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”).
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.