Why Wright State University PTers Should Apply for Striking FTers’ Jobs

by P.D. Lesko

The full-time faculty at Wright State University went on strike on Tuesday January 22nd. Adjunct faculty employed by WSU who seek full-time teaching jobs should contact the deans of the schools in which they teach and apply to replace a striking non-tenure-track, full-time faculty member. Not only that, in response to an insulting, condescending and misleading Open Letter to Adjunct Faculty released by the Wright State University AAUP, the adjunct applicants should make it clear that they will agree to accept the terms of the contract offered to the striking full-timers, including the offered salary minimums, step salaries, retirement plan, health care plans provided by the university, and the adjunct applicants should make it clear they will agree to the proposed merit pay system. In short, the adjunct applicants should play ball with the administrators and take those jobs away from the full-time non-tenured faculty.

Why? Why not?

Adjunct faculty support of (or deference to) full-time faculty who strike is on the level of a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. At Wright State University, the full-time faculty are striking because they want more money, don’t like sharing more in the cost of the health care options given them, don’t want to teach extra courses (except when they do) and don’t want merit pay decided by supervisors, among other First World Problems.

Such strikes should be viewed by academically-qualified adjunct faculty as opportunities to rebalance a world that has been allowed to tilt completely out of whack. It’s an opportunity for adjunct faculty at WSU to take back the pay and benefits full-time faculty in the Wright State University-AAUP have selfishly denied part-timers for decades. Going after the job of a striking, non-tenured full-time faculty member could repair some of the damage done to adjuncts and their students. Landing those jobs would, undeniably, result in better treatment of the lowest paid faculty employees.

The Wight State University-AAUP Open Letter to Adjunct Faculty asks adjuncts not to teach additional courses. The letter invokes camaraderie which seeks to disguise the one-sided nature of the relationship between the AAUP membership and their part-time colleagues: “If you disagree with the way the administration has damaged the employees of the university and the students, and believe we all deserve to be treated better….” We? We who? The Open Letter also suggests that the full-time faculty, by striking, are protecting the livelihoods of Wright State University’s adjuncts: “Agreeing to temporarily teach classes allows the administration to refuse faculty a voice in major university decisions, [and] reduces your ability to adjunct teach (as we will all be forced to teach more classes leaving less for you).”

WSU administrators seek to increase teaching loads for full-time faculty and the union is fighting the proposal. On the other hand, the union is fighting over how their members are selected to teach overload courses in the summer—courses that could go to adjunct faculty, except that the union contract excludes adjuncts from the current method of selection. In the recent Summary of Fact-Finding prepared by the union for its members, we read this: “Current [contract] language implements a rotation system when there are more faculty who want to teach [in summer] than there are courses available. The administration wants to eliminate the rotation system and be allowed to choose ‘the best teachers’ to teach in the summer. Of course, ‘the best teachers’ can be the cheapest teachers, including adjuncts….” The insinuation is that WSU adjuncts are first (and perhaps merely) “the cheapest teachers,” but certainly not among the best. As it stands, these full-time faculty and their union are already reducing the part-timers’ ability to teach courses. So much for everyone deserving to be treated better.

The WSU-AAUP has never provided protection to the university’s 402 part-time faculty members “without faculty status,” and doesn’t bargain collectively on behalf of those faculty members. In fact, the union works against the part-time faculty and uses the part-timers as a cudgel.

As you can see from the table below, a breakdown of the faculty by type at Wright State University, there are 402 part-time faculty at that university. Along with another 250 full-time, non-tenure-eligible full-time faculty, a total of 652 faculty are employed off the tenure-track, or around 49 percent of the total faculty employed. Unlike elsewhere, where the AAUP represents full-time faculty in one local and adjunct faculty in another, the AAUP only represents the full-time faculty at WSU (including 250 non-tenured faculty with “faculty status”).

Graph provided by Wright State University.

The Open Letter to Adjunct Faculty which asks those faculty “to not agree to teach additional courses while a strike is ongoing,” is all at once playing on sympathies that, I believe, should not exist, and includes information that is not strictly accurate when compared to the “Summary of Fact-Finding” prepared by the union for its members in May 2018. For instance, the union leadership in its Open Letter tells the WSU adjuncts, “The imposed contract amounts to a pay cut of up to 20% for some of us and forces on us a healthcare plan that increases the burden on the sickest and lowest paid faculty.” The union apprised its members in the “Summary of Fact-Finding” that “the administration is proposing a 10% cut in pay for bargaining unit members except for a few selected ‘super-stars’ who they deem worthy of receiving merit pay awards.” Elsewhere in the Summary of Fact-Finding, bargaining officials from the union explain that the administration’s salary proposal (three years of no raises) “amounts to a 6% cut in pay after adjusting for inflation.”

The Open Letter from the AAUP leadership tells the institution’s adjunct faculty: “You are obligated to teach the course(s) you have already been contractually obligated to teach but no more. You may be contacted to cover the courses of full time faculty on strike but you are under no obligation to do so. Agreeing to temporarily teach classes allows the administration to refuse faculty a voice in major university decisions…weakens our negotiating power, and will eventually result in the students suffering through larger classes and less individualized attention.”

The Wright State University-AAUP has refused “a voice in major university decisions” to almost 40 percent of the college’s instructional faculty—those who are absurdly classified as “faculty without status.” The union has denied hundreds of part-time faculty any negotiating power. The members of this AAUP chapter have taken for themselves the majority of the money allocated in the WSU budget for student instruction and attempt to minimize the fact that members of the union have conspired to divert tens and tens of millions of dollars in pay, perks and benefits from adjunct faculty over the past decade.

In the Open Letter from the AAUP leadership we discover that, “The attorney they hired as negotiator is earning almost half a million dollars, while previous contracts were negotiated in-house, for no extra cost. Full-time faculty salary and benefits STILL cost only 17 cents of every tuition dollar.” Only 17 cents of every tuition dollar is calculated to appear a pittance, but it is a calculated deception.

Viewed from a more transparent perspective, according to the WSU 2018 budget, in 2017 14,651 WSU students paid, on average, $8,730 in tuition and 17 percent of that money (according to the AAUP’s Open Letter to Adjuncts) went to the union’s faculty members: $21.7 million. This, of course, is not the only money that went to the union’s members. According to the same budget, in 2017 $107 million went for instruction and department research.

Wright State University’s 402 part-time faculty, collectively, earned around $4 million in 2017, or $.03.1 cents of every tuition dollar. Of course not every adjunct seeks full-time employment as a faculty member. However, research suggests that, statistically, as many as 200 of the Wright State University part-time faculty “without standing” cobble together full-time-part-time teaching work in order to make ends meet while they seek full-time faculty appointments. The choice? Continue to earn $.03 cents of every tuition dollar at Wright State University, or claim what has been taken from you. Answer the knock at your door. It’s opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

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55 Comments
  1. Matthew C Hobbs says

    “Why? Why not?”
    There is an obvious tinge of hopelessness and complete in ability to reason any further than whatever seems to be coming over the hill. The inability to look at this from a perspective other than what immediately comes next is disheartening, and dishonest. I don’t know who the author is, but they are a fascist and anti-intellectual. Calling out people to be like Trump in the comments, simple attacks on people making, you are the least common denominator when it comes to debate and thought. I can’t believe you are a serious person, and I wish for you to have some intellectual/spiritual renewal so you stop costing all of us such a headache. It’s a shame how adjuncts are treated in this country, and I can see how you might want to take their cause, but this is not the appropriate time or place to do it. If you told kids in France they would have to pay 40k a year for an education, they would strike and shut the country down. It’s a shame that people are such sheep here and that when it comes to what we are force fed we have stomachs of iron and can keep down such insolent nonsense, but deranged anger about the situation is like taking a tube and putting it from your mouth to your anus. This isn’t the solution.

    1. P.D. Lesko says

      I’m the author and I’m not sure why suggesting that adjunct faculty do what’s empirically best for them is “deranged anger.” It’s a suggestion that doesn’t take anyone or anything into account except the adjunct faculty whom the members of whom the full-time faculty union at this school have been taking advantage. Now, the full-time faculty are on strike and they’re all about “solidarity.” How is that in the best interests of the adjunct faculty? It’s not. Of course the adjuncts should do what’s in their own best interests. No one else is going to help them.

  2. Diane Gusa says

    Neither protected by the union – where is their concern for adjuncts? I always felt that full-time faculty ignoring the mistreatment of adjuncts will eventually hurt the full-timers. The time seems to be happening at Wright state.

  3. David Kociemba says

    Under state law, they can’t negotiate for adjunct faculty because adjunct faculty can’t be in a union [with collective bargaining rights enforced by SERB unless there’s voluntary recognition by an employer, which is certainly not the case here]. They’d be interested in having them in their unit if they could. I’ll also point out that contingent FT faculty are a part of this strike.

    As for their concern for adjuncts, they’re trying to make it clear that they’re not expected to risk their jobs for their picket line and outlining exactly what they can do if they do want to show support.

    The administration, on the other hand, is trying to get adjuncts to be active scabs taking over their classes, so that the administration can impose the worst health insurance on the state, be able to change it at will with 60 days notice, and to make non-tenure track and tenure-track jobs at will employment, thus making any future for adjuncts at the institution untenable. The administration is also trying to make there be less teaching jobs for adjuncts by upping the course load for NTT and tenure-line faculty, reducing the number of available slots.

    1. Lydia Field Snow says

      @David Kociemba I hear you! This is a terrible time for Wright faculty but how long did the situation for adjuncts continue before all this came down? If the union wants adjuncts to strike they need to include them as members of the faculty and be willing to fight for them as well.

      1. David Kociemba says

        I’m not reading this as a request to strike–they’re saying that they’re contractually obligated to teach. They’re informing them that they’re not obligated to teach the classes of faculty on strike, that administrators will try to ask them to and asking that they not take those courses on. They’re also suggesting that one way to show support would be to hold classes off site or to use the online learning management system for their early classes.

        1. Lydia Field Snow says

          @David Kociemba I see. So they are expected to keep teaching their classes but not take on striking faculties’? I think if they do teach they should hold a teach in. In that way they can support the faculty but also educate the students about corporatization of the university. I certainly hope they will NOT take striking faculties classes. But I don’t know how desperate they are.

    2. Taylor Ford says

      @David Kociemba You’re wrong that public sector adjuncts in Ohio are legally barred from forming a union. They’re written out of collective bargaining rights – they couldn’t go to SERB and file for an election, but they can organize and form a union through voluntary recognition. You should retract your factually incorrect statement.

      1. David Kociemba says

        @Taylor Ford I feel confident that this administration at Wright State will not do voluntary recognition for any union.

        1. Taylor Ford says

          @David Kociemba You may have a personal opinion about adjuncts at Wright State. But saying “under state law, they can’t negotiate for adjunct faculty because adjunct faculty can’t be in a union” is factually incorrect.

          1. David Kociemba says

            I’d be delighted to change it to the technically correct version if you can provide the citation that says that you’re right. And, no, I don’t have a personal feeling about adjuncts at Wright State other than the feeling of solidarity I have with all adjuncts as a former adjunct of 16 years duration who served in an AAUP union for adjuncts at Emerson and helped SEIU form one for adjuncts at Boston University.

        2. Taylor Ford says

          @David Kociemba I’m an union organizer working on multiple public sector adjunct campaigns in the state of Ohio. There’s no law against them engaging in collective bargaining, they’re just written out of the process. You’re the one who’s making a claim, that this is specifically illegal, which it is not. The burden of proof is on you.

          Edit, to answer your question. With the United Steelworkers in Northeast Ohio.

          1. David Kociemba says

            I’ve made the change, Taylor.

  4. Maria Schultz De Borba-Silva says

    Wow – this is such an interesting ethical case – I think you have to think about the long-term consequences of this though. The #badmins are still in control.

    1. P.D. Lesko says

      @Maria Schultz De Borba-Silva True that the #badadmin would still be in charge, but putting people in faculty positions who are prepared to cooperate when it’s in their best interests, but who are ruthless enough to take the pay and power they deserve would, perhaps, change the entire power dynamic. What do you think?

  5. Marla McCulloch says

    Yeah, I was the idiot ft adjunct who supported the union strike. When I suddenly didn’t have classes after 9 years…not one peep from the union or other faculty.

    1. Lydia Field Snow says

      Just reading that at Truman College (city college here in Chicago) the union is requesting LESS classes taught by adjuncts as apart of their new contract. We are just so screwed. Everyone is clambering for classes and nobody understands how they got there. If they could all join forces and dismantle the illegal hiring practices and wage theft going on right under their noses not to mention out of control spending on administration we might get somewhere.

  6. Jane Susan Gabin says

    While I can see why this is tempting, adjuncts need to stay focused on their goals. Don’t do what admin wants you to do!

    Also: I was brought up to NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE!

    SOLIDARITY!

  7. Lucy Valerie Graham says

    wtf… this is so condescending, like they acknowledge that they and the university are throwing scraps to adjuncts, who should be grateful for what they get. this is all kinds of fucked up and i would not stand for it quite honestly
    “Agreeing to temporarily teach classes allows the administration to refuse faculty a voice in major university decisions, [and] reduces your ability to adjunct teach (as we will all be forced to teach more classes leaving less for you).”

  8. Lana Sumpter says

    I would sooner work at McD than cross a picket line.

    1. Lydia Field Snow says

      @Lana Sumpter sadly many adjuncts do work at McDonalds or other service jobs already. They are not asking adjuncts to not teach. Just not take full time classes away from those on strike. That’s entirely reasonable!

    2. Robbie Emmet says

      Ditto.

    3. Lana Sumpter says

      @Lydia Field Snow yes, I’m preparing taxes as a side gig this year — pays less than McDonald’s, and has fewer benis

  9. David Kociemba says

    A reminder that in Ohio, under state law, they can’t negotiate for adjunct faculty because adjunct faculty can’t be in a union with collective bargaining rights enforced by SERB unless there’s voluntary recognition by an employer, which is certainly not the case here.

  10. Shannon Finck says

    No! Full-time faculty are not the enemies of contingent faculty. Strike breakers undermine collective bargaining for everyone.

    1. Lydia Field Snow says

      @Shannon Finck but why don’t the adjuncts have a union? Obviously the TP and FT have made it impossible. #cognitivedissonance

      1. Shannon Finck says

        It was my understanding that striking faculty are bargaining on behalf of their adjunct colleagues, who are not protected, too. Is that not the case?

      2. Lydia Field Snow says

        @Shannon Finck no. They have no representation.

    2. Lydia Field Snow says

      The FTimers have a union but not adjuncts. I say let them offer something anything before asking them to starve.

    3. Josh Blair says

      In Ohio, we adjuncts can’t organize.

    4. Shannon Finck says

      I understand that they are not represented, but are they not also part of the bargaining agreement FT faculty wish to make? In any case, make no mistake–if university admin believe that they can fill every class with an adjunct, there will be no full-time jobs for anyone ever again.

    5. Shannon Finck says

      This language seems to respond to the adjunct crisis: “Since early 2016, we’ve suffered a net loss of 92 full-time teaching positions. We cannot allow our students to suffer from the inevitable decline in quality if faculty are forced to teach more and even larger classes, if critical courses are offered much less frequently, and if WSU is unable to recruit and retain the best educators and researchers.”

      1. Lydia Field Snow says

        Good point but they still could reach out!!

        1. Shannon Finck says

          I had heard that they have done so.

    6. Josh Blair says

      I was told by a president of a local AAUP that adjuncts can organize, but schools aren’t legally obligated to recognize them.

    7. Josh Blair says

      In Ohio that is. I also teach in Kentucky, where public employees are not allowed to organize.

      1. Shannon Finck says

        I teach in Georgia, where we are also not allowed to organize, but my own university’s chapter of the AAUP is extremely supportive of contingent faculty.

        1. Lydia Field Snow says

          @Shannon Finck I just don’t buy this. University profs are highly specialized and the degrees require them to be so. This is not a place you can just hire in adjuncts like myself. They have quite a bit of power here. They are choosing to keep it that way.

  11. Mut Bally says

    God this essay is depressing. This is literally the opposite of how to go about getting better working conditions.

    1. Lydia Field Snow says

      @Mut Bally why do you care about tenure protections? Do you have any?

      1. Mut Bally says

        @Lydia Field Snow I don’t. I have some protections through an adjunct union. Which also derives its power in part from the general strength of the labor movement.

  12. Mut Bally says

    How is this throwing adjuncts under the bus? Come on. This is not a race to the bottom. The goal is not to lower working standards for everyone. We should have better working conditions; this does not at all suggest we should want TT people to have shittier working conditions.

    1. Mut Bally says

      And there is no strategy here. Scab and … what is it you think will happen?

    2. Lydia Field Snow says

      @Mut Bally it’s not even about tenured! It’s about FT non tenured.

      1. Mut Bally says

        Oh I didn’t realize. Or maybe several groups of faculty together in the same contract? I saw some things saying the new contract would negate a lot of tenure protections

  13. Lydia Field Snow says

    What is with New Faculty Majority being on the forefront of a FTimers strike that throws adjuncts under the truck? That makes ZERO sense. Was there an internal takeover or something? Give me SEIU any day they would never throw adjuncts UNDER THE BUS.

    1. Nicole Braun says

      I call BS!

    2. P.D. Lesko says

      Lydia Field Snow I would encourage Maria Maisto to engage with you and answer your specific questions about specific situations in which you interpreted her and her non-profit’s actions as “throwing adjuncts under the bus.” It’s important to remember that The New Faculty Majority is a very tiny non-profit that spends the majority of its money paying Maria a salary.

      1. Lydia Field Snow says

        @Patricia Lesko I don’t think so! I love Maria Maisto! I think I overreacted to their publishing this article in their blog. I just find that as this movement for contingent faculty is heating up adjuncts are becoming more like leftovers than real participants in the movement. And I feel strongly that our adjunct struggle for union representation needs to be represented in their blog also.It’s happening BIG in Florida and MA and Illinois!

        1. P.D. Lesko says

          @Lydia Field Snow Leftovers and not real participants? How so? I’m seeing #adjunct activists such as Keith Hoeller, Jack Longmate and many others being more vocal than ever before in print. Then, we have the many, many people who use social media. Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty on Facebook is simply brilliant! The New Faculty Majority Facebook page is an excellent resource. There are dozens of equally brilliant Twitter accounts. The adjuncts at CUNY come to mind as they fight for $7K per course. What am I missing?

  14. Joe Ramsey says

    Wow. This seems like playing *right* into the hands of upper admin. Anger and resentment can be very real and very justified, but it often makes for really bad strategy.

    1. P.D. Lesko says

      @Joe Ramsey Anger? This would be a calculated coup. If we agree that large numbers of adjunct faculty are doing the same work, hold the same academic credentials and are fully capable of sitting on committees, advising students and conducting research, why would adjunct faculty not take advantage of their opponents’/oppressors’ weakness?

  15. Maxwell Philbrook says

    “Rebalance” how? I just don’t see how those with power in admin would treat this new class of workers any differently. Except maybe worse because they would be even more precarious than the old guard.

  16. Marc Bousquet says

    You kids are too young to remember the fraud for profit huckster PD Lesko. Google the Chronicle profile and don’t waste your time , @Joe Ramsey et Al.

    1. P.D. Lesko says

      Patricia Lesko Marc Bousquet I’m a huckster? You’re projecting! LOLOL. We disagree on an issue, and you go right to the condescending personal attack? Donald Trump much? That you didn’t learn in college how to engage in actual intellectual discourse is evident. Your student reviews on RateMyProf (http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=1164862) suggest condescension and self-aggrandizement are your bread and butter when discoursing.

      Your bio at Emory begins with this self-authored gem: “Marc Bousquet is a well-known scholar activist and sometime public intellectual …” A well-known scholar? No, Marc. Elizabeth Warren, Angela Davis and Poet Laureate Julie Kane are well-known and accomplished scholars.

      The difference between us, Marc, is that you behave as though you speak for adjunct faculty. For example, you accepted the co-chair of an AAUP committee on contingency. No actual contingent faculty member available for that job? Really?

      The difference between us, Marc, is that I think adjuncts can speak for themselves, do a fantastic job defining their realities, shaping the debates, and chairing their own damn committees.

      You got yourself a tenure-track job on the backs and stories of those for whom you purport to speak by writing a book in 2008 about “disposable” faculty. You used adjuncts in 2008 to help yourself.

      You don’t agree with what I wrote, debate the facts you preening, arrogant, condescending poltroon.

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