The New Faculty Majority

In September, there were pieces in The Chronicle (http://chronicle.com/article/An-Activist-Adjunct-Shoulde/48348/) and on InsideHigherEd.com (http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2009/09/10/maisto) about the New Faculty Majority. September, it seems, is the time of year when people’s thoughts turn to adjunct faculty and what should, could, would be done to address the “adjunct problem.” This past September, we read about the New Faculty Majority, a group founded by SUNY-New Paltz tenured faculty member Dr. Peter D.G. Brown, whom I know and respect very much for his work on behalf of SUNY’s adjuncts.

The group’s official launch was clunky. It went public without a name. Let me digress and explain that in the mid-90s, I launched a group called the National Adjunct Faculty Guild, a membership organization that provided, among other benefits, access to health care. The dues were modest, and the membership grew. We held three conferences. Attendance at the conferences was modest, between 50-100 people. I disbanded the NAFG after six years. It became obvious that though the members wanted and needed access to health and life insurance, they were unprepared to pay even modest premiums. They also clamored for a national union—a task I was unprepared to tackle.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to an adjunct activist who told me of the formation of the New Faculty Majority. Since then, I’ve been watching and waiting to see the next steps the group would take. The other day I visited the group’s web site and came away puzzled, disappointed and dispirited. The group has a laudable list of goals now: job security equity, benefits equity and compensation equity. Equity? Why not parity, I wondered? Equity is the concept the academic labor unions have been trying to cram down the throats of their members over the past several years. If you need a quick lesson on the difference between the two, check out this piece (https://www.adjunctnation.com/blogs/part-time-thoughts/?p=86).

Then, I looked at how the group intends to be funded. This is from the New Faculty Majority web page: “In January 2010 we plan to begin membership dues in order to establish a national office, with an executive director and a small staff. (Unlike most of our employers, we shall certainly provide our own employees with a living wage and benefits.)” A national office with an executive director and a small staff? Ok. So what do the members get in return for helping launch a bureaucracy? The benefits page answered that question: “All of us will benefit from a thorough reform of employment practices in higher education. The benefits of NFM are not services per se but the power of our numbers. We are working to restore the profession of teaching and to ameliorate the substandard conditions and terms of employment now allotted to the majority of higher education faculty.”

In short. No services, per se.

So let me understand this New Faculty Majority structure and system. Adjuncts pay money to a group so the group can pay for a national headquarters, hire an executive director and a staff. This sounds terrifyingly familiar. The members keep the bureaucracy in the manner to which the bureaucracy will quickly become accustomed.

How nice for the executive director and the small, but well-compensated staff.

What, I wondered, could have driven the group so far off course short of the organization having been co-opted by members of the education unions. Then, I went and studied the list of NFM leaders. Ah, the answers were all there: UUP, AFT, NEA, AAUP, UC-AFT. Then I studied the list of the kind folks who had agreed to serve on the group’s “Advisory Board.” Three out of the eight members of the board were from the AAUP.

What was next, I wondered? An invitation to AFT-Washington’s Sandra Schroeder to come and “advise” the group?

Well, yes, it turns out that the New Faculty Majority has, indeed, put feelers out to the President of the AFT-Washington. I can only imagine Schroeder’s terms. The New Faculty Majority would, of course, have to endorse the AFT’s FACE farce. The New Faculty Majority would endorse a legislative boondoggle that seeks to, at base, reduce te numbers of the New Faculty Majority. 

The New Faculty Majority has morphed into the same old thing: a group that takes money from adjunct faculty in order to, first, feed and clothe a bureaucracy. The group’s goals are perfectly acceptable. Those involved, however, can see no other way to get there than by plodding down the failed course charted by America’s higher education unions over the past 35 years.  

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