Adjuncts form coalition

Adjunct faculty members from universities across the United States and Canada have joined together to create an organization to address adjunct faculty issues.

Fourteen adjunct professors from universities on both coasts and the Midwest founded the New Faculty Majority. NFM Co-Chair Deborah Louis, an adjunct political science, women's studies and criminal justice professor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Eastern Kentucky University, said the group will work to educate the public and Congress about adjunct faculty issues.

"One of our big problems is invisibility," she said. "[The New Faculty Majority] should hopefully provoke thought."

Many Americans do not realize how many university professors are not on the tenure track, Louis said.

According to U.S. Department of Education statistics compiled by the American Association of University Professors, about 70 percent of university professors were off the tenure track in 2007.

"We're basically domestic labor," Louis said. "We work for essentially minimum wage. We're completely vulnerable to being fired."

Another issue facing the NFM is the stereotype that adjunct professors are people who are fresh out of school or are well-off retirees. Many are supporting families and need the money, she said.

Gwendolyn Bradley, a senior program officer for the AAUP, said in an e-mail that the group supports NFM. The working conditions for adjuncts threaten higher education, she said in the e-mail. She said tenured professors have more protections and academic freedom to be critical of the university.

"Teachers can't work well when they don't receive adequate pay, basic tools such as photocopying access and journals, time to prepare, and academic freedom protections," she said in the e-mail. "We, as a nation, will be in sad shape if we allow ourselves to wind up with a bunch of un-tenured college teachers who have absolutely no academic freedom protection."

Greg Delhaye, an adjunct professor in AU's School of Public Affairs, said he would look into joining the organization. For many adjuncts, pay and benefits are important issues. Adjuncts lack a good method of voicing their concerns, he said.

"Different types of faculty on campus have different ways of voicing their concerns, but adjunct faculty, not really," Delhaye said.

Adjuncts have already formed unions at other institutions, he said. Last year, an adjunct professors' union reached a deal with George Washington University, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Despite the success at GWU, not all AU adjuncts said the goals of organizations like NFM are important to them.

"I'm sure they're issues for many adjuncts, but I don't see them as issues for myself" said Karen Askarinam, a College of Arts and Sciences adjunct professor said. "It's really not on my list of things to do."

Some adjuncts who are concerned about the issues are afraid to speak out, Louis said.

"We're extremely vulnerable to having contracts not renewed if we're too outspoken," she said. "Some just can't."

Delhaye said he did not want to create problems with the administration - he just wanted to give adjunct faculty a voice.

"When people are talking about organizing, it's not in a confrontational manner towards the university," he said. "It's just to make sure that the voice of adjunct faculty is expressed at this institution."

An assistant to Dean of Academic Affairs Haig Mardirosian, who is also responsible for faculty issues, said Mardirosian did not want to discuss the NFM.

The NFM plans to be organized and start functioning by the start of the 2009-2010 academic year, Louis said.

"It's the idea whose time has come," she said.

You can reach this staff writer at crice@theeagleonline.com.

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