours per week from the state’s pension system. That would include, according to the article, 10,000 part-time faculty.

In response to the possibility that 10,000 part-time faculty might be excluded from the pension system in New Jersey, “[l]awmakers also are getting objections from the unions that represent more than 10,000 part-time college faculty members. They claim the proposal to exclude anyone working less than 30 hours a week from the pension system will eliminate the retirement benefit for all part-time professors.”

Objections? That’s it?

At Rutgers, in New Jersey, the AAUP-AFT local represents about 1,000 part-time lecturers (PTLs). Dues are .05 percent of pay, or $20 per term per course. Non-union members pay a fee of 85 percent of dues “to cover the costs of representation.” Since 2005, the Rutgers chapter has been affiliated with both AAUP and AFT. Those 1,000 part-timers represent almost one-fourth of the AAUP’s total part-time faculty membership.

The AAUP recently held its annual meeting. A quick look at the program, leaves one feeling, well, like no one at AAUP’s national office is paying attention to the fact that almost one-quarter of the union’s entire part-time faculty population is in jeopardy of losing their retirement benefits. At the AAUP’s recent annual meeting, there was this special panel of interest: “Stories Your Mother (and the Dean) Never Told You: Planning Now for Future Health Security in Retirement.” Here’s the panel description:A new paradigm for sustaining retiree medical benefits for retiring faculty and staff at colleges and universities. The presenter will be Linda Cool, Professor of Anthropology at Union College and Founding Director of Emeriti Retirement Health Solutions.There was also a TIAA-CREF seminar. A lovely little get-together for those AAUP members who have access to TIAA-CREF benefits, or who have access to TIAA-CREF benefits until they don’t anymore.

Heck, maybe the New Jersey part-timers who attended the AAUP Annual Meeting drank away their sorrows at the AAUP’s one hour “Contingent Faculty and Interested Parties Meet for Happy Hour” schmoozapalooza. It was the only event for part-time faculty at the three-day conference.

Finally—I saved the best for last—the theme of the AAUP’s 94th Annual Meeting was “Scholars in Peril.” It seems AAUP is more concerned with the fact that scholars from abroad are having a more difficult time securing Visas for entry into the United States, than whether or not 25 percent of their total part-time membership will have to start eating wallpaper paste for protein after they lose their retirement benefits.

Then again, AAUP has defied gravity, conventional business practices, and logic for the past decade. In 2007, after Dr. Cary Nelson was elected president, the organization increased dues for those members who earn the least by 380 percent, and dues for those who earn the most were increased by only 3.8 percent. Between 2000 and 2007, membership fell from 45,000 to 41,543, but revenue jumped from $5 million per year to $7.3 million.

“Scholars in Peril,” indeed. I strongly object. The hubris and thoughtlessness boggle the mind.

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