Opening Statement for Negotiations
Presented by the Union of Adjuncts Faculty and Tutors at Manhattanville College
Monday, September 26, 2011
In March 2011, the adjunct faculty and tutors at Manhattanville College took a historic step by voting in favor of unionization. Today we are gratified by the opportunity to sit down at the bargaining table with Manhattanville College’s administrators to discuss the full range of our working conditions, and look forward to embarking upon an exciting new era in our college. The purpose of these opening remarks is to explain why we felt compelled to take this step and what we hope to achieve through collective bargaining with Manhattanville’s administration.
All of us take great pride in the work we do at Manhattanville and value our association with the College. We have great respect for the unique academic experiences all students receive at our College and know that we play a major role in providing our students with a high quality, 21st century education. We believe that our service to the College and our broader contribution to academia are as significant as that of the fulltime faculty members. However, Manhattanville’s employment policies have long treated us as poor relations to these teachers, even as we work alongside them in our departments.
To some extent, these policies have been economic in nature. Although our work is comparable to the fulltime faculty, we are paid a small amount compared to what fulltime faculty are paid. We do not believe that these professors are overpaid; rather, we believe that adjuncts and tutors are seriously underpaid. In a school which charges some of the highest tuition in the country, we do not think it acceptable that anyone should be making as little as $2100 to teach a three credit course. That would equate to a fulltime faculty member earning $14, 700 a year, and is equivalent to the $14,710 considered to be the poverty level for a family of 2 according to the US 2011 Federal Poverty Guidelines [http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11fedreg.shtml]
As for benefits, we receive none.
Teachers who have served the institution for decades face great financial uncertainty each year as they wait to see if their semester by semester contracts will be renewed, what work will be assigned to them, and whether they remain within the good graces of the administration. Course load limits set at 2 courses per semester seriously reduce the earning potential of adjuncts, often resulting in adjuncts teaching at numerous colleges each semester just to earn a living wage. At present, adjuncts and tutors receive their semester contracts when the administration chooses to send them out, this often occurring a few days or even weeks before the semester begins. Letters of appointment stipulate that adjunct salaries will be reduced if a class has fewer than six students enrolled. Because the Drop and Add period extends into the first few weeks of the semester, final enrollments are not determined until
after classes have begun and, as such, salary reductions are made after adjuncts have made a commitment to their students and the College. Our proposals will address the need to provide adjuncts and tutors with timely information about all changes to their workloads.
While wages, benefits, and job security are issues of major importance to all faculty members, it would behoove the administration and faculty to invite the adjunct faculty and tutors into the academic world that is central to Manhattanville college, rather than exclude them and see them as teachers who simply appear to teach their classes and leave. We have not been properly informed of the many recent administrative changes nor have the President or Provost met with us in the past five or more years. Adjunct faculty teaching undergraduates have not been included in the discussion of the revised undergraduate academic program and portfolio nor have they been informed of the many program changes that have been made this past year. Information about the process for Middle States review, the resulting accreditation, and the ensuing report were not sent to adjuncts or tutors. Adjuncts in the School of Education generally have little knowledge of the NCATE reviews and accreditation that hold such a place of such high importance in the School and College.
We are dedicated to upholding the high academic standards of the college yet are treated like second class citizens. The entire college would benefit from being more inclusionary rather than exclusionary. We should be receiving the college and department emails that are sent to fulltime faculty members. The Faculty Assembly meetings and Department meetings should be open to adjuncts and tutors; minutes from such meetings should be sent to everyone on the teaching staff.
Job security is a universal concern among adjuncts and tutors as well. While we support an initial probationary period for new hires, we believe that teachers with a proven track record at Manhattanville deserve multiyear contracts, as our contract proposal demonstrates. We also believe that teachers should remain employed and eligible for contract renewals unless just cause can be demonstrated for their dismissal. Such policies would be in line with the employment standards of much of the academic world.
During our unionization campaign, several teachers expressed concerns about the priorities articulated in some of our organizing committee’s printed materials. Specifically, the point was made that while wages, benefits, and job security, were issues of major importance to all faculty members, the availability of phones and office space where adjuncts and tutors can meet privately with students is equally important. The point we now make to you about these issues is that important principles of respect, consideration, and professionalism are at stake. We do not know of other teachers who have to conference with students in public lounges or give students personal telephone numbers.
We want to give everything we can to our students, but our own ability to survive economically must be assured. We want to influence our student’s moral and ethical development, but we, too, must be treated with fairness and respect. Our long term commitment to this institution compels us to strive for a positive and satisfying resolution to these areas of discord. We enter into these negotiations with Manhattanville College full of hope for our students, for the College, and for academia. Our goal is to find the common harmonic language that will embrace the diverse voices of teachers and the administration. We thank you for working with us