Adjunct faculty, University negotiating new contract

Correction appended

An agreement on a new contract between AU adjunct faculty and the University may be reached soon.

“The negotiations are proceeding at a faster rate than I expected,” Anne McLeer, one of two Service of Employees International Union Local 500 staff members representing AU adjuncts, said.

Barbara Wien, an adjunct professor in the School of International Service who serves on the negotiations team, said she predicts negotiations will end by December since there have been no major issues of contention.

“AU administration has been very receptive, careful listeners,” she said. “They are doing everything in their power to meet our requests.”

AU adjunct faculty members voted to unionize in February to address issues such as low pay wages and lack of job security, The Eagle previously reported.

Adjunct professors make up almost half the AU faculty, but are paid significantly less, Wien said. She is paid $4,000 to teach one graduate course at AU, which is less than minimum wage.

Her salary does not include time spent preparing class materials, grading papers and helping students, she said.

“We don’t get paid for any of that,” Wien said. “We only get paid for time in the classroom.”

A full-time professor at AU received an average salary of $152,035 in 2010, The Eagle previously reported. Associate professors’ average salary was $100,648, and assistant professors received an average salary of $70,626 in 2010.

Both parties have met twice a month since April to negotiate. Seven adjuncts and two union staff members represent the adjunct faculty members while two to three administrators speak for the University, according to Dean of Academic Affairs Phyllis Peres via University Communications.

AU adjuncts will vote whether or not to approve the new contract once an agreement is reached. Adjuncts must have a union membership to vote on any contracts after the first one, McLeer said.

However, if voting adjuncts do not approve the proposed contract, SEIU Local 500 and the University will continue negotiations.

“We want the best possible contract we can get,” McLeer said.

The new contract will serve as a compromise between the University and its adjuncts.

“I expect the contract will make it more feasible to be an adjunct,” Erik Cooke, College of Arts and Sciences adjunct professor, said. “It will be a huge lift to my spirit that I don’t have to make that choice [to give up teaching] anymore and I can continue to be an educator.”

AU is the second D.C. school to unionize with SEIU Local 500, according to McLeer. George Washington University adjuncts unionized in 2008 and finalized their third contract with their administration on Aug. 15, according to the GW Hatchet, the school’s student newspaper. Adjunct professors at Georgetown University are contemplating unionization, according to the university’s student blog Vox Populi.

Phyllis Peres, senior provost and dean of academic affairs, said the negotiations have been going well for both sides.

“The tenor of sessions has been amicable and civil, with both sides focused on reaching an agreement,” she said in an email.

Wien said the tone of the negotiations is very positive and devoid of tension.

“We laugh, we joke and talk about our kids at the negotiating table,” she said. “These are highly educated people and we’re all trying to preserve and protect AU.”

Correction: Information about each party's negotiating members was previously attributed to Camille Lepre, assistant vice president for communications and media. Instead, the information was sent to The Eagle from Peres through Lepre. The previous version also said only adjunct professors who are full union members can vote on the contract. However, all adjuncts can vote on the first contract, but union membership is required to vote on following contracts.

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