The Forum is segmented into three files, each running about an hour. Following is a list of speakers:
Beth Wilson, Lecturer, Art History
Suzanne Kelly, Lecturer, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
William Ma, Adjunct, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Douglas Maynard, Professor, Psychology
Andrea Noel, Chair, Elementary Education
William Capowski, NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist
Gowri Parameswaran, Chair, Educational Studies
Donna Flayhan, Assoc. Prof., Communication & Media
Yvonne Aspengren, Adjunct, Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Vincent Martucci, Lecturer, Music
Robert Miller, Lecturer, Communication & Media
Rachel Rigolino, Lecturer, English
Clinton Bennett, Adjunct, Philosophy
Stephanie Nystrom, Adjunct, Anthropology
Rosemary Millham, Director, Master Teaching Program, Secondary Education
Dennis Doherty, Lecturer, English
Steven Pampinella, Lecturer, Sociology
Victor deMunck, Professor, Anthropology
Lucy Barbera, Educational Studies
Glenn Geher, Chair, Psychology
Monazir Khan, Graduate Student Employees Union, Binghamton
James Dearce, Adjunct, Sociology
Daniel Brenner ’13, Student
Peter D.G. Brown (UUP Chapter President): Good morning. I am Peter Brown, and welcome to our Forum on Contingent Faculty at SUNY New Paltz: Where Are We Now?
We are now in Lecture Center 108 and getting started five minutes late, which isn’t too bad for an event like this. I want to welcome each and every one of you. This will be a fluid event. We have about twenty speakers lined up in the course of the next three hours. I see we have some food that looks like it might have arrived back there. There is a certain improvisational character to this.
There is structure, we know exactly who’s going to be in what hour, but we don’t know the exact order. We’re going to develop that and see what fits best in your schedule. I’m going to try and limit everybody to five minutes. Then we’ll have one or two minutes of Q and A afterward, so that the total for each person might be around seven or eight minutes, which means we can handle eight people an hour, something like that, pretty easily.
I’m going to be sort of the pinch hitter: if there is a time when there is a gap, I will jump in and give you some of my thoughts. I would like adjuncts, lecturers, the contingents, as well as the senior faculty people—we have a number of chairs who are going to be speaking—I would like their voices to be heard more than mine.
Sometimes I have the feeling that my voice drowns out other people. I’ve heard that anecdotally from one of the deans, who recently wrote to President Christian. President Christian responded back to something I had said, rather than to something the dean had asked him. I want to dial back what I have to say.
Beth Wilson, do you want to start out as the first speaker? We’re all, as I say, doing this together. Beth is our Vice President for Contingents and the Officer for Contingents. We have a new definition of the word “contingent” that President Christian doesn’t seem to like too much. But we like it, and we’ve changed the Constitution of UUP, and without further ado: Beth Wilson.
Beth Wilson (Lecturer, Art History): Thanks for coming this morning. We’re starting slow. I’m sure we’ll build over the day. We’ll have a good day. I’m the Vice President for Contingents for the chapter. I’m also elected to the statewide Executive Board of our union, and a couple of years ago I served on a Task Force for Contingent Faculty through the union, in which we really came to grips with this definition of what’s a contingent and using this word “contingent.” Because there are just all kinds of terms, people talk about adjuncts, they talk about lecturers, they talk about visiting professors. There are all these different kinds of terminology that float around, and we wanted to help clarify that and make very clear the situation of people who are not on the tenure track, professionals who do not have access to permanent appointment in our union.
As of the latest figures that came out of our statewide Membership Development Office, currently in our UUP, our United University Professions union, something like 44%, I think it was, of our membership is classified as “contingent” currently. That’s a lot of people! We’re trying to gain greater recognition of this.
One of our big desires is—and we did successfully, the Task Force, make proposals, and they were adopted—to change the language of the Constitution of our union statewide to recognize this category of employment.
Our next step is really to get the State to recognize this. In President Christian’s statement, that there are copies of back there, it seems that he says: “Well, we don’t have this word. The State doesn’t recognize this kind of employment.” But they love to use the word flexibility. And flexibility means: “You’re a contingent. We don’t have to hire you back if we don’t feel like it, and we don’t have to say a whole lot about that.”
The main thing I wanted to do to start off…I have a statement here that I’m going to read into the record, that comes not from me, so I’m going to be ventriloquizing a little bit: the words of Suzanne Kelly, who was a long-time adjunct and a lecturer on this campus in Women’s Studies. Last May, when we launched our Mayday $5K Campaign, she gave this little talk, or made this statement at the rally, which I found incredibly moving. I immediately asked her if could she give me a copy of this to use it for other things, because it’s really powerful. It speaks a lot to the condition of contingents of all stripes, whether you are part-time or full-time in these lecturer positions that have been set up now. This is her farewell to New Paltz, because she is not here anymore. She couldn’t deal with the contingency anymore, which makes it very sad for me, because she was really great. I’ll read this. This is Suzanne Kelly, who was a part-time lecturer in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at New Paltz, a talk that she originally gave on May Day 2013.
[Suzanne Kelly, Adjunct, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies:] “Very spiritual teachings tell us that there are two and only two fundamental human emotions, love and fear. Not love and hate, but love and fear. While I know that at least some of my words will resonate with other contingents on this campus, I only speak for myself when I say that my relationship to this institution has bred both of these emotions in me in fierce and troubling ways. Like many contingents, I carry a torch for the work I do, and do my best to move through my teaching and other responsibilities to the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, in which I have taught for the last ten-plus years, with both care and love.
Love of the classroom has kept me coming back for more of ideas moving in that physical space, of minds unlocked and set ablaze, of the pure love of the power of the liberal arts education, and of the possibilities of feminist inquiry as a path to change.
And yet, fear runs through my everyday work-life like an untamed fire. A fire that all the love in the world cannot seem to put out. Fear of whether there will be a classroom to return to. Of whether I’ll have health insurance in the upcoming months, of whether I’ve planned well enough via my other cobbled-together incomes for the upcoming term. We contingents know all too well that we cannot do the work we love without being tied to the institution. But in doing the work we so love, the cost is great, for we must do it in a climate of fear.
Of course, feminist thinking is to credit with teaching us that healthy relationships can only exist in the absence of fear. That the party that breeds fear is always to blame for the instability and violence in any relationship, that it’s their wielding of power that needs to be checked. And also, that no amount of love could possibly come to change what they will do to us. For it is not the excellence of our work that will come to turn job insecurity into job security, to turn pay inequity into pay equity, for we contingents have been working hard and well for decades.
True change will only come by demanding more from this institution. By demanding that it recognize the egregious disparity in pay for the equal work that contingents do; by demanding, more than tacitly accepting, that because such discrimination is happening everywhere, that we’re okay with it happening here; by demanding recognition that this institution offers education to paying students off the backs of a two-class system of workers.
If there is a relationship between what professors get paid for the work they do and the value of education, then I hear loud and clear what this institution really thinks about education. Can we honestly say we value the classroom, when we pay so many of our working faculty subpar wages?
Yes, my relationship to this institution is anything but healthy. I stand with you today in order to acknowledge that fact and the fear that has made it so. But while fear has walked with me for all these years, it is in the absence of fear that I make my remarks today. We contingents are worth our weight in gold. And we demand more than pats on the back for a job well done. For we cannot do our jobs well, in other words, teach our classes, without also publishing in our field, staying on top of program activities, attending faculty meetings, contributing to the program’s curriculum development, working with students outside of contracted hours, and participating in numerous program events.
We demand more, because while many of us do some of these things, and some of us do all or more of these things, none of it adds to our contracts to making more money or even to the satisfaction of knowing we’ll have jobs in the future.
It’s really quite simple: you dignify people’s work by paying them what it’s worth, and by affording them at least some measure of security. You don’t threaten the loss of promised contracts of courses slated to be taught. You don’t nickel and dime your faculty for what really, in the end, amounts to the cost of paperclips. And you don’t overwork them simply because you can. You don’t do these things because it’s inhumane to workers, to real people’s lives.
Indeed, it’s cruel how contingents are treated here at SUNY New Paltz and beyond: a cruelty that all of us should care about, contingent or not. Because, in the end, how we are treated marks all of us, is an injustice to all of us, and a fundamental affront to what true education really stands for.”
Those were Suzanne Kelly’s words, not mine. I find them incredibly moving and powerful. Amen, sister.
Brown: Thank you, Beth. And thank you, Suzanne Kelly.
I like what she says about love, because many of us, like myself, really, really, really love being in the classroom. In the case of contingents—unlike myself—that love has been taken advantage of, and is daily being taken advantage of. I think that’s worth reflecting about.
Our next speaker is Bill Ma from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. We’re going to try and keep everyone to five minutes. Bill, it’s all yours.
William Ma (Adjunct, Electrical and Computer Engineering): I thought she got more than five minutes!
Brown: Well, there were two people.
Wilson: There were two of us. I was having a double personality.
Ma: Good morning, everybody. I don’t like the mike because it produces echoes. A well-known Chinese literary author once said, “Speech is like women’s skirt. The shorter the better.” And Peter uses no skirt as not an option. So he gave me five minutes to say what I think.
I understand there are three concerns: that’s the salary, the workloads and the support. Let’s just start with the salary. I think it’s great that the UUP is working on and trying to get a $5K per course for adjuncts. However, I think it is unrealistic for a number of reasons. Well, first of all, the budgetary constraint. The budgets are developed, reviewed and approved many months ahead of time. There’s no new money up in the mint.
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the January issue, they published an article on adjunct salary. From that we know, our adjunct pay is comparable to all the other higher learning institutions. Also, we are doing better than the other colleges in the mid-Hudson area. On top of that, this is really a buyer’s market. It’s not a seller’s market. If you don’t want to do it, the administration will simply find somebody else who will do it.
Now, more importantly, I think, are the contractual constraints. We are in the SUNY institution system. There are many colleges. So, the institution will pay per contract, no more or less than that.
William Capowski (NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist): Not true.
Ma: That’s what the contract is. Anyhow, that’s what I thought. The other thing is, the union probably doesn’t want any deviation from what it’s negotiating.
Capowski: Not true.
Ma: That’s not true?
Capowski: There are minimums in the Agreement between UUP and NYS.
Ma: Right! So…
Wilson: There are minimums in the Agreement, but there are no minimums for part-time teachers in the Agreement, period.
Ma: Alright so. Anyhow, the contract states how much increase you’re going to get. That is my limited knowledge. I am not a contract expert. I didn’t go through all the details. I don’t think the union will really support that there’s a lot of deviation from the contract that they spend so much effort and time to negotiate.
Even if President Christian is able and willing to give us more money: since we’re already in the SUNY system, I believe he will also have to consider his action and its impact on other SUNY institutions. Because that’s a very strong constraint, in my view the $5K is not going to happen.
I also want to mention the workloads. I think to ask the lecturers to teach five courses is a bit too much. Not because of teaching itself, but rather because the review and grading of paperwork. That really poses a great challenge. This is especially true for lower-level courses, where students need a lot of extra guidance to help them to succeed in their college careers. In terms of adjunct workloads, I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do about it. If you don’t want to do it, they’ll simply hire somebody else who is willing to do it.
The thing is, what can we or New Paltz UUP do for us? In the short term, we can focus on the things that we can do. For example, adjunct teacher support: such as providing office space, office support, computers, printers, scanners, and copiers, that sort of thing, and office supplies, paper, pencils and stuff. I think the administration can and is able to do this. As a matter of fact, I think we ought to make it clear to them that they need to help us, so that we can help their paying customers. The students in this institution are paying customers for the management.
The other thing we could possibly do is reduce the lecture class size and workload. If a five- course requirement for lecturers is fixed, then the administration can certainly reduce the class size. This is because when students are doing well, especially at the beginning of their college careers, it will help retention and also improve students’ self-confidence to face their college challenges. Also, it should improve graduation rates.
I believe it’s important for students to have a very good beginning and end up graduating with good grades, rather than struggle along and barely make it through the end, because they have nowhere else to go.
Brown: Bill, your time is up.
Ma: Ah! My time’s up? One thing I do want to mention. A long-term goal is to keep more flexibility for the administration to administrate salaries, instead of giving everybody a fixed raise, we could allow the administration to provide a variable rate, say, between zero and four percent, so they have the ability to give somebody zero percent and give somebody four percent. We may not be able to give everybody $5K, but over time somebody will make that $5K mark.
Since my time’s running out, I will skip all the other stuff. To sum up, I think we really should focus and spend our energy on things we can possibly accomplish, rather than spend a lot of energy on things that are probably never going to happen.
Brown: Alright, thank you very much.
Incidentally, Bill Ma has made history by becoming the first adjunct, to my knowledge, elected to a central committee. He serves on the Organizational Committee since the beginning of this fall, and this is something that I would encourage a lot of other adjuncts to do. The exact number of adjuncts is a little bit elusive, but somewhere between 170 and 200 at the moment. It fluctuates actually, it fluctuates probably from week to week, but it’s in that 160 to 200 area. To think that only one adjunct is spending the time and the effort to be on a central committee is to Bill Ma’s credit.
Looking at the schedule here, I see we have Doug Maynard, Andrea Noel…Rachel Rigolino is probably not going to be here until much later. Is there anybody else who wants to be in the 9 to 10 a.m. slot? Bill?
Capowski: I don’t have to.
Brown: Unless I hear from anybody else, Doug Maynard who is a Professor of Psychology, has some interesting things to share with you.
Douglas Maynard (Professor, Psychology): Thanks, Peter, thanks for having me. My area in psychology is industrial organizational psychology. I’ve actually done research for a lot of my time here at New Paltz on over-qualification and underemployment—not specifically to faculty, although I do have one study to share just a little bit of research. I want to talk and give you an academic perspective on the idea of contingent work. A couple of my final points will be maybe slightly different than some of the other perspectives.
One of the things that both research that I’ve done and research that other folks have done on part-time faculty has suggested that it’s not a uniform experience, even within a given institution. And that people come to those positions for many different reasons. As a result, they have many different potential reactions, even if they’re getting the same salary and the same deal on paper. One of the themes that I want to suggest is that the experiences are not homogeneous. I’d rather that we not necessarily treat the group of contingent faculty, or even just part-time faculty, as a uniform group with a uniform expectations and uniform desires and so forth.
Maybe surprising to some people, people who teach part-time are not uniformly less satisfied with their work than people who teach full-time. In some cases we’ve found that their satisfaction levels are actually higher than full -time faculty. It depends on what you’re asking them about. Of course, if you ask them things about things like security and compensation and benefits, then of course their reactions are more negative than full-time faculty. That aligns with just the reality of the situation.
Two things that seem to influence what people’s reactions in terms of their satisfaction and also their emotional attachment to the organization are, is their career stage. We’ve found, and other people have found, that adjuncts or part-time faculty who are in the later stages of their career seem to exhibit more positive satisfaction than people who are younger; also, whether or not they would prefer that position to be full-time. Those who are sort of doing part-time work as a result of having no other options are by far the least satisfied group. Whereas, in a lot of ways, people who chose a position that is contingent in some way, because it fits their other life experiences, we find that their satisfaction levels are just as high as full-time faculty.
The “voluntary” part-time faculty are just as satisfied as those who are full-time faculty in most areas. Actually, they exhibit more effective commitment. In other words, their bond with the organization is actually, we’ve found, somewhat stronger than the full-time faculty, but only if that’s the kind of position that they want to be in. It might be because, if they choose it, then the very low salary, the low benefits, may not be as crucial an issue for those individuals.
I don’t mean to suggest that the pay is adequate or that the salary or benefits are adequate, just that that might not bleed into this satisfaction in other areas of their work. They seem to have high satisfaction in terms of scheduling, in terms of their coworkers. They like: the people that they work with; obviously, in terms of their students, the autonomy that they get, although it’s less than full-time faculty. They don’t feel any more overqualified. I think if you feel overqualified in any kind of teaching position, you just have lost your spunk for the job.
About 40% of the people that we surveyed, which was here a number of years ago, of the part-time faculty, said that they wanted it to be in a part-time position. Whereas 60% said they would prefer it to become a full-time position. It’s useful to have that number in mind in terms of what we are talking about. We weren’t really looking at lecturers, we were talking about part-time faculty.
I’ve already used up four or five of my five minutes, so one of the things that I want to mention that maybe doesn’t get talked about as much is, in addition to pushing for higher pay—which I think the idea is not that we’re paying less than other institutions in the area, but that all part-time faculty are not getting what we would consider a living wage, right? I would encourage everybody in this situation to work towards higher pay and better benefits. It’s that at the micro-level within the departments, between colleagues, that there are lots of things that affect the experience of contingent workers, contingent faculty, that I think we can more easily change, and that we should be focusing on, in addition to these other things: reaching out to make sure that those people know that they’re welcome at department meetings and social gatherings, making sure that knowledge distribution isn’t limited to the core of full-time faculty. That we consider that: “Oh, this would be useful information for these other individuals, as well, even if they’re not present here at our meeting. Can somebody take it upon themselves to make sure that they have access to that information?”
Make sure that they’re invited to honor society induction ceremonies and other things that the students are actually doing. They’re just as interested in the great things that our students do as full-time faculty are. My interest is in inclusion, instead of marginalization, in a social organizational sense. Those are things that, while we’re hammering away at trying to improve the salaries and the pay and the benefits of part-time faculty, those are the things that we can do right now to make a difference, to bring them in, to give them more of a voice in the work that we do on committees and so forth, which Peter and I worked on in the past.
Those are the things that—and also just to listen. What issues are important to them? We probably have a sense that we know, but sometimes I think that we should just step back and hear what they have to say. I’m glad that we have this Forum today, potentially to do some of that I think my time is up. Thank you.
Peter Brown: Are there any questions?
Yvonne Aspengren (Adjunct, Languages, Literatures & Cultures): I was going to ask when we can ask questions.
Brown: Yes, we scheduled in one to two minutes of Q and A after each speaker. So, if people have questions to Bill or Beth or Doug, now would be a good time.
Aspengren: Did you do your research just at New Paltz?
Maynard: My study was just looking at New Paltz, and it also includes…we essentially compared three groups: full-time faculty, so we didn’t divide lecturers and tenure-track or tenured faculty into different groups. So, full-time faculty, part-time faculty who preferred the position they had to be part-time, and those that stated that they would prefer it to be full-time. So those were the three groups.
Aspengren: And when did you do your research?
Maynard: What’s that?
Aspengren: When did, what time frame was your research?
Maynard: I want to say it was probably about a decade ago.
Aspengren: OK, there weren’t as many lecturers then.
Maynard: Yes, it has definitely kind of risen since then. If anyone’s interested in a copy of that study or the other research that I mentioned by the other people, I’d be happy to share that. I also wanted to just really quickly say that from industrial psychology organizational behaviors, those areas of research, “contingent workers,” that’s a term. That’s a legitimate term for referring to anybody who has a non-permanent and non-continuous position. So I thought that, you know, given the comments in the letter [from President Christian and Provost Mauceri], in the academic literature that’s a term that has been established for some time.
Brown: OK. Are there any other questions to any of te previous speakers. Yes, Yvonne?
Aspengren: For you: is it being recorded, what people are saying?
Brown: Yes, and I should have mentioned that earlier. Thank you, let me just see if… Yep, as far as I can tell, everything is being recorded and we have thirty nine hours on this particular file. We won’t be here more than three, hopefully.
Aspengren: And it will be transcribed?
Brown: It will be transcribed and it will go up on the UUP website. We had a similar event that I organized when was…in another lifetime as chair of the Budget, Goals & Plans Committee. Then faculty governance was the sponsor; UUP was not involved at all in the forum. In any event, that event was also recorded, transcribed, and is up on the Faculty Governance website, which is: www.newpaltz.edu/governance. You look under “Archives” and there it is, Forum on the Future of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty at SUNY New Paltz. That’s forty-two pages long. I don’t know how long this one will be, but everybody should know that this is being recorded, will be transcribed, will be archived for historians centuries in the future. They will know what we labored with here in our little Forum.
Aspengren: I have one more question.
Brown: Yeah, sure.
Aspengren: Archived for centuries is one thing, but Doug’s suggestions are so great, I would want to know now how we’re going to follow through. Is there going to be a summary? Are we going to pick out some things that can be done?
Brown: I don’t know, Yvonne. You are on the Contingents Concerns Committee and Beth chairs that. I think you have plenty of possibilities to discuss that. I would like something concrete to come out of this meeting, rather than just put something on the archives for people in the twenty-third century.
We don’t do this very often. The largest gathering of adjuncts, probably in the 175-year history of SUNY New Paltz was ten years ago, when a tiny group of people got together. That tiny group of adjuncts, with maybe thirty-five adjuncts, got together and formed the Adjunct Faculty Association. Beth Wilson and Yvonne and a couple of other people were involved in that, and some of them still are very much involved. We’ve expanded, we have… well, that’s enough of that. You can read about our history somewhere else.
The next speaker is Andrea Noel, who is the Chair of Elementary Education. I welcome her here. Her department was the first one to pass the Resolution, which is right here, on Fair Pay at SUNY New Paltz. Here are all the signatures of her department, including Andrea herself. Where are you? You’re right here. OK. This is a faculty initiative, but it’s something that we are reporting on. We are supporting. I think it’s wonderful that the faculty has found its voice.
If you go back to the statement that was read by Beth from Suzanne Kelly, she talked about love and fear. I’ve mentioned the love and how important the love of teaching is, how I think this love is being systematically taken advantage of. I think all of us deeply resent it whenever our love is being taken advantage of. Yet there’s also a climate of fear here. I’ve heard from a few people, but it’s a significant number, that they are afraid to come to this Forum; that they are afraid to speak out here, that they are concerned about their jobs. This climate of fear, I think, helps keep adjuncts largely invisible, largely unheard. I think it’s important that from time to time we create this space that’s a relatively safe space.
I don’t see any administrators here, but I wish they were here and could speak on their own behalf. I think it’s important for us to exercise our voices, and when I say our, I mean your voices. There’s no threat to me. I’m a retiree, nobody can really touch me here. I don’t work for the administration, I don’t get a salary, I’m not concerned about renewal. I think we need to be very sensitive to what Doug said and try to make a greater effort to reach out to our contingent colleagues to make sure that they are welcome in the department structure, in the faculty structure. You should know that every lecturer in their second year and every adjunct in their third year is a voting member of the College Faculty and should be a voting member of each and every department. That’s not being done. Doug’s research and his remarks were spoken like a true psychologist. I think we often tend to ignore the psychological aspect and how it wears down people and how that has a negative impact on our students.
Okay, sorry for that. Andrea, go ahead.
Andrea Noel (Chair, Elementary Education): Thank you Peter. Good morning, everybody, and thanks for this opportunity to share one department’s perspective on contingent faculty—and also the plight, I have to add, of new faculty. The Department of Elementary Education is the largest department in the School of Education. We serve approximately 450 undergraduate majors, and as they’re working on their undergraduate degree, they take 27 credits in our department and then that doesn’t even include student teaching, as well as 250 graduate students.
We have 9.5 full-time faculty members, only two of whom are tenured, three full-time lecturers and many adjunct faculty members. These adjunct faculty teach and supervise large numbers of student teachers completing their practica in local schools. For example, in the coming spring semester we’ll have approximately 100 student teachers out in the field. About 60 will be supervised by adjunct faculty and 30 by lecturers.
Today I feel compelled to speak on behalf of all the faculty in my department, but especially the junior faculty, our lecturer and adjunct faculty. Many of these colleagues are finding it difficult to meet their financial obligations. It would be absolutely impossible for the Department of Elementary Education to fulfill its mission without our part-time faculty and lecturers. We’re currently taking advantage of our human resources to a degree that will eventually have serious disadvantages to our students, and I believe to our institution. This is an issue that we must speak out about. I don’t feel that sitting back and talking amongst ourselves about how awful it is, is an option any longer, even if we do empathize with the financial difficulties that our campus faces.
It is ethically correct and morally necessary to support fair pay for all of our colleagues.
We know that the rate of pay for adjunct faculty has not kept up with inflation. It has always been difficult to survive on an adjunct’s salary, but it is even more difficult now. We have also known about this problem for a long time, and we have just ignored it, and I include myself in the list of ignorers.
However, I was especially struck by this when I attended the memorial service last year for a long-time SUNY part-timer, not in the Department of Elementary Education, but in TSOL and Languages, Norbert Hellman. According to the students and the faculty who spoke out at Professor Hellman’s service, he was as dedicated and passionate an instructor as New Paltz ever had. His impact was huge. Yet he was never paid a salary commensurate with his service. An increase from the low $3,000 range to the $5,000 range per course would have made Norbert’s life more comfortable. I did not know him well. But after his death, I have to share with you that I felt just awful about ignoring his plight.
I also want to share with you the difficulties of our full-time faculty, especially the lecturers and junior faculty. As I stated, the vast majority of faculty members in my department are not tenured. Since they have joined, they have had few raises and, in spite of their committed service, no DSI in the last two years. Their wages have stagnated and in real dollars have actually declined, especially since the increases in health insurance and the recent furlough. It’s difficult to pay off student loans, live in a decent apartment in the New Paltz area, and pay all your bills for one person, let alone if you are supporting a family, on what we pay a junior faculty member. Junior colleagues and lecturers will endure this for only a limited amount of time, if other possibilities are available to them.
When we have a search, we do not receive hundreds of applications. Most people can earn more teaching at a public school than a professor or lecturer in education. Thus, when we hire new faculty in education, we have to pay attention to what keeps them here. This is what I am most worried about. We need to find some way to pay DSI so that these faculty feel that their work is valued. And by the way, an increase to $5,000 per course would also be of great value to these faculty, because almost all the junior faculty in my department consistently teach overload just out of financial necessity. I think I speak for all of the members of my department when I say that we do not do what we do only for the money. We love our profession. We love New Paltz. But all employees, including part- and full-time teaching professional faculty, must feel valued and be fairly compensated, lest we suffer the consequences. And I believe we ignore this fact at our peril. Thank you.
Brown: Are there any questions for Andrea?
OK, Bill do you want to be next? Bill Capowski is our Labor Relations Specialist. He works for New Your State United Teachers (NYSUT). We’re always glad to welcome Bill to the campus. He’s run numerous workshops and accompanies me and our delegation to every Labor- Management meeting. Bill?
Capowski: Sure. Thanks for being here. I am pleased to be here, as well. As Peter said, I’m kind of an outsider. I work for NYSUT, which is the statewide affiliate of your union, UUP. I want to split my remarks between some technical ones and some personal ones. The technical comments I want to make are just a few elements in response to the memo, that maybe some of you have seen, that’s dated today from President Christian and Provost Mauceri. If you haven’t seen it you should take a look at it. I just want to respond to two or three pieces of that and then turn the rest of my comments on to some more personal ones.
In the memo President Christian and Provost Mauceri indicate that advocacy for adjunct salary should only occur at the statewide level. And I infer from that—it’s not said explicitly, but I infer from that—it’s suggesting that campus-level advocacy is somehow illegitimate or inappropriate in some way. Perhaps that wasn’t the intent, but that’s kind of the inference that I read from it. I want to tell you that through the decades, advocacy for adjunct salary has always occurred at both fronts: both at the campus and chapter level and in statewide. I can tell you that part of the reason it occurs at the campus level, in addition to statewide negotiations, is because the way labor-management meetings are set up, either party can bring up issues of interest. I can further tell you that many campuses have used their discretion, which is what the chapters are asking the employer to do, to provide increases to part-timers beyond those required by the statewide Agreement [between UUP and NYS = The “Contract”].
Just to name a couple, just recently, in the last two weeks both Cobleskill, SUNY Cobleskill, and SUNY Delhi administration, coming out of dialogue in labor-management meetings, decided to provide adjuncts with salary increases beyond those required by the Agreement. Not illegitimate, not inappropriate. So that’s one comment that I wanted to say. The campus may be in their right to say no to any increases for salary augmentation for adjuncts beyond that required by the Agreement, technically they can do that. But certainly, I would argue, there’s nothing inappropriate about, whether through the committee structure, in faculty governance making recommendations, or through the union framework to make these arguments and to see how the employer responds. So that’s one comment.
Then the second one that struck me, as somewhat of a segue, is that my wife has worked for many years as an adjunct. We live in Nyack. One of the campuses that she’s worked at is Westchester Community College, which is certainly part of the Hudson Valley. Her starting salary there was $3,500. It wasn’t like she was going into engineering or the law school where she was teaching, where you might find adjuncts that get a higher rate or something. She was in film, she was teaching film studies. This is not a personal criticism of Don or Phil, but perhaps the information they have about salaries in the mid-Hudson Valley needs to be amended in some way. But either way, that’s kind of beside the point. Even if, arguably, New Paltz had salaries that were beyond anybody else in the mid-Hudson Valley, there’s still the question of—materially, for the people that are doing the work—should it be augmented or not? I think it’s a fair question. I personally—now I’m moving into my more editorial and personal comment—I applaud this chapter and all the other UUP chapters around the system that are arguing for the people who are so poorly compensated.
Alright, now personal comments. My wife, as I mentioned, is an adjunct and she has taught at Rhode Island College, University of Rhode Island, Suffolk Community College, Farmingdale State College, Westchester Community College, and I’m probably missing some. I just wanted to share with you a few of her experiences more anecdotally: that as an adjunct she’s had the wonderful experience of being essentially told by the administrative assistant that only the full-time faculty can use the copier. She’s had the experience of mailings going to only full-timers, but not to part-timers, in her mailbox, in terms of what she receives, in terms of newsletters. She’s had—many people have said we should encourage part-timers to go to faculty meetings and department meetings, but that has not generally been her experience. She’s had the wonderful experience of wanting to choose the textbook, but then being told by the chair that they should use the chair’s textbook for her course.
I guess I will close by this: my wife has also applied for unemployment, even while she’s had a course. She’s applied for and received partial unemployment, because the compensation obviously is so low, that the unemployment board has found that she’s eligible and could receive this unemployment. Her last time that she did this, the employer contested, and so she had to go to a hearing. The administrative law judge found that what the employer was providing to my wife was not really an appointment letter that had any kind of reasonable assurance. It was really just a canvas of her availability. She ended up, sadly, that she had to even contemplate this, and she ended up since then receiving limited unemployment.
In closing, I really applaud what Beth, Peter, Yvonne, the entire Contingent Concerns Committee at UUP, at this UUP chapter, have done! I see it going on at other chapters around the system. I want to say: bravo! And I’ll take any questions, of course.
Brown: Any questions for Bill? Or the previous? Bill Ma, or anybody else?
We’ve come to the close of the 9 to 10 o’clock period. A number of colleagues here are from the department that used to be called Foreign Languages, and now is called Languages, Literatures & Cultures. I see four people who speak German and who teach German, actually five with Beth, who speaks German too. I think of Bertolt Brecht’s famous quote “Erst kommt das Fressen, und dann die Moral.” First you gotta eat and then you can talk about morality. We do have some nice food that has been delivered back there. I would suggest we have a five-minute break for Fressen, for eating. Get your plates and what not. We have the food all to ourselves. After a five-minute break we will reconvene and the next speaker will be Gowri from Educational Studies, who’s the first one on my list and then, hopefully, Donna Flayhan and other people will be showing up as well. So, a five-minute break.
Brown: OK, folks, welcome to the second hour of our Forum. We’re going ahead with the second group of speakers in our second hour. This is a fluid meeting, so feel free to come and go as you see fit. I’m going to be here for the full three hours, but I don’t think all of you will, and that’s not necessary, either. It’s great that you showed up. It’s great that you speak. It’s great that you express yourself, ask questions.
As we heard from Doug, there are many different types of contingents. They range from what we call “hobbyists” to people who just like the fact that they can interact, get out of the home every Thursday evening, get away from the wife and kids… Even though they have a $300,000-a-year job as an attorney or school superintendent or lawyer or what not, it’s fun to teach. So, those are the “hobbyists.” We have retirees like myself, like Carol Rietsma who’s here, who is a retired professor of biology and teaches because she loves it. We also have people who are trying to make a living teaching. It’s pretty hard to make a living teaching, if you can only teach two courses, which comes to about $12,000 a year. So, they try to teach more courses. If they can’t teach more here, they’ll try to teach somewhere else. Some have full-time jobs. Some are hoping to get a tenure-track job here or elsewhere. There’s a broad, broad, broad diversity of people in the contingent pool.
Nationally, there are about one million contingents. They also include graduate teaching assistants. I think later in this hour, or maybe next hour, we will have a representative of the Graduate Student Employees Union who is going to be here from Binghamton and talk about his perspective.
The next speaker on my list is Gowri Parameswaran. She is the Chair of Educational Studies and I welcome her here. If you happen to have typed versions of your statements— I know that Andrea Noel did and I know that Beth did and maybe Gowri does, as well—if you can send those to me electronically, that would be helpful to me in the transcription. You have ad-libed or what not, but we’ll probably have an intern or somebody spend many hours with headphones trying to transcribe this. So having a written statement is useful. You might mention to your colleagues who couldn’t make it here today, who wanted to speak or wanted to participate, that we will accept written statements. I’ve already gotten statements from a variety of people who couldn’t be here, and so: spread the word. We’d like the make the record as full and complete as possible before we put it all up on the web.
Gowri Parameswaran (Chair, Educational Studies): Well, some of you know I’m Gowri Parameswaran. I’m chair of Ed Studies and again, like Andrea in Elementary Ed, we have a large number of supervisors and part-time faculty who teach in our department. I’ve been chair for eight years, so I’ve got to see them work and I’ve grown to appreciate their dedication.
I remember last winter, one of our adjuncts was driving from Albany to teach her class during a snow storm. Her car slid off the highway, and she did not have a way to inform her students about her class cancelation. A few students complained, and she had to face the kind of questions that full-time faculty do not get asked. I really, at that point, got to appreciate the kind of precarious situation that many of our adjunct faculty work under. This is the life of an adjunct.
Over the years, I have got to appreciate the dedication that part-time faculty demonstrate towards their students and be deeply humbled by their hard work for so little pay. In fact, some of our part-time faculty have gone on to become full-time members of our department, because they were just so wonderful, we couldn’t let them go. And when there was an opportunity, we hired them. Those are the rare instances. I do know so many more of them deserve to be full-time faculty members here. This was, hence, my decision to speak on their behalf.
I know we’ve had several speakers here talk about better wages and benefits for adjunct faculty. I, and my department, support all of those, and we’ve talked about it many, many times at department meetings and have wanted to support this. Most of them are not here because they are busy. This is a very busy time of the year, they are all grading, but I can tell you I speak on their behalf and say we all support that move.
I would also like, in addition, to speak to other concerns that we need to be addressing, as well. In our department, because of several contractual obligations, we often wait until the last moment to hire adjuncts, because we do not want to deprive full-time faculty members of classes that they may need to fulfil their work obligations. Often part-time faculty contracts are renewed every semester, and they are added to the payroll at the very last moment. This not only creates enormous bottlenecks for Payroll [Department], but it also creates serious issues for adjuncts.
Part-time faculty often do not receive their paychecks until halfway through the semester. If you are a chair and you are sitting here, you probably recognize all those desperate calls that part-time faculty members make, not having received their paycheck and not knowing how to support themselves. It is hard to visualize how they are living as they wait and push for their paychecks to be delivered to them. Many have confessed that they live off friends and relatives and sometimes even have to move in with other people. When they do get their paychecks, it is delivered as a bulk amount and therefore, as a consequence of that, they lose all kinds of means- based resources, because of the bump in their salary. That’s another unforeseen consequence of all of the contractual decisions that we make here at the University.
With all of the increasing assessments, I can tell you, many of our part-time faculty members have to engage in invisible work, for which they are not compensated. In my School [of Education], we are going through an accreditation process. Part-time members are an integral and vital part of the process. They are required to submit their General Education assessment plans, their edTP assessments, and accreditation assessment plans and coordinate with full-time faculty members, in order to make sure our students are fulfilling their assessment requirements.
This requires them to attend meetings and use all of their creative energies. Many of them will never see the result of their efforts in the form of increased paycheck, salary increases, etc., or even recognition of their efforts. This is another real vacuum in a sort of professional fulfillment for part-time faculty members. Hence, I would like to join the chorus of other voices here to reiterate that part-time faculty members need a living wage, if our universities are to survive and do their jobs effectively. It is time for us to correct our past injustices and attempt to create a campus climate that is inclusive of all workers who work within its walls. Thank you.
Brown: Are there any questions for Gowri?
Parameswaran: Thank you all for your patience.
Brown: Okay, thank you Gowri.
Let me just go through the speakers I have on my list for this next hour to make sure we got everybody. We’ve got Donna Flayhan, Yvonne Aspengren, Bob Miller, who’s not here yet but we do have Vinny Martucci…so put him here…Clinton Bennett and Stephanie Nystrom. I don’t think Stephanie is here, but I do see Rachel Rigolino, who I had from the first segment. So, we’ll let Rachel get settled, maybe grab a bit to eat. There’s some lox and bagels and stuff back there. I will go in the following order: Donna and then Yvonne and then Rachel and then Bob Miller, Clinton and Stephanie.
Donna Flayhan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Media. And she is our recently-elected (this year) Vice President for Academics. Donna.
Donna Flayhan (Associate Professor, Communication and Media): Hi, thank you for having me. I just wanted to address two major issues: the first one, first issue, related to part-time employment. I absolutely agree with all the salary discussions, the $5K, so I don’t want to address it on that front. But on the timing and the last minute canceling of classes and how that really hurts our ability to—well, it hurts the part-timers, obviously—but it hurts our ability to let students know what classes actually exist and don’t exist; and how, from the College’s administration perspective, it would be a very small amount of money to make sure that we retain excellent part-time faculty, and also that students get their classes in time to graduate.
The Communication and Media Department has, I think, about 500 majors within the different areas within the department. I teach specifically in the Public Relations concentration. We have between 80 and 90 majors just within that concentration every spring snapshot that comes up. We have a high number of students. In the PR area we have one full-time faculty: that would be me. And then it’s part-time and lecturers, and then also faculty who teach classes required but in our department, specifically in other areas.
I want to address that part-time issue from the part-timer’s perspective, the professionalism perspective and the student graduation perspective. Then I also want to address an issue that’s very, hopefully, unique to our department, but it’s very widespread. And that is with our full-time lecturers, with that 5-5 lecture load, or a 4-5 lecture load. The way it actually plays out is very gendered in our department: where male full-time lecturers are able to achieve course reductions, so that they’re teaching sometimes a 2-2, sometimes a 1—with a director of some other program responsibility, or managing equipment or things like that. But there’s a real gender inequity in how the heavy teaching load plays out, and also the stipends and the course reductions.
So the part-time issue. We’ve all known and seen courses cancelled at the very last minute for low enrollment. Low enrollment, only 9 students, and so that part-timer’s class is taken away, even a week before classes begin. That happened just this semester in our department. That’s a course that those students need to graduate. That those students registered for, that they are entering, fall 2013 thinking: I’ve got this schedule lined up, and it was also—this happens over and over, this is just the most recent—so those students, some of them graduating in December, some of them graduating in May, but they needed that course. And suddenly it disappears.
Our part-timer who teaches that particular course, she’s an excellent professional in the field of journalism and social media and PR. She teaches essential skills for the Journalism students, and the Public Relations and others. But the straight Journalism, the PR, she teaches all the InDesign, Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop. So how do you do your slick online news letters? How do you do your nice slideshows? How do you put up a blog? You know, the Little Rebellion? And so, if not, how do you put up a blog? How do you get good content on your blog? How do you search engine optimize your blog? It’s not just creating a blog: doing it well, doing it professionally, using slideshows that are seamless for people, whether they are on a phone or in another…pad or a laptop.
These are essential courses for students in the department. This is an essential part-time faculty member. And so she lost her salary that was going to come in there, but the College also lost a lot. The program lost and she is teaching another course and will be teaching again. Thankfully, we didn’t lose that great part-timer. But she lost income, the students lost a course that they were already registered for. I think that’s a real issue of this last minute “we’re not going to add a class until there’s overload demand,” or take away a class. So I think that that affects graduation rate.
If the administration wants to look at it—not from treating the part-timer humanely—if you look at graduation rates: it’s going to hurt your graduation rates, it’s going to make students very angry at the College, and rightly so. They registered for a class and suddenly it disappears. It also doesn’t account for those transfer students and those students who are coming in the last minute, who are going to go, “I need that class.” And all of a sudden, the eight or nine goes up to 15 very quickly. So I think that it’s an ill thought-out policy from start to finish, as far as the way we treat our part-time faculty and the truly contingent employment, of the “this week your course might be canceled.”
The other issue I wanted to address very quickly is the lecturer inequality. This isn’t just specific to lecturers, but the workload inequality and its gendered nature in our department. Female lecturers tend to teach a 5-5 or a 5-4, 5-4 taking on advising. Male lecturers tend to teach a 2-2 or a 3-3 and take on some other administrative responsibility and are able to get those course reductions. The females also take on those administrative responsibilities, but they don’t get the course reductions or the overload pay. So there’s a real issue. Another colleague in our department has crunched the numbers, and if you look at it on gender in math, I think in general the College should be worried as far as affirmative action lawsuits, because it’s a pattern that’s been in place since at least the late 1990’s. It’s gotten worse, not better, and it’s in the College’s own data system. I think that gender inequity, the heavy load for all lecturers—5-5 is just too heavy a load—and then the gender. Thank you.
Brown: Thank you very much. Are there any questions for Donna? OK, let’s move on.
Yvonne, do you want to be next? And then Vinny after Yvonne.
Yvonne Aspengren is a former lecturer, a current adjunct in the German section of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
Aspengren: I was a lecturer for two years, and I’ve been an adjuncting for about 12 years now in the Languages department.
I had told Peter I wasn’t sure if I should speak, because I’m too happy. I think I have too many good things to say. I think I’m one of those people that Doug was talking about: now, what I’m doing fits what I want to be doing. I would like to make more money doing it, but I’m privileged. I don’t have to support myself. I have a partner who makes a lot more money than I make. I have not been the major breadwinner in my family since I was 27 years old, and I just turned 60. I’m doing this partly because I’m privileged, which I think is a really important thing to recognize. Not everyone, not many people can afford to work in this kind of position that I do.
Over the last 12 years, I have found ways for it to work for me, in spite of the system. I make about three times as much now as I did when I started. I always would take out my pencil and paper and figure out: OK, this week how much am I making per hour, because I spin it. The more work I do, the less I make. The way to make more money in this job is to do less. Right? So, is that the right way?
I don’t tell my students that. But I have eliminated two exams that I used to give, because they were really time consuming. As a lecturer, it’s impossible to teach five courses. Each course has at least—in our department—at least 27 students. So 27 times five, do the math: there’s homework every single day, every single class that you have to prepare for, grade, give back. It was just…And then, when they come with—later on they want letters of evaluation, or letters of recommendation. It’s just the more students you have, the work just multiplies.
As an adjunct teaching two courses, keeping it down to the same schedule every semester, I have total freedom in my department. I’m really lucky that my colleagues and my chair are so supportive. I feel like I have a fully stocked basement and there’s a tornado. I don’t want to tell you, but I have my own office. But if there was administration here, I probably wouldn’t say that. And my chair has said too: kind of keep it quite how good you have it.
I’ve milked my benefits, I’ve taken care of my four-person family, now down to two people, because my kids are grown, with my benefits. I’ve just had a series of this, that and the other thing. I have new contacts, I have a little carpel tunnel, I have a little heart murmur. I mean it’s all taken care of. I pay my co-pay, but I feel so privileged in this position.
But I could lose it in a second, right? That’s the thing for me: the contingency of it. Now that I’m 60, and now that I’m taken care of really by my partner, I could lose it and I’d be okay. I don’t know what I’d do exactly. I would miss it. I want to keep it, but there’s no guarantee. In August, when I was in Payroll signing my contract, I was like: “This can’t be! I’ve been here 12 years. Why do I have to wait until August to sign my contract? I kind of know that I’m going to be teaching— but no, I don’t know that I’m going to be teaching anytime, any year. I have a year’s contract, so from semester to semester I know, but not over the summer.
I’ve been able to get unemployment insurance two out of three times I’ve applied, which is fantastic. But why don’t we have a position that recognizes that we’re going to be teaching German in the future? I’ve done it for 12 years. I’m probably good enough to keep doing it. Why can’t I have a three-year contract or something that reflects and values what I do? —That’s it.
Brown: Alright, are there any questions for Yvonne, the Happy Adjunct? And we want all our adjuncts to be happy. We want people to express joy, as well as whatever other emotions they may feel.
OK, next speaker on my list: I saw Bob come in. Bob Miller, there he is. I said that you would have the 10:30 slot, right?
Robert Miller (Lecturer, Communication and Media): Yep.
Peter Brown: Before you, we have Vinny Martucci from Music. Vinny teaches piano and probably other things in the Jazz Studies program. He actually was my piano teacher for a few lessons.
Vincent Martucci (Lecturer, Music): Good student.
Brown: Terrible student! I just didn’t have the time to practice enough, so I quit. I have a lot of professional musicians in my family. I’m flying off tomorrow to Chicago where my son is a jazz guitarist and he has a new CD release party so.
Martucci: Where’s that going to be?
Brown: It’s going to be at The Green Mill.
Martucci: Ah, that’s a great club.
Brown: Owned by Al Capone, the gangster, in his day. (My son is one of the most successful jazz guitarists in the Chicago, so it’s very intimidating to be around people like Vinny or my son.) Vinny is going to talk to you about—we’ll see what he is going to talk to you about. He’ll improvise. I don’t see any written statement, so that’s good.
Martucci: No, actually these are just… no. I want to; first of all I want to thank you, Peter. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss and look at issues that are truly ongoing, and have been going on for a long, a long, long time. I think I’ll limit my comments to just three specific areas and just give you a little background.
I’ve been an adjunct here, an adjunct and lecturer now for 23 years. I have a long-term perspective of it. And the other thing is being in the Music Department. I just want to relay to everyone here that the Music Department has a type of degree program that is very heavily dependent on adjuncts.
You just can’t count on full-time faculty to be able to teach piccolo, flute, trombone, tuba, piano, guitar, ukulele, banjo, what have you. There are people that play all those instruments but, they are very rare. (My daughter is one of them.) We need people to teach a wide variety of instruments.
And for a department to be viable, you have to have that flexibility in order to attract a quality student body. And so, no matter what happens in the future, no matter what administration’s decisions are decided, or how the department proceeds in the future, one thing that will be front and center in the functioning of the department, will be the fact that we will be relying on adjuncts. Lecturers, that can be a different story, depending on how things go.
So, first I’d like to comment about my 23-year status. To my point of view, this is a systemic problem that is just about impossible for the administration, and the system, and the country’s education system at large, to try and wean it’s self from. It’s just a capitalist point of view: if you can get something done for less, they’ll do it. It’s just the bottom line. It’s the way things work. We have to understand that, from an administrative point of view, that can be considered a successful negotiation, or a successful way of dealing with things, even though there may be fallout from it.
That also presents, I think, an opportunity. Because nobody, very few people that are here in any positions at all—particularly if you think about the President and the Provost—none of these people in these positions now were in these positions 23 years ago. We have to look at this as an institutional outcome over a process that unfolds over time. I spent 13 years as an adjunct with the pay scale during the 1990’s, and then came on as a full-time lecturer in 2005. By comparison, what that does end you up with over 23 years is an ending salary compared to a tenured-position person that is at a great disparity over the course of time. It’s like if you take a statistics course and you watch a geometric vs. an arithmetic curve: it just does this. And that’s what you end up with.
The second point I’d like to make as an individual: up until this last year, I’ve always felt, like you were saying, that there was plenty of opportunity. Although I’m questioning a little bit that right now, because I have sort of a perfect storm—all of us did—occur in the sense that DSI was discontinued. If it’s reinstated, it’s not going to be added to base…and things that went along with that. Plus, the increase in health insurance and the furlough, and in my particular case, I end up now, I’m earning a significantly less amount I was earning last year at this time. With the understanding that if DSI comes back, that I’m not going to be able to do what I was able to do for the previous 23 years.
This is a significant change and a significant, a significant… I don’t know how to say this…I don’t mean to say disincentive, because it isn’t. I’m going to work as hard as I did anyway, because I just can’t do a bad job. The idea here is that as an adjunct and as a lecturer, up until this year, I felt I could do whatever was necessary for my students and for my family, and gradually build my salary up over time. I just don’t know that that’s going to happen for adjuncts, or the way things are at the time.
The most important thing, for me, in terms of what needs to be done, is the adjunct situation. Adjuncts, as you were saying, adjuncts really, really have a difficult situation. It’s almost like a migrant worker thing, where you find out if you have a job the week before you’re starting. It’s impossible to plan your life doing that, and I hope that that issue is front and center and addressed foremost before all others. But concurrent among these things is systemic in nature as I mentioned earlier. That as you go through the career path, coming up as a non-tenured person, it just basically stays that way. It gets better, it’s a wonderful job, I love my department. I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. I really love my work and I put in ten times as much time and hours as is required by the job, but I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. Great, thank you.
Brown: Thank you. Are there any questions for Vinny Martucci?
Capowski: Yeah. Vinny, you said that as an adjunct and as a lecturer you felt that, previously you felt that your salary could increase. Are you talking about through DSI to base with a combination of across-the-board that you were beating the cost of inflation and gradually…what did you mean?
Martucci: Yes. Actually that was a pretty good synopsis. In other words: through my efforts—it wasn’t my primary reason for doing what I was doing in my department, but—every year I would file for DSI and the quality of the work was almost always rewarded. I pretty much earned DSI’s all the time and they were added to base. So I significantly improved my salary status from 2005 to just this, the past couple of years.
Capowski: So more as a lecturer, when you were an adjunct you didn’t feel that DSI, because you probably weren’t getting much DSI at all as an adjunct.
Martucci: Right, and actually that’s a significant point. That’s a very significant point. As an adjunct, if you’re teaching one or two courses, you’re not involved enough in the machinations and the workings of the department to really be aware of what’s needed. A lot of people have tremendous amounts of skills, but they can’t bring them to their department, because they’re running to Vassar, or they’re running to Williams or they’re running to Albany. They come in and they do their thing.
In our department, I don’t know that a lot of adjuncts actually do file for DSI. I know that I didn’t, because I just wasn’t aware. When I came on full-time, I really was brought in full. I got on the department’s curriculum committee and I was in thick with the development of new programs. All of a sudden I saw the bigger picture of what was going on, and it matched my skill set, and then it was possible. For adjuncts that really is a significant difference. We have people with major talent, but we’re not drawing on it because they’re not here, they’re not involved enough. In a way they probably shouldn’t be, because they’re not being paid for it. You have to think twice about that one. Yeah, that’s a great question.
Ma: Well, it is also harder for an adjunct who applies for DSI, because the ones who review DSI applications are regular faculty. They really don’t have a guideline or gauge to say: “OK, this guy is really deserving of DSI.” They base it on their committee work and conference papers and review and popular occasions, reference to popular occasions to decide if this faculty is deserving of DSI.
Brown: DSI is a big topic and maybe we’ll get back to it. I’m conscious of the time. DSI no long exists. We have DSA, Discretionary Salary Awards, which are not on base. In previous years, I don’t think there were more than two dozen out of our two hundred adjuncts who ever applied for DSI. Virtually all of those who applied got it.
This year under the DSA, which is not on base, 28 percent, almost a third of the money, that’s about $70,000, will be given to part-timers. The process is not clear. We’ve asked the administration many times, and I think they’ll surprise us in the next week or so, because it’s got to be paid in the December 4th or the December 18th paychecks. They generally have to be prepared weeks in advance. So stay tuned for that.
Our next speaker is Bob Miller from the Communication and Media Department. I know him, not so much as an instructor, but as an actor in the Mohonk Mountain Stage productions that are at Unison. I see you now in a different role. Bob, I’m interested to hear what you have to say.
Robert Miller (Lecturer, Communication and Media): Thank you, Peter.
Brown: Do you want to come up here? We’re recording it and there’s a microphone.
Miller: Oh, you’re recording it.
Brown: Bob’s probably not used to using a microphone, which is…just act abnormal.
Miller: I’m nervous about being recorded! What’s happening to this recording? That’s what I’d like to know.
Brown: It will be archived on the UUP website.
Miller: Ah-ha. Just kidding.
Brown: All obscenities will be captured.
Miller: (Me and Angela Merkel.) I’m Bob Miller. I’m with the Communication and Media Department. I’m currently on a phase-out appointment and was supposed to be retiring by the end of this year, but I applied for an extension of that for one more year, and it was granted, actually. I’ll be here for another year and a half. I just didn’t feel it was time to retire for me personally.
I want to talk a little bit today about my path to becoming a full-time lecturer here at New Paltz in the Communication and Media Department, which is not the department that I was trained to be in. I was a theater major at both an undergraduate and the graduate level. When I got out of graduate school at the University of Iowa, I took a job working in colleges in theater departments. So I taught theater classes. When I was 30 years old, I got a divorce. It was a very friendly divorce: very amicable, no children or alimony. I decided at that time I was going to go back into the theater, since I was dead free and fancy free and still pretty young. So I went into theater and made my living in theater for about 20 years.
Then, as luck would have, it I got married again. This time to a woman who had a couple of children and we had a child, so I suddenly had this family. We were living in Florida. I was working at a theater down there, and we decided that we wanted our children to be raised in the Northeast. Our children had the feeling that when you got old, your hair turned blue naturally, and ice came from a box in the kitchen, and that just wasn’t right. So we moved to the Northeast, based on a job that she got with the American Craft Council.
I came up here without a job and needed to get something. Since there was not a lot of professional theater going on in this area, I started doing what other people in my situation were doing. I started calling all the local colleges looking for adjunct work. The first adjunct job I got was at Mount St. Mary’s. I went down there for an interview. I talked about the theater department and how I wanted to teach acting and dramatic literature. A couple of weeks before the semester started, I got a call from the head of the department saying that the nun who taught the Media and Society course had been transferred by the bishop. When you’re a nun, and the bishop says: “Go over there,” you go, right? You don’t say: “Well, I can’t.” They had nobody to teach this, they asked me if I could teach this, and being…raised in the theater, I said: “Of course, I can do that! No problem.”
I had no more business teaching a Media and Society course than to fly to the moon, but, being in the position of needing a job, and this being a job that was being offered to me, I took it. That’s the first problem that you encounter as an adjunct: you may want to teach in a certain area, or you may have expertise in certain courses, but those might not be the ones that are offered to you. So what do you do? Say, “Oh no. I can’t! That’s not really…I can’t do that”? No, you do it. So I taught Media and Society and freefall for a couple semesters, until I kind of got that under my belt. That ended up being one of the courses that I taught here for many years, with a lot of help and support from people here. And what happened was that I gradually started getting calls from other colleges. I ended up teaching at Ulster, Mount St. Mary’s, Marist, Dutchess Community College and certainly here at New Paltz. I’m sure many of you have had that experience.
You take whatever jobs are being offered to you, and so you end up running about to these different schools. You have your books for Ulster in one bag, and your books for SUNY in another bag, and your books for Marist in another bag, and God help you if you get to the college with the wrong bag. You open it up and then you’re in trouble!
Nobody wants to teach a 5-5 here in one institution, but sometimes you end up teaching a 5-5 in three or four institutions, because that’s what’s offered. So, you’re not so much interested in the quality of what you’re doing. The focus becomes on the quantity. How many jobs can I get, and how many can I squeeze into a 40-hour day? Because that’s what it sometimes seems like.
I taught three back-to-back public speaking courses at Ulster for a number of years. And they were just like an hour and a half, a ten minute break, an hour and a half, ten minute break. And you know, along about the middle of the third class I didn’t care what anybody said. You know, you just kind of…you just…there comes a point…but you don’t have any choice, you know. If you don’t want to do it, somebody else will do it.
That brings up the third dilemma I faced as an adjunct. I’m sure it’s your experience too: there you are teaching a 5-5 or a 4-5, running around different campuses, and you get a call from yet another college, asking if you can teach. So, the dilemma is: do I really overload myself because I need the money?
The other dilemma is: if I don’t take this job, they’re going to call somebody else. I’m now at the top of their list for calling, but if I don’t take that job, someone else is going to pop into my place, and the next time they might call that other person. They might like that other person better than me.
You have this kind of insidious thing going on where you’re focused on quantity of things you can teach, as opposed to quality. You’re engaged in a competitive game with your colleagues: actually thinking of preventing somebody from getting a job, to protect that area for yourself, which is not a very collegial thing to do, and sometimes teaching things that you’re not quite qualified to teach, because someone offers you that position.
Eventually, of course, I ended up here at New Paltz being offered a full-time lectureship. You know, illustrating the point, Woody Allen’s point that 80% of success is showing up. So I kept showing up here at New Paltz, and finally they had to offer me a full-time teaching job, where I’ve been quite happy. Like the happy adjunct who spoke before, I’ve liked working in the Communication Department, I felt very supported there. The chairs, the various chairs I’ve worked for, several have supported me in those positions. But still, you look at the pay discrepancy between what I’m doing and what some other people are doing, and it seems unfair. I will say, though, in closing: the one very positive aspect of being an adjunct is that you don’t have to go to faculty meetings. Thank you.
Brown: Are there any questions for Bob? OK, thank you Bob.
Miller: Thank you.
Brown: I know you have a busy schedule, as do a number of you here, so feel free to come and go, as you see fit. Next person on my list is Rachel Rigolino. She is a lecturer in the English Department and has a lot of experience as an adjunct, working with adjuncts, working with the union as well. So, Rachel.
Rachel Rigolino (Lecturer, English): I came with nothing really to say, except that I grabbed this. I know Bill will appreciate this—kind of preaching to the choir. I grabbed my Dorothy Day because, when I was flipping through the back of this…and of course she has a lot to say as a Catholic worker. She’s always inspired me, because I’m really not very much of a radical, but I do admire her. And just flipping through, and I know that she probably, she definitely would be on our side. Whether she would say we’re among the poor, her definition of poor, I’m not sure. But if you wanted to substitute “poor” with “adjunct,” I think you would get the point.
Dorothy Day, if you don’t know who she is or was, she is actually a lay Catholic, who is on the road for canonization. She was very, very radical in terms of her politics and economic policies. She says, “Yes, the poor we are always going to have,” and we can substitute “adjuncts.” Let’s hope not, but anyway: “Our Lord told us that. And there will always be a need for our sharing, for stripping ourselves to help others. It will always be a lifetime job. But I am sure God did not intend that there be so many. The class structure is of our making and our consent.”
So I began thinking, on my way over here, about the consent that we all give to this structure, and I’m part of this. And I’m part of part of the Happy Adjuncts-Lecturers Club. I have an office. It has no windows. I always make a big deal. And, I’m kind of like what Bob said, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. I’ll say “Oh it’s a terrible office! It’s awful! I have no windows!”— because I don’t want it taken away.
Like Yvonne, I’m in a more privileged place. I have a husband. He just retired, so we’re a little different in terms of income. He did say, when I said I was coming over here, he said, “You know, if you screw this up, we’re moving to Delaware, because I can’t afford to live in this state.” He’s definitely not a radical, though he’s suffered at the hands of The Man, IBM. But who are we to consent to this? Often times we are in places of privilege. We can say “Alright. I’ll teach a couple of classes. Or I can do this,” but many people aren’t.
I work with people who are struggling, just struggling to get by and working the 5, 6 jobs. And then I wonder: my department is wonderful, but why aren’t there more faculty here? Because they have families, they’re worried about their employment. They don’t want to be seen as causing trouble. So getting back to that idea of systemic problems…I’m not sure what the answer will be.
We need to frame it, in some way, to be as wise as the serpent, in a win-win situation somehow. Not always to be negative or putting people up against the wall, and putting them in a corner. But say: how can we work together to make this a win-win situation? Can we bring in quantitative data that shows that if you work less, the students benefit; and that students benefit from adjuncts who are fairly paid. That’s all I have to say.
Brown: Thank you. Are there any questions for Rachel? Still left on my list for this hour are Clinton Bennett and Stephanie Nystrom. Stephanie, are you here?
Nystrom: Yes, I am.
Brown: Hi. Clinton, you’re next. Clinton Bennett is a member of our Contingent Concerns Committee. He’s been to labor-management meetings. He wrote the notes from the last Contingent Concerns labor-management meeting for the latest issue of The Bullhorn. Clinton.
Clinton Bennett: Inevitably, at a forum such as this, you’re ticking off what you intended to say, as other people stole your lines. I saw you looking at my notes. As it happens, what I had prepared follows on from what Rachel was saying about the need for systemic change, and a review of the role of adjuncts and other contingent faculty.
Nationally—and President Christian refers to this in his response—the number of tenured faculty is being reduced. And although the rhetoric is to use fewer contingent faculty, in most colleges up to 75% of the teaching is by contingent, non-tenure-line faculty—even though many colleges state that the policy is to employ fewer contingent faculty, and that is the stated policy here at New Paltz. On the other hand, President Christian writes, “Furthermore, part-time adjuncts are often hired to teach in specialty areas not represented among tenure-track faculty, and often because they bring unique professional expertise and experience to the campus.” He says also, “that no university can deliver without employing contingent faculty.” And we heard from our earlier speaker from the Music Department, that in that department it’s essential to use adjuncts because no single professor can play all of the instruments. It would be financially impossible to employ enough full-time, tenure-line faculty to deliver the curriculum.
However, there is a culture of denial, not only here on our campus, but nationally within the academy. On the one hand, adjuncts bring essential expertise, often expertise and continuing professional activity within their disciplines that is indeed unique; and that is, almost by definition, what a full-time faculty member, or at least tenure-line faculty members who practiced the discipline 15 years ago or 20 years ago, before they became a professor, cannot bring to their teaching.
And yet this unique quality, expertise, ongoing professional practice, and often, although as adjuncts were employed primarily to teach, often there is also substantial scholarly activity. The Philosophy Department, of which I am a member, had an external review. The reviewers commented that “incredibly,” was the word they used, “incredibly, Doctor Bennett is an adjunct, but he’s published 12 books.” That apparently is incredible. It was though a positive statement underlining the scholarship that I bring to my position.
We need, however, I believe, systemic change. To take a look, as Rachel suggested, at: what is the added value? What is the added value that adjuncts bring to their teaching, so that this can be appreciated? And being an adjunct should not be seen as less than the best, but as a career option that some people choose to pursue, so that they can combine their professional practice, their scholarly activity, their involvement in community service with pedagogy and teaching and bringing on to the campus that unique blend of experience that he campus and the academy…[require]. Peter is moving towards me, so I guess I…
Brown: Very slowly moving towards you.
Clinton Bennett: Yeah. Would be poorer, the academy would be poorer were it to lose the richness of that experience. But I’m not aware of solid qualitative and quantitative research that supports that proposition.
Brown: Thank you very much. Are there any questions for Doctor Clinton Bennett?
The last person this hour—and then we’ll have another five-minute break and you can help yourself to what’s left of the food back there—Stephanie Nystrom, who is an adjunct in the Anthropology Department. I don’t know very much about you, so I’ll…you can tell us about yourself.
Stephanie Nystrom (Adjunct, Anthropology): Alright. I’ll be very quick. I’m in the Anthropology Department. Currently unemployed, although I do have one course in the spring, so that’s fairly exciting. I’ve been adjuncting there since 2007. This is the third institution that I have adjuncted in.
Similarly to Yvonne, I am lucky in the sense that I do this job to, basically, pay for groceries. We have two small children, so I am mostly taking care of them. It was a very nice sort of job, because it was very flexible. My husband is in the Anthropology Department, as well. We could coordinate childcare without having to pay for childcare. Because once you factor in paying for childcare, working as an adjunct doesn’t really make much sense, anyway. You wind up paying almost your entire salary to childcare, and it makes not much sense. I am fortunate in that I do kind of have this safety—although not that fortunate, because my husband works here, so it’s not like he’s bringing in any substantial salary.
I think that the crummy pay for adjuncts is kind of indicative of the crummy pay across the entire campus. With our particular family situation… When we first moved here, we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment until our first child was two years old. And then we were finally able to purchase a house, but we had to buy a house in Kingston, because we just could not afford to buy a house in New Paltz with the extremely high prices, high taxes all that stuff. I think it’s very indicative and very telling that two employees of the University cannot afford to buy a home in the town that the University is located.
That aside, my biggest problem is the contingent nature of this job. When I first started doing this, it was all under the auspices of the Anthropology Department. They could hire me every semester if they wanted to. And then, I believe it was two years ago when they kind of threatened to get rid of all of the adjuncts, and kind of did for that semester, and then let everybody hire them back, but placing limits for each department for how many adjuncts they could hire. You’re faced with this situation where one semester you may have a job, but then you may not have a job for a couple of semesters. And then maybe you’ll have one later on. So it makes it very difficult to try and find some other way to make up that income that you’ve lost.
Just as a funny little anecdote from my experience: I recently took a job delivering doughnuts and bread for a local bakery. I make as much money delivering doughnuts as I do teaching college. I think that’s pretty sad. So that’s all I have to say. Thank you very much.
Brown: Are there any questions for Stephanie?
Bennett: Does she get to eat the doughnuts?
Brown: Does she get to eat the doughnuts? What kind of doughnuts do you deliver?
Nystrom: All kinds.
Brown: Is it Dunkin’ Donuts?
Nystrom: No, it’s Diesing’s in Kingston.
Brown: Diesing’s in Kingston. On that upbeat, let us have five minutes of a break. We will resume again at three minutes after 11.
Brown: OK, folks, we’re going to begin the third and final hour of this forum. So help yourselves to any food or drinks that you want at any time. We are on a pretty tight schedule. We have about eight or nine speakers for the final hour. I’m very pleased with the way things have gone so far. People have been very communicative, very eloquent about their views and I look forward to the final group of speakers.
The first person is Rosemary Millham, who’s the Director of the Master Teaching Program and teaches in the Department of Secondary Education. Rosemary, come forward. Let me remind everybody that this is being recorded, so don’t say anything you don’t want to be immortalized.
Rosemary Millham (Assistant Professor, Secondary Education): Do I need to tiptoe?
Brown: No, you don’t need to do anything.
Millham: Vertically challenged. Hi, I’m Dr. Rosemary Millham from the Secondary Ed Department. Yes, I am the Director of the Master Teacher Program, but I was hired—and in my tenure year—for coordinator of the Secondary Education Science and study programs for undergraduate and through grad.
You know, because we have the secondary…I’m looking at this from a totally different perspective. We have adjuncts. I have an adjunct now teaching my grad level inquiry course, because I’m overloaded with everything else and still have extra service in my department. But the adjuncts that I think are sometimes missing in that whole framework are the adjuncts that we hire to actually supervise our student teachers. These people get around $640 per student and go to visit these students six times over the semester—minimum—and they travel as far as 45 miles from here. That’s 90 miles roundtrip for each visit. Now you do get mileage, but they’re not getting paid for the time that they’re traveling to and from these schools.
They’re in the school sometimes from anywhere from two to three or four hours observing students, and talking to the cooperating teachers and talking to the student teachers. In essence, if you take a look at even a minimum of six visits per semester: an adjunct, being paid $643 per student, is now—depending on how many hours it takes to go to and from these schools—is going to end up between $21 and $32 an hour for their actual work. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all.
Adjunct salaries, even if they took the $5000 that was proposed in the resolution next to the last line that Peter sent out, is still only $40,000 a year in Ulster County, in New Paltz. I have a part-time job that I used to do full-time for a federal agency down in Washington, D.C. I got COLA, because I lived in the Washington D.C. area. That’s a cost of living allowance. So every pay check I got X number of dollars to help pay for the taxes and whatever it cost to live in the high cost area. So I’m saying, the least they could do is give a COLA for New Paltz, if they can’t at least get up to $5,000 per course. That’s all I have to say. Any questions? Bye.
Brown: Thank you very much, Ro.
Millham: You’re welcome.
Brown: The next speaker is Dennis Doherty—Dennis are you here? Yep, there he is—who has been in the English Department for I don’t know how many years. Come on forward, Dennis. I’m not going to give you a long introduction, because we had a really nice spotlight article in The Bullhorn that was written by Jaime Burns last year. It’s archived on our webpage here, if you want to learn more about Dennis and his really interesting career. Dennis.
Dennis Doherty (Lecturer, English): Thanks, Peter. I’ve been working in the English Department for 26 years: starting as a graduate T.A. Then I was an adjunct for nine years, teaching two classes on top of a full-time job, in sole support of a family of five. I’ve been a lecturer her for 14 years.
I have a friend who just completed 20 years of service for a company. They gave him a gold watch and a plaque. For my 21st year, I was running the Creative Writing Program, teaching three courses and directing the Poetry Board—and they gave me two more classes!
Most of my classes are creative writing, which means portfolio upon portfolio, reading poem after poem, after poem, and dealing with the personal travails and soulful struggles of all my students: their gut-wrenching demons, their traumas and so forth. This takes a lot of time. You don’t buzz through a pile of 120 poems, that’s how many I’ve critiqued this semester. You go one at a time, dealing with the personal problems that are being involved and dealing with the life struggles involved. That’s just the surface, because you’re also trying to teach a highly complex art form, and how to do it.
If I were only teaching three creative writing courses, I’d be overloaded. We had external people come and review us a couple of years ago, when I was the director of the Creative Writing Program. They asked: what are courses are capped at? I said 20, and both of their jaws dropped. They said— and this is when I was teaching three classes—they said “Do your colleagues know how much work you’re doing?” And then they gave me two more classes.
The other classes I teach are writing-intensive literature courses and four-credit American literature surveys. I am contracted… I’m also supposed to be a writer, because…who’s a creative writing teacher who is not a writer? We’ve raised that question: “How are we supposed to write? When would we be doing any writing?”
I can tell you, this semester, I’m contracted to write a book. I couldn’t get it done last year, so I started in the summer and I’m writing it right now. My schedule, daily schedule, is I come in everyday, all day here, and teach my classes and grade as much as I can in between classes. I go home at night. Because I arrive earlier than my wife, I clean the house. I cook dinner, and after we eat I go in the basement and I’ve been writing 1,000 words a night. Then I get up in the morning and do it again.
I’ve also published three collections of novels. After three collections of novels and 26 years of teaching, I am led to feel that I don’t have credentials, which is why I’m in the position I’m in. My response is: what the hell? What would you possibly want? What more is there to give? That’s about all I have to say.
Brown: Thank you, Dennis. Are there any questions for Dennis?
Capowski: Yes, Dennis, You’re a lecturer now?
Capowski: If you’re comfortable sharing: what kind of appointments are they giving you, one, two, or three-year term appointments?
Doherty: Three-year terms. I just now went through the hell of reappointment. The other thing about reappointments is its humiliating. I don’t feel at this point in my career, with 26 years of really fantastic student evaluations, that I have to justify what I have done lately. It’s tortuous, and then there’s that long, long wait. This year—they’ve never done this before—this year on a Saturday I received a certified letter from the College. My wife and I both assumed: that’s it. It was on the weekend, so we had to wait out the whole weekend to actually pick up the letter. I didn’t know this, but my wife was in tears. She had been hiding it from me.
Capowski: She thought it was a notice of nonrenewal?
Doherty: Yes, absolutely, since I’d never gotten it in certified mail before. I have to say, I really resent that whole process.
Wilson: That’s the thing, it could be. It always could be a letter of nonrenewal.
Capowski: And if you’re comfortable sharing: what was it. Was it a reappointment letter?
Doherty: It was a reappointment letter.
Capowski: But normally they’ve always had the reappointment letters first class.
Wilson: This was the first time that I’ve seen mine.
Doherty: We’re living on the edge. We’re just always living on the edge. Who doesn’t like me? I’ve managed to piss off both the last Provosts. I saw Don Christian, we met once, ever. When he was Provost at a department meeting, I was outside evilly smoking a cigarette. The President walked by. He looked at me and he said, “Good afternoon, Dennis.” How do you know my name? It’s scary.
Brown: You’re probably on a dart board somewhere. Thank you, Dennis.
My next person on the list is Victor deMunck—but I don’t see him—and Monazir Khan from Binghamton…I don’t see…We’ll go straight to Steve Pampinella ,who is a lecturer in the Political Science Department. He comes to us from the campus in Albany, where he was before he became a lecturer here. Steve.
Stephen Pampinella (Lecturer, Political Science): Thanks, Peter. Hello, everyone. I’m sorry I wasn’t here earlier. I was teaching a course. I’m glad to be here. I’m very happy that this event is happening. I think we need more events like this, just to raise awareness amongst ourselves about the issues that we all face.
As academics—Peter has said this in the meetings I’ve had with him—we are kind of trained and expected to not question the overall structure of the work environment that we’re in, and the University as a whole; but I think it is very important to question that. Events like this are essential. I just want to talk about my own personal experience, and how I feel about adjuncting now, and where I feel the academic field is in general, and where our place is here.
I have been adjuncting for about three and a half years. I just finished my PhD, and I am going on the job market now. I am in the process of sending out job applications to many different employers, of course pursuing that brass ring of a tenure-track position. I was always a little nervous about going on the job market. I didn’t know what it was like. Now that I’m in the midst of it, I think of the…it’s kind of like an exclusive club, where you can get in and then you have the opportunity for a tenure-track position and some sense of job security.
On the outside of that club is everyone else who is an adjunct or some kind of contingent laborer who is non-tenure track. It’s very puzzling to me how to get into this club. I still don’t think I’ve figured it out. That’s a real struggle, because I look around, and I think of other people in my position. We’re lucky, I guess, because we’re a little younger and we’ve just begun this.
It’s hard to see how it works. I don’t see where, in fact, all the new PhD’s like myself are coming out, how we’re going to get hired and how we’re going to get some kind of job which will provide us with some kind of real security, which we’re all entitled to—and every human being is entitled to, as well. There are simply far too many new PhD’s and graduate students who are going to become adjuncts, compared to the actual number of tenure-track positions. The numbers aren’t feasible where we’re all going to get academic jobs.
It’s very likely that many of us will stay adjuncts forever, if we ever want to continue working in academia. That means we’ll have to endure low pay, poverty wages, which we have here in SUNY, and endure a complete lack of job security, as well. That was what I was thinking about as I was coming here. I was thinking: how can I present this in such a way and say anything that won’t get me fired? That is a kind of difficult line to walk.
I’ve come to the realization that, in fact, there are many of us that simply aren’t going to get academic jobs. There are many of us that are going to be on the outside forever, and for that group of people that may mean—once you make the realization that an academic job isn’t coming—what do you do? You’re still going to have to survive in one way or another. At some point, many of us will have to exit academia and do something else.
I’m still trying to figure out my own place in that. I’m not sure really what I intend to do. I’ve realized, if that’s the case, then it suggests that we really can’t be quite as passive anymore. We really should stand up and demand what’s rightfully ours. Which is really a living wage, a job with dignity and respect, that the current system does not provide to any of us, especially given the vast disparity in terms of administrative salaries compared to adjuncts, especially in terms of the way that the State of New York treats adjunct faculty, as well as graduate labor.
I find more and more today, as someone who follows politics, that SUNY really functions as an arm of economic development to get the governor reelected. And nothing really more, right? You may have heard of something called Start Up New York or Tax Free New York. The Governor is using SUNY campuses basically to bring businesses to New York State, who can do economic development, create jobs without paying taxes, and ultimately that means less money that’s going to go into SUNY’s budget that comes out of general fund, as well, for the State. This sounds like more whining, but really no one gives a damn. No one’s really interested in actually funding our institution to ensure that we can live and survive, which is something I think that we deserve.
Given that logic: at some point, there has to be some mode of resistance. There has to be some kind of attempt to push back against the system. I’m trying to figure out how one can do that without sacrificing, potentially, that future job opportunity. It may mean that we should just do it, because not everyone is going to have that opportunity, anyway. That’s a possibility and that’s something that I’m wrestling with. I don’t want to commit to that yet, because I do still hold out hope for possibly some sort of tenure-track position.
As you engage in the job market—and that becomes less and less likely—one is tempted to think about jumping ship, so to speak. That’s where I am in all that. I’m interested in trying to figure out how to build awareness with other adjuncts and contingent labor. Try and build some capacity, try and think about what actions we can take to begin to demand what’s really ours, which is simply dignity and respect! I don’t think that’s extravagant in any way. Thank you.
Brown: Okay. Are there any questions?
Wilson: Do you want to join our Contingent Concerns Committee?
Pampinella: I would love to, absolutely.
Wilson: Thank you.
Pampinella: Thank you. I apologize for not participating earlier, but I will.
Wilson: Okay. We’ll get you. We’ll get you.
Brown: Moving right along here: Victor deMunck from the Anthropology Department, who has been a professor there for a number of years, is here. He’s on a tight schedule, so Victor, come up and say what you have to say. We’re trying to keep everybody to a five minute limit with maybe a minute or so of Q and A afterwards. Victor.
Victor deMunck (Professor, Anthropology): Well, I came in just, I don’t even know your name, but it was an eloquently stated talk.
Brown: Steve Pampinella.
deMunck: Steve, I have a few things to say, I hope they’re somewhat useful. One of them is this: an axiom of American culture is that with a PhD or a Master’s degree, or even BA, you should have a middle-class income. People who are teaching courses, full-time, part-time, they’re all doing exactly the same job when they’re teaching. They’re all expected to be professionals and be experts in their field. A tremendous amount of investment has gone into the individuals who teach courses. It doesn’t matter who they are. Certainly the distribution of good teachers to bad teachers is probably the same, whether they’re full-time, tenured professors or part-time. There’s no distinction there, because all people who are professors are people who are experts in their field and should have enough competency to teach a course well.
Given those conditions, and given the assumption that if you have that kind of expertise, you should be in the middle class. Reading about Mary Margret [Vojtko] and seeing what the salaries here are, this is outrageous and it’s unethical. It’s immoral. It’s all the things that we all think it is. It shouldn’t be allowed. The idea of being fired for asking for respect, even that there’s that kind of fear which is spreading to full-time professors too. I wake up frequently thinking, “Well, if I say this at a faculty meeting, I’ll get fired.” Which I probably won’t, but still there’s that fear that seems to be like a weed spreading, a mental weed that grows in our minds with some ease and sort of takes over.
One thing we need to do is eradicate or minimize that feeling of fear. Speaking out is one of those things. I think the other thing that needs to be done is… I was a part-timer for a long time. I don’t think I was 40, I think I was born in 1948, so I got my tenure track job in 1996, whatever age that makes me. It was by pure chance that I managed. So I’m saying: don’t give up, it can happen. I was lucky to get the job I got here. I had been a part-timer for a long time.
The interesting that happened there is having been a part-timer and having gone through a lot of shit, to put it bluntly. For example I was at UNH and I was told if I don’t…and the teachers were on strike, but they were still getting their salaries. I wasn’t getting my salary. Should I cross that picket line or not? Nobody was supporting me, I wasn’t in the union. I was told clearly by my chair, “You can’t go to work—or you’ll get fired!” So that’s one condition.
All of us, all adjuncts are put in some positions that are just ridiculous and that full-time professors can’t see. As soon as I became a full-time professor ,it became hard for me to feel those… I could relate to stories but it was hard to… because those are experiences you want to put away, frankly. That economic insecurity and instability and the kind of psychic cost on your brain…When it’s over, and you get a living wage, you kind of don’t want to recall that.
This was the point I wanted to make: that the division between full-time professors and part-time—we need to act as a collectivity. We need to work together. There needs to be some kind of bond between those two. We can’t say, “Well, full-timers are getting all these benefits, we’re not.” And full-timers can’t just say, “Well, forget about those part-timers.” If we stand up for them, what will the cost be? There have to be bridges built between those two groups. That gives both groups… because we’re all teachers.
We should all be getting a living wage. There’s the privileged tenure track, but certainly we have to work together. This kind of whining, as full-timers and part-timers do by ourselves, doesn’t get us anywhere except a psychic exhaust. Somehow, we have to figure out ways to connect where we’re working together. That’s the main point I wanted to make.
Brown: Thank you very much. Do you have any questions for Professor deMunck? I just want to make sure that we’ve got that four letter word on, OK? We are still recording.
Let’s see who we have next. Joe Diamond, are you here? Nope, I don’t see him. Glenn Geher, I don’t see him here. Let’s have Dr. Lucy Barbera. She’s a teacher in the Ed Studies Department. She can tell us a little bit about herself. Then we have about three or four more speakers and we’ll wrap things up at 12 noon.
Lucy Barbera (Adjunct, Educational Studies): Thank you. Good afternoon. Good morning, everyone. My name is Lucy Barbera I have been an adjunct in the Humanistic/Multicultural Education Program. It’s part of the Ed Studies Program here on campus.
Brown: Try to use the microphone.
Barbera: For 17 years. That shocks me and amazes me. I’m a graduate of the Program. I was delighted when the director asked me to write a course for the Program. Subsequently, I’ve written three courses for that Program and have worked as an adjunct for Elementary Ed, Special Ed, and Sociology now is paying for one of my courses because of popular demand. It’s Expressive Arts. It’s a very active course. I have a very hard time finding space for that course, because it doesn’t fit into the traditional classroom.
My Program has been very supportive to me. I really, really appreciate every member of that department. I feel that my biggest shock came when I substituted for maternity leave for one of the staff. When I got my paycheck, I—booked a trip to Aruba. I was so shocked by the disparity! Maybe that was naiveté on my part, maybe it was just stupidity. I don’t know, but that really hit home to me: the disparity.
Since then, my biggest concern has been having my courses canceled on me for lack of registration. Those are summer courses. During the year, we have a maximum 30 in the class, and I don’t have that problem. I have students emailing me, calling me, making circles around the building trying to get into the class. Other sections were added two years ago, when the push was to eliminate adjuncts. We had two sections of two courses in Expressive Arts, a level one and a level two. They were, for three years in a row, booked to 30-capacity each. The second section was cancelled due to lack of “funds for adjuncts.” The logic completely defied sanity. It was a real hardship, because I love to teach. I do a great job teaching, judging from my evaluations. I felt the College was losing money on the deal. It wasn’t just me losing money in terms of salary. I felt that the College was making a very…kind of crazy decision, based on business practice.
I know, I’m probably repeating. I heard a lot in terms of what has been said and I want to…I’m deliberately repeating in terms of: why not have contracts for us? In terms of the practice in the field and coming to the classroom with understanding and practice: I spent a year last year on a research grant at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, at the hospital there. I’m an art therapist and I got to work at the hospital. I actually got to teach at the hospital. I got to teach residents and nurses, etc. To be able to come to my class this semester and show, on a screen that large, the artwork of the patients, of the children that I worked with. And really have the students connect what is happening in this class to what happens in the real world in terms of changing people’s lives and contributing to the healing of so, so many—I think cannot be underestimated.
It’s hard to put a dollar-figure on that kind of education. Where students would, at the end of class and in subsequent journals, say it changed their lives to see something so profound, as the work that these kids were doing and the work that art therapy did to help them heal. For those kinds of moments where we’re affecting so, so many students in terms of putting them on the path to working for change and good in the world: I feel like we need to gather together as a community and work together as a community, full-time, part-time, adjunct, staff, to say: “We’re all together on this. We really need to come together on this and we really need to make it fair and equal!” Thank you.
Brown: Are there any questions for Lucy. Going towards the bottom of the list here, Joe Diamond is still not here. Glenn Geher has shown up so I’d like to welcome Glenn here. He’s the chair of the Psychology Department. We’ve heard one of your colleagues, Doug Maynard, who shared some of his research in the first hour. Glenn was one of the people that spoke at our Forum eight and a half years ago. Yvonne and David Hobby who probably…are you going to be speaking today? No? Glenn, you’re one of just two or three people who were at the 2005 and the 2013 Forum.
Glenn Geher (Chair, Psychology): Thank you very much, Peter. I appreciate the effort that you and other folks have put into this. You have been an advocate of faculty in general, adjunct faculty in particular, for a long time.
There was a conscious choice years ago for the UUP on campus to pay attention to, and to care about, issues of adjunct faculty. When I was here early on—I came here in 2000—this was not on the radar, in particular. It didn’t seem it was on the radar much from the administration’s perspective. It didn’t seem it was on the radar much from the perspective of the faculty, as well. To have faculty more broadly defined and more accurately defined, and to have union issues addressed that aren’t just about full-time faculty, but that look at the larger picture, I think has been an admirable thing that’s been added to what we’ve done. I think that the Forum in 2005 was largely designed to address that.
The Psychology Department is very big. I believe the best I can do to add to the conversation would be to sort of speak about issues of faculty from different statuses as that is situated within the Department of Psychology. Our department has grown quite a bit. I’ve been chair for five years now. The enrollments have increased at the undergraduate and graduate levels 30-35% within that particular time period. This has put an awful lot of pressure on our seats. Our undergraduate numbers have gone from 300-something to over 500-something in the major, and there’s been a lot of very, I guess, idiosyncratic historical things that have happened in that same time period.
One of the things I heard Lucy speaking about a bit that impacted our department in an adverse way: there was a—I think that I do understand the logic, even though the logic, I don’t think, is reasonable—there was a point at which there was…I don’t know if it was a budget crisis or a budget problem, or budget concerns. This might have been about two or three years ago. The response of the administration to the budget crisis from about three years ago was to get rid of adjunct classes and to reduce these sections.
Our department, for better or worse, will offer anywhere between maybe 10 and 20 or sometimes more than 20 sections of adjunct classes in a particular semester. So it hit our department particularly hard. It was like Lucy was saying: it was kind of hard to understand. It was like: wait a minute, everyone knows, anyone who has maybe eighth grade math or more can look at this and say: it’s cheaper to have sections taught by adjunct faculty. So it was very confusing to people. For adjunct faculty with very strong reputations, to have their full sections canceled, it was just weird. So what Lucy was saying, it was weird in other departments on campus. It was weird in the Department of Psychology. The fiscal rationale was somewhat convoluted, and again, from an absolute eighth grade math sense, it simply didn’t really make sense. It made sense in a very idiosyncratic kind of way.
I do think that the situation has gotten better, at least from our department’s perspective, in terms of hiring adjuncts. About three years ago, the word was we were going to get rid of adjuncts. This made the headlines of the papers, and this was the concern. One thing that I told people at the time, and this has remained accurate: it didn’t happen, it wasn’t really going to happen. In a department like ours, we always, will always have a need for many sections that are taught by adjunct faculty. It’s dependent on semester to semester, and sometimes it’s complicated.
Unfortunately, unpredictable for the faculty at times, but there will always be a need, particularly for specialized courses such as crisis intervention, which is a course about psychological crisis. It’s an applied kind of course. Right now, we have Wendy Bower who’s a social worker, who does exactly that work in Dutchess County. She teaches that for us on an adjunct basis. She teaches it in a unique way. She’s uniquely situated to teach that particular course. We have several courses that are essentially best taught by adjunct faculty. Our department, I think, is— instead of the word reliant on adjunct faculty, I think that adjunct faculty are very core to the academic admission and the goals to what our department is doing.
The other thing, to sort of step back… Our department has seen some other historical things that I know Peter has raised, and some others have raised, that may be kind of concerning, to put out there. If we think about faculty as fitting into the category of adjunct, versus lecturer, versus full-time academic faculty, we have definitely seen an increase in lecturers in about that same time period. This is one of these things that have…it’s a very mixed blessing. This particular…We went from zero. Maybe, since I’ve been here, I’ve seen one lecturer one year. Maybe actually he was an assistant visiting professor.
Now suddenly we have 3.5 lecturers this academic year. In our department I’ll tell you about the adverse outcomes associated with that. Our department has huge enrollment groups. So, hiring lecturers, the immediate thing is we can now better cover those classes, we can hire less adjuncts. That, I think, is the reasoning of the administration. We initially thought this was going to be some sort of stop-gap measure regarding enrollment groups. I think it still remains to be determined. In our department, in addition to teaching the courses—I know this is true in a lot of other departments—we have significant advising loads, with people generally advising between 40 and 50 students a semester. That has increased with the loss of some full-time faculty.
Lecturers don’t do the advising.
Our department has a very big focus on student collaborative research kinds of things. The faculty are expected to work with students. When students come, we tell them about how great the research opportunities are. “You’re going to work closely with faculty. This is going to be an awesome experience for you! We have faculty with research expertise in X,Y and Z. You’ll get to work with them on these projects. We go to conferences. We present articles. This is like the ethos of our department.” Well, full-time faculty, that’s part of their job. Full-time lecturers, that is not part of their job.
Replacing a full-time faculty member with a full-time lecturer immediately reduces our capacity to provide the individualized research, collaboration kind of attention, which is exactly what we’re promising to the students and exactly how we advertise ourselves. We lost a full-time faculty member last year. We have a retirement forthcoming. We have an increase in lecturers and we’ve had a 40% increase in our majors. What we’re having is a lot more students who are expecting this kind of experience. Our faculty are essentially being reconfigured top-down, so that we are definitely not as well able to address those goals that we have for our students.
From the Psych Department’s perspective: we have adjuncts, we continue to have them, we continue to support them as best we can. They are integral to what we’re doing. From our department perspective, the big concern these days seems to be the shift towards lectureships that we need to think about carefully. On the one hand, creating a lectureship can be a great opportunity for someone who is a great teacher, for an individual who has worked in an adjunct capacity. From a broader perspective, it has the effect of not providing the same kind of curricular opportunities that you tend to see when we’re more fully staffed with full-time faculty. These are some of the issues from the Department of Psychology. I’d be glad to address any questions.
Doherty: It’s not so much a question as comment. The same trend is taking place in English, which is a very large department. Of course, when they purged the adjuncts in our department, they upped the course loads for the lecturers, so mine went up to five.
Geher: Right, absolutely.
Doherty: And the other, you know, in our department the lecturers, me and Larry Carr, are publishing. We’re active writers. We are teaching our students about publishing and the publishing world and getting into publications. I know the other lecturers are still going to conferences, and still, and we’re not supposed to do that, because were supposed to be just teachers and doing nothing else.
Geher: Right, teaching. We see the same exact thing in our department. Some of our lecturers are also some of our most active scholars by choice. Some of them are on Master’s thesis committees by choice. Some of them are doing, initiating research projects totally by choice. As a senior faculty member, we want to cultivate that. We want to see that happen for the development of the individual, and it’s better for the community in general.
I think that one thing that I’m hearing you saying, and I’m glad you brought it up, Dennis, because I wanted to bring this up, as well: 5-5 is outlandish. It is unacceptable. 5-5 is what you have at a bad community college. 5-5 is what you have if you expect people to get little out of the teaching. Somebody who is teaching five classes a semester can’t possibly do, even if they’re incredibly good, can’t do as good a job as they would providing the education as if they were teaching three or four. And it’s surprising to me that a university that places such explicit emphasis on teaching says, you know, 5-5. So one thing that that I hope will come out of this—and it seems that there’s a lot of people pushing towards this, I know Brian has been helpful on this: 5-5 is unacceptable. 5-4 is unacceptable, to be honest. So I think that this is something that we together as a group ought to underscore, because we know that lecturers, the best lecturers are doing exactly what you’re saying. We need that to be supported. Lucy?
Barbera: Glenn, just out of curiosity, when the lecturers were hired, were adjuncts considered? Were they qualified? I always wonder about that.
Geher: In the particular cases we had, I guess it was case by case. In one case we had someone who was teaching, has a PhD, a very strong research background, and had been teaching piecemeal adjunct courses that were really specialized, the kind of thing that a local clinical psychologist couldn’t teach, e.g., physiological psychology, perception psychology. This person applied for a lectureship that matched those courses and got it. That was the situation where I’d say that it was really good for this particular individual. In the case of Annie Olmstead, she was teaching as an adjunct, she’s now on a lecturer line. It seems to be very good for her.
In the other case, there was this idea that we needed an additional lectureship, because of just how many classes we’ve been adjuncting. I think when we hired Cliff Evans, he was also hired this year on a full-time renewable. He also has a PhD, he’s got awesome publications, he’s a very bright guy. His classes that he’s covering are, if we didn’t hire him, these are classes that we would be hiring by adjuncts.
Brown: Thank you very much.
Geher: Thank you.
Brown: I have two more people on my list. Monazir Khan, who is the Graduate Student Employee’s Union person from Binghamton, and Jim Dearce. Is there anybody else who would like to speak, who wants to be added to the list? Or forever hold your peace. No, you can spontaneously decide you want to speak. We haven’t heard from a single student. Sadie, do you want to speak at some point? No? Are any of the other students, who I don’t happen to know? We’ve got our intern here, Dan Brenner, who may want to rise to the occasion. I would like to have at least one student voice here. Think about it. You’ve got another ten minutes or so.
The next person is Monazir Khan, who comes to us from Binghamton. Feel free to come up and tell us about yourself, about your organization. We are limited to five minutes; there’s your clock.
Monazir Khan (Graduate Student Employees Union): Hello, everyone. My name is Monazir Khan. I am Business Agent at Large, Graduate Student Employees Union, CWA Local 1104. GSEU represents close to 5,000 TAs and GAs in the SUNY system, spread over four SUNY center campuses, two medical universities, two doctoral institutions in Syracuse and NYC, and 12 comprehensive college campuses like New Paltz.
I am here today to highlight one thing: that New Paltz is a costly area to live, as compared to any other comprehensive college campus. I thank Peter that he, on his own behalf, invited me to speak, even though perhaps TAs and GAs might not be considered as part of the new faculty majority. I was flipping through President Christian’s remarks here: I don’t see anywhere mention of Teaching Assistants or Graduate Assistants. Maybe he even doesn’t consider them as employees, he considers them students.
This is their story: New Paltz is the second largest campus in terms of the GSEU membership among the 12 comprehensive college campuses. The only campus that exceeds it in numbers is SUNY Oswego. On this campus we have 80 Teaching and Graduate Assistants. A good many of them are in the English Department, which I believe is next to only four university center campuses’ English Department. Another campus that may come close to it, to what the English Department TA’s do, would be SUNY Fredonia. Nowhere else are TAs’ and GAs’ paid as low as on the SUNY New Paltz campus—among the 12 college campuses. Even SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Geneseo pay far higher than the salary of Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants on this campus. One English TA once remarked: there I can rent a palace for a few hundred bucks, in Geneseo or in Brockport or even in SUNY Fredonia.
We have noticed that this situation exists, not for today but for the last five years. I have been Business Agent at Large, representing this campus, and the situation is like this: when the union initially negotiated the collective bargaining agreement way back in 1992, the union unfortunately urged and did not negotiate contractual minimum salary for non-university-center campuses. SUNY New Paltz and medical universities, etc., other than Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook, are considered as non-university-center campuses.
Therefore, there is no minimum salary written in the contract for them. It was left to the goodwill and good conscience of campus administrators: presidents, provosts, deans, etc. And you know what? These administrators’ social concerns vary. On the one hand, I have, unfortunately, a paradoxical situation whereby I represent members who are paid the lowest in the entire unit, as well I represent the members who are paid the highest in the entire unit. The two medical universities are not among the few campuses which pay the highest salaries among all TAs and GAs. And this situation, that union could not manage to negotiate a minimum salary, even though wages and hours of work are mandatory subjects of bargaining…we have tried since then, but the State has not budged, never entertains the idea.
We know from the UUP contract that the salary of faculty, the differential between the faculty of university centers and comprehensive college campuses, are in the ratio of 80%. Let us say, if $60,000 is paid to an assistant professor on a university center campus, on a college campus they would be paid $45,000. That ratio doesn’t exist in terms of the members of the Graduate Student Employees Union. And therefore I would like you, all of you, particularly faculty members…
Our members are also hired on a very transient basis on this campus, at most for one year, one academic year. I think the English Department is the only exception I find, where a TA may continue for more than one academic year. No sooner do I come to know of them and sign them as members than they are about to leave. Therefore, it is very hard to organize them. I think I am damn good at rallying up people when they have to be mindful of better compensation for their work. But it’s hard to find them, bring them together, and they don’t have enough time to stay here, so that they can do something good about it.
The contract also has something called locality pay. Ulster County, where New Paltz is, borders on the downstate location area. Therefore, what more money we have in the contract for downstate locations, members here don’t qualify for it. One last thing I will say: that our members work for 20 hours per week, 44 weeks per academic year. If SUNY New Paltz and the State of New York were not a public employer, if they were a private employer, they would have been sued for not paying the state minimum hourly wages to our members. Thank you.
Brown: Are there any questions for Monazir?
Joann Deiudicibus (Composition Program Assistant, English): Not a question really, just a comment. I want to thank you for what you’ve done on behalf of TAs and GAs. I’m Joann Deiudicibus, and I help coordinate the TA program in the English Department. I’m also a former English TA. The stipend has certainly not changed since I was a TA in 2001. It probably hasn’t changed since you were a TA in the 80’s or 90’s, I don’t know exactly when you were…
Doherty: It’s little more…
Deiudicibus: A little more. I am incredibly grateful to my program and to have been a part of this TA program, because it is such a strong program. I’ve seen it evolve. But the fact that, our TA’s, who are some of the best instructors we have—and we have a wonderful support system— all 17 of them are being paid $2,500, I believe, is the salary…
Khan: $5,000 for the year, yes.
Deiudicibus: …is absolutely disgusting.
Khan: I would correct myself that perhaps Cortland is another campus where they pay $5,000 for the academic year. Geneseo pays close to $9,000, Brockport $7,000+, SUNY Fredonia $7,000+. When I took this position, I spoke at that time with the vice president of human resources, she was more extreme and she retired. She told me, let us meet with the president and talk about it. In the meantime, the president left the position and somebody else came. The new folks in HR, they get scared the moment they hear me speak about these things. Probably the best way, I think, that if Peter and other unions on this campus help, we can find a way, and we can include TA’s on this campus as part of the new faculty majority.
Brown: Well they’re certainly part of the contingent faculty. Thank you very much.
Let me ask again: are there any students here who would like to speak on behalf of 8,000 students? Dan? Why don’t we have Jim first, since I have him on my list. It would be good to wrap up with a student voice, or more. Jim is a neighbor of mine in Gardiner. He’s an adjunct in the Sociology Department and he’s also on the Board of Trustees of Ulster Community College..
James Dearce (Adjunct, Sociology): Hello. I started teaching here in 2000. I came when Glenn came. I earned my Master’s degree here. As soon as I was ready to graduate and take my oral exams, my professors offered me a job teaching Introduction to Sociology. As soon as you pass, you can start teaching. I did that and I’ve been here pretty much ever since. I took a slight break when I was working on a PhD, but I soon realized that writing isn’t really my thing. In a publish-or-perish environment, I wasn’t going to make it. So here at New Paltz I was able to develop my skills as a teacher, and I continue doing that.
I have had mostly very good experiences here at New Paltz. I’d say the main complaint I have as an adjunct is the pay is so ridiculously low, it’s embarrassingly low. I don’t have to tell you all that. I’ve had some great opportunities here. I’m so grateful for the UUP, for looking out for the adjuncts and getting us that small bump in pay in 2005. It was probably $1,000, which is about 50% more than I was making at the time. I have taught at SUNY Ulster, SUNY Orange. Those adjuncts are still making the same amounts pretty much that they were making 14, 15 years ago. I’m very grateful that so many people here have been working to help us out.
I’ve had a lot of great opportunities working in the Sociology Department. I think it’s because we have people there really who care and take care of us. I’ve had opportunities to develop new classes, develop online classes. I’m really grateful for that. I hope that other departments are giving their adjuncts the opportunity to do that.
Another thing about being an adjunct that is troubling is the amount of additional work that you have to do, in addition to teaching classes. You can’t just walk in and teach classes, that takes time and preparation, and then there’s after-class things. You’re working with students, you want to develop them. You also…as a teacher of introductory sociology, pretty often I’m also trying to recruit students into our department. I’ve had many students tell me that they’re in our department because of the experiences they’ve had with me in my classes, so I’m really grateful about that too.
Then there’s the extra stuff that comes along with it, when you teach an introductory class. I have 35 students in each class, and then I have to do midterm evaluations, which is essentially doing all the grading that you would do at the end of the semester—in the middle of the semester. So that’s hours and hours of work uncompensated. Next semester I’ve been notified that there’s a chance I may again have to do a GE evaluation, which is hours and hours of work, also uncompensated, but you have to do it.
As a teacher of sociology, one of the topics I teach about is exploitation. I teach about social change. I really can’t do that without a lot of conviction. I’m an exploited person, and we can’t. We have these amazing people here, and we can’t get any change here in the University. We try and we try, and it’s not happening. It’s very hard for me to teach these subjects with any kind of conviction, those things.
As Peter was saying, I’m on the Board of Trustees at Ulster County Community College, because I’m also a student. I can’t live on my adjunct salary, so I’m going back to school for nursing. So I’m doing that right now. We had a conference about two weeks ago, which had college presidents, former college presidents there. Jerry Benjamin was the moderator. I stood up and I asked the question: “What can we do the get the adjuncts more money?” For the first time—they were there for two hours talking—for the first time there was dead silence. Nobody had anything to say, nothing. One guy eventually said: “Well, smarter people than I have tried to figure this out, and no one has done anything about it. No one has been able to figure out how to get adjuncts more money.” That was the end of the conversation. Jerry promptly, as a good moderator, changed the subject. Right, so we never got anywhere with that.
One of the speakers was saying that the colleges can exist the way they do because of the false economy that they have: by being able to pay adjuncts very little money. Why would the administration change things? Why would they sacrifice anything when they know they have us? They got us. We need to keep doing this. A lot of us need this work. There is this myth that a lot of adjuncts do it for fun, or because it’s an extra thing to do; it’s some pocket change for them. I don’t know any adjuncts like that. I really don’t. I haven’t met any. So why should they change? I think the administration should recognize the value that we bring to the College. They should recognize, they should have some compassion and some respect for us and give us a decent wage. There’s no reason not to.
Brown: Jim if you could wrap things up…
Dearce: I’m pretty much done, that’s it. That’s all I have to say. Thank you.
Brown: Sometimes it’s good when you’re pressed for time. We are pressed for time, but we are going to hear one student voice. As you go out, would you please grab as much food as you possibly can stuff in your pockets, in your backpack, in your hands. I’m going to Chicago tomorrow morning, and I don’t want to see any of this food. Mary Thompson can only take home so many bananas. Starving students can only take home so many doughnuts. Help yourself to whatever you can. Take some for your family, for your kids, for your parents for your pets.
Our last speaker is a student, Dan Brenner, who has been an intern for UUP for this semester and you’ve possibly read some of his stories in The Bullhorn. Dan, it’s all yours.
Daniel Brenner ‘13 (student): Thank you. I just wanted to give a student voice, which I think is important, and emphasize the point that you’re probably all well aware of: that the issue of adjunct faculty and contingent faculty is something that affects students very strongly. As Professor Doherty and Professor Geher mentioned, an adjunct who teaches five classes a semester, or a lecturer who teaches five classes a semester, there’s absolutely no way that they can provide the same amount of dedication to each one of their students on top of meeting with students outside of classes, and grading all those papers, and then doing their own research. It’s a ridiculous amount of work.
I’m in my seventh semester here at New Paltz. I’m a senior graduating in December. I’d say about half of my professors probably have been either lecturers or adjuncts throughout my entire time here. I’d say almost all of them, most of them, have been very highly qualified, just as qualified as teachers as the associate professors. And these are people who obviously are very good at their jobs and deserve far more than the poverty wages they are being given. I just wanted to emphasize the point that this is something that students are affected by. That’s why I think the internship program that Peter has set up is so good. It’s really good for students to be becoming involved with this issue and to be aware of how low pay for adjuncts and lecturers and other issues on campus affect them directly. I just wanted to say that.
Brown: Are there any questions for Dan?
Geher: I have a quick question for Dan. I guess I’d be curious what the students think about the fact that with the furlough situation—you’re probably aware of this—that adjunct faculty are going to not teach two classes, whereas full-time faculty are going to take the time off in a different way. I was curious if you could speak to that from a student’s perspective.
Brenner: You mean the idea of adjuncts only teaching, full-time teachers teaching two classes?
Geher: No the way it, I’m not sure if you’re aware. Maybe I assumed you would be. There’s a concern that’s going on right now, that people are being furloughed, sort of not getting paid for a certain amount, and full-time faculty members are being asked to take off two days that are non-teaching. Adjunct faculty are being asked to take off two teaching days. That just sounds to me like that should have direct implications with students. I was just curious if you’ve had thoughts or thought about it.
Brenner: Especially when you talk about classes that meet only one day a week or something like that. To miss those classes, whether it be from an adjunct or a full-time professor, is going to, you know…when you’re already possibly going to miss classes as a student, to have a teacher not be there, because of the furlough situation… You’re paying for the class, so I think it just goes back to the idea that it’s all very costly and not helpful.
Dearce: Can I say something about that also?
Dearce: I was kind of surprised, like most people, I guess, about this furlough situation. I schedule out my classes before the semester. I have students at this point doing oral presentations I have two students doing presentations each day, and then I teach for the rest of the class. What a furlough means for me, for having to cancel two classes: it means the students miss two classes with me, and then I have to take those students and rearrange them. Instead of me teaching for the second half of my other class they have to just listen to other students do presentations. So in essence, students are missing four classes of me actually teaching. And I don’t know what the value is to that. I’m sure it’s great to hear other students…
Brown: I would love to continue this conversation. However, one of my colleagues just appeared at the door and gave me the “T” sign, which means he has a class here. We all have to get out of here. You know what you have to do. Grab some food and take as much as you can. Thank you.
Additionally Submitted Written Materials
Statement by Elizabeth Brotherton, Professor and Chair, Department of Art History
Reasons why the policy limiting adjuncts to only two courses per semester is damaging and counterproductive:
1) From students’ point of view: Limited to two courses, adjunct instructors are more likely to find teaching jobs elsewhere to augment their salary. Staying on campus only as long as it takes to teach their courses, adjuncts thus deprive students of the contact time that they would be more able and likely to give them were they teaching all their courses at New Paltz;
2) From Dept. Chairs’ point of view: Forced to hire a different adjunct for every two adjunct-taught courses, Chairs expend a great deal of added time and energy that could be more productively used. This is especially harmful in departments such as Foreign Language and Math, which are dependent on a large number of adjuncts;
3) From adjuncts’ point of view: Unable to teach more than two courses on campus, and thus forced to take multiple teaching jobs on different campuses, adjunct instructors will often create for themselves hectic schedules involving huge amounts of time, money, and energy given over to transportation and logistics;
4) From the College’s point of view: Unwilling to offer its adjunct instructors more than two courses per semester, the College squanders an opportunity to cultivate talented and loyal adjunct instructors who, feeling that they have some small stake in New Paltz, would then be more likely to see themselves as members of the campus community and act accordingly;
5) From the full-time faculty’s point of view: The alleged reason for the two-course policy, that an adjunct instructor teaching a three- or four-course load is teaching a full schedule and is therefore entitled to the same remuneration as is full-time faculty, is offensive to full-time faculty members, whose job descriptions are far from exhausted by a three- or four-course load. Adjuncts normally do not advise students, or do transfer advising; they rarely attend Department meetings; they do not serve on Department, School or College committees; and their research and publications do not play defining roles in their positions here. They do not have to be Department Chairs, or take on other administrative duties and miscellaneous obligations regularly demanded of full-time faculty members. However many courses adjunct instructors might teach in one semester, their jobs could not be likened to those of the full-time, tenure-track faculty.
The ultimate objective, to lessen the number of courses taught by adjuncts, is admirable; but the present policy increases the number of adjuncts on campus while diminishing their potential effectiveness as College instructors and employees. As long as we hire adjuncts we need to treat them well and cultivate their value to the College.
Statement by Amy Cheng, Professor, Painting/Drawing Program, Art Department
I am one of three full-time faculty members in the Art Department’s Painting/Drawing Program, and every semester we employ two or three Adjunct Faculty to teach five or six courses. We value our Adjuncts and see them as artist-professors whom we hire because they bring fresh blood to our Program. They offer different and complementary strengths to the full-time faculty, and help bring depth and breadth to our Program.
For example, we have periodically used an Adjunct Faculty to teach our Graduate Painting classes. We respect them so much we feel it benefits our MFA students to be exposed to their teaching. Being located so close to NYC, we have access to a tremendous pool of possible adjuncts, all of whom have MFAs, the terminal degree in studio art. Regrettably, when we try to recruit certain artists to teach for us part-time, we are unable to do so because of the low pay.
When Francois Deschamps was Department Chair, he asked each of the Programs what he could do to help us. We asked for an Adjunct position that would allow us to bring three artists from New York City, each coming twice a semester to conduct studio critiques with our graduates. This was structured as a 3-credit course. It was a tremendous success, and we were able to do this for two semesters.
If we offered better pay to Adjunct Faculty, people of this level of reputation and caliber could be hired on a regular basis; that is, they would be willing to come up and teach a regularly structured class of 6-hours a week. The point I am making is that, at least in the School of Fine and Performing Arts, contingent faculty could be turned into excellent, even prestigious assets, if we only offered better pay.
Statement by Donald Christian, President, and Phillip Mauceri, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
UUP Chapter President Peter Brown invited each of us to serve as featured speakers at today’s forum, which we are unable to do because we are attending a SUNY system conference on “Building a Smarter University.” He accepted our offer to provide a written statement of some of our views and perspectives on the topic of contingent faculty.
Terminology and Context. The term “contingent faculty” is standardly interpreted as faculty not on the tenure track, even though this term is not recognized by the State of New York as a distinct employee category in any of its negotiations with the UUP. It is perhaps useful to re visit a first principle that under current and foreseeable funding models, colleges and universities must maintain a degree of flexibility to respond to fiscal and budgetary changes and shifts in program demand, avoiding the terrible disruption of eliminating tenured faculty positions. For this reason, it is virtually without question that no university could operate with the long-term commitment to having all faculty on the tenure track. Furthermore, part-time adjuncts are often hired to teach in specialty areas not represented among tenure-track faculty, and often because they bring unique professional expertise and experience to the campus. Positions such as lecturers do not have the scholarly and research responsibilities of tenured and tenure-track faculty, hence typically contribute a higher proportion of their effort to teaching. Institutions employ lecturers along with tenure-line faculty to achieve a different mix of teaching and scholarship in fulfilling their mission.
New Paltz hires part-time adjunct faculty and full-time lecturers for these reasons. However, a long-term institutional goal, begun by our predecessors and continued by us, is to reduce our reliance on part-time faculty- in direct opposition to national trends. A dozen years ago, New Paltz was soundly criticized by our regional accrediting body for having half or more of our courses taught by adjuncts. While we do not have final figures for this semester, in fall 2012 only about 25% of our courses were taught by part-time adjuncts. In some instances, we have shifted teaching responsibilities to a richer mix of full-time lecturers, either as one-year or multi year appointments. At the same time, the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty at New Paltz in fall 2012 was 268, higher than before the great recession (e.g., 255 in fall 2007). Thus, we have pursued three concurrent strategies: reduce reliance on part-time adjunct faculty, and increase the number of both lecturer and tenured/tenure-track faculty positions. This is what we mean by “Recast the Faculty Staffing Table,” to borrow language of a recent book referred to in the President’s September report to the faculty.
Appointment Types. At New Paltz, the appointments and work expectations of part-time adjunct faculty and full-time lecturers are different. Adjuncts are hired with contract language such as “teach one or two courses.” Adjunct compensation is defined on a per course basis. Lecturers are not simply adjuncts with more courses to teach. Lecturer appointments have a firm base in the SUNY language: lecturers fulfill basic curricular needs but may not be assigned the full range of duties normally associated with academic rank appointees, particularly with regard to scholarship. There is little logic to comparing adjunct and lecturer compensation on a per course basis, because lecturers are salaried employees, in contrast to part-time adjuncts. Our lecturers are involved in a fabric of teaching-related and primarily student-centered activities, but we don’t ask them to do scholarship; many are involved at the departmental level in some ways.
As you engage in discussions at the forum about “contingent faculty” at New Paltz, we encourage you to keep such distinctions in mind.
Lecturer Workload. Full-time lecturers fill an important role in focusing on teaching. They fill basic curricular needs but are not expected to have the full range of duties of those in tenure-line positions. While the baseline obligation of full-time lecturers is to teach 30 credit hours of coursework or its equivalent during the academic year, and engage in continuing professional development related to their teaching assignment, departmental need determines the configuration of lecturer work. Based upon these needs, with approval from the dean and provost, lecturers engage in teaching and overseeing a range of courses. Although the nominal workload is 15 credit hours, 70 percent of our lecturers during 2012-13 taught fewer than that. Those who taught at the prescribed credit limit taught primarily seminars, independent studies or practicums with smaller number of students. The balance between course types, levels and enrollments in the courses lecturers teach make it impossible to generalize to a “typical” configuration, and each lecturer must be considered within his/her departmental context.
We are sensitive to maintaining a clear distinction between the teaching loads of lecturers and those of tenure-line faculty of whom we expect research and scholarship and greater contributions than lecturers in service, departmental and institutional leadership. We do not believe that even a 3-6 credit differential between teaching loads of lecturers and those of tenure line faculty fully captures the greater expectations and different investment that the institution makes in the careers of faculty on the tenure track. For this reason, tenure-line faculty earn higher salaries than lecturers, in addition to having lower teaching loads.
Adjunct Compensation. Despite evidence that the administration has shared in the past, the impression continues to be fed that adjunct compensation at New Paltz is unsystematically low. In the most recent figures available from SUNY administration, minimum compensation for adjuncts at New Paltz ($3001 per 3-credit course) is the highest among state-operated campuses in the entire SUNY system, among the 24 campuses for which data are available. Admittedly, New Paltz is joined by two other campuses (Potsdam, Stony Brook) with base compensation rates at or above $3,000 per 3-credit course (compensation at Empire State is $3,000 for a 4-credit course, $2,250 for a 3-credit course). Only six (6) other campuses have rates above $2,500, while fifteen (15) offer minimum rates of $2,500 or below.
Adjuncts teaching at all nearby community colleges are compensated at lower rates than at New Paltz, although adjuncts with 7 or more semesters of teaching experience at one community college are compensated at a rate only slightly less than the current starting rate at New Paltz. New Paltz compensates adjuncts teaching science laboratory courses at rates 40-50% higher than at the community colleges.
The irony does not escape us that our campus is the focus of a campaign to increase adjunct salaries, when we clearly already are a leader in adjunct compensation in the Hudson Valley and throughout SUNY. We understand the desire of adjuncts and of advocates for higher compensation. At the same time, we understand that increasing adjunct salaries to levels virtually unheard of among public institutions in the State would be an irresponsible use of tuition revenue and taxpayer support and would put us in untenable positions with state and system leaders.
Thus, the target of an argument that adjunct compensation is inadequate should be regional, statewide, and national, and not specific to New Paltz. In SUNY, advocacy for adjunct faculty salaries should be channeled through statewide contract negotiations, conducted through the Governor’s office and not by individual campuses.
Adjustments to Adjunct Compensation. Assertions that adjunct salaries at New Paltz have not increased in many years are patently incorrect. In 2005, campus administration made a voluntary, local decision in response to an analysis of market rates to increase adjunct compensation by over 23%, to $822. Since then adjunct salaries have increased by the negotiated salary increases in the UUP collective bargaining agreement. As a result, the per credit base rate for adjuncts has increased from $822 in 2005-06 to $1,000.44 in 2010-1, an increase of more than 21% during that time period. Negotiated increases in the new contract will increase these rates even more.
In addition, adjunct faculty are eligible for discretionary salary increases, based on documented quality of teaching and related contributions. In recent years, virtually every adjunct faculty member whose request for a discretionary salary increase was supported by their department chair and dean has been awarded such an increase by the provost and president. These salary increases are carried over into the per-credit compensation rate applied in the following year(s) for adjuncts who are rehired. As a result, some New Paltz adjuncts are compensated at levels exceeding $3,400 per 3-credit course.
We are committed to recognizing and rewarding high-quality contributions by adjunct faculty by awarding discretionary salary increases per terms of the contract. The current UUP contract designates for the first time a portion ofthe discretionary increase pool for part-time adjunct faculty and professionals. During the current year, the calculated DSI pool for New Paltz is $69,296 for part-time UUP members and $143,515 for full time academic and professional UUP members. New Paltz administration does not have discretion in determining those pools, or in awarding them respectively to part- and full-time members.
In the most recent round, only six (6) adjunct faculty applied for discretionary salary increases. Limiting the distribution of the discretionary pool to these six faculty would clearly distort salaries (albeit on a one-time-only basis in the current contract year). However, the one-time increases for the adjuncts who applied for DSI will be higher than for others because they followed the process. We remain committed to the principle that these increases are discretionary, to recognize exceptional contributions, and to avoiding having part-time DSI become across-the-board salary adjustments.
Health-Care Benefits. It is frequently noted in the higher-education press that adjunct faculty nationwide typically work without health-care benefits. In addition to being compensated at higher rates than most national and regional standards, adjunct faculty at New Paltz who teach two or more courses qualify for health insurance benefits, beginning with their first semester of teaching and continuing through all subsequent semesters teaching at that level. The state pays 88% of the costs of the premium for employee coverage and 73% of the premium for dependent coverage. During the current year, state contributions per biweekly payroll are about $246 for the individual plan and $536 for the family plan- a large investment of state funding in the compensation package of New Paltz adjunct faculty.
By comparison, no benefits are available to adjunct faculty at two nearby private colleges; at another, they qualify for health insurance benefits only if employed halftime or more. At our regional community colleges, adjunct faculty are either not eligible for benefits at all, or if eligible the employee pays the full cost with no institutional or state subsidy. In one instance, employees become eligible only after teaching four consecutive semesters.
Given the costs of health care and of health insurance coverage if purchased independently, the far more ready availability of health insurance coverage for adjuncts at New Paltz and the employer subsidy of that coverage must be regarded as a significant part of adjunct compensation.
Conclusion. The administration is committed to continuing our participation in monthly labor management meetings, where we discuss with union leaders matters of interest raised by either the administration or the local UUP chapter including those matters necessary for local implementation and administration of the bargaining agreement. The president fulfills his contractual obligation to participate in at least one labor-management meeting each semester. We also participate in exclusively part-time labor-management meetings, as specified in the contract. In both of these meetings, we consider and adopt approaches to address concerns when feasible and consistent with sustaining and enhancing our core educational mission, with responsible shepherding of institutional resources, and with terms of the bargaining agreement.
Clarification by Vincent Martucci, Lecturer, Jazz Studies, Music Department
I would like you to add one clarification to my comments today when I addressed the group. I brought up the point that the issues in pay and advancement for adjuncts and contingents is a systemic, long-term issue and that very few of the key players in this discussion were here at New Paltz 20-25 years ago as these disparities have unfolded. What I wanted to add is that this situation presents a unique opportunity for an open and frank discussion with the administration because people like our current president and provost were not the architects of these policies, but rather the inheritors of them. In my mind this is an important distinction that should be kept in mind and through dialogue presents an opportunity for a new administration to evaluate past practices and decide whether they want to continue down this same path–which I do believe can be shown to not be the most effective policy even though it may be the most expedient.
Thank you again. And thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Research Findings on the Experiences of Adjunct Faculty, by Douglas Maynard, Professor of Psychology
Feldman & Turnley (2001)
- Not universally dissatisfied with their jobs
- highest for scheduling flexibility, coworkers, autonomy, and work challenge
- lowest for pay, benefits, advancement opportunities, and supervision
- many felt like second-class citizens or that they were marginalized
- Older adjuncts (50+) were more satisfied and more professionally committed, felt less relative deprivation, and were engaging in less job search, and reported more organizational citizenship behaviors than younger part-time faculty. Seems that some do this as a kind of bridge retirement
Maynard & Joseph (2008)
- “Involuntary part-time” – would prefer their position to be full-time
- This group had lower satisfaction with advancement, compensation, and security than full-time and voluntary part-time faculty (even though they had the same “deal” in terms of salary etc. as voluntary part-timers)
- They didn’t feel more overqualified than either other group
- Part-time faculty (both IV-PT and V-PT together) actually reported higher emotional attachment to the organization than full-time faculty did
Lessons from Contingent Work Literature
- Supports notion that “voluntary contingent” workers are more satisfied and committed.
- About 40% of contingent workers are estimated to prefer that situation, and this is exactly the rate that we found in the Maynard & Joseph sample.
- “Social or physical barriers” between contingent workers and permanent employees can cause problems: lack of development opportunities and knowledge sharing, exclusion from social gatherings. This makes it harder for them to perform well, and the isolation may impact levels of commitment.
- Contingent faculty’s experiences are not uniform, even if their salary and obligations are. How they feel about their jobs and the institution have as much or more to do with the reason why they have the position they do – how it relates to their career stage and their other life activities – and how they are integrated or marginalized with respect to the department and college community.
- Look beyond pay and benefits as outcomes to focus on – I would particularly encourage efforts to improve inclusion in decision-making, communication, knowledge-sharing, and social gatherings – especially since we may have more room to impact these things.