Friday, April 19, 2013

Adjunct faculty declare intention to unionize

By Valery Jorgensen, News Writer   
   
A movement is sweeping across the Pacific Lutheran University campus among contingent professors trying to unionize.
   
In last week’s issue of The Mooring Mast, contingent faculty members paid for ad space to publish a letter declaring their intentions to form a union. Non-contingent faculty paid for a similar ad expressing support for their colleagues.
   
A contingent faculty member is “a part- or full-time non-tenure-track faculty,” according to the AAUP-PLU Contingent Faculty Survey Report. Full-time sabbatical replacements, long-term, full-time visitors and instructors, lecturers, mentors and other faculty are all recognized as “contingent” faculty, according to the report.
   
A survey was conducted in spring of 2011, via SurveyMonkey, an online survey site. According to the report, this survey was created because the school “knew very little about our own contingent colleagues.” Seventy surveys were received and 62 were fully completed.
   
The survey yielded interesting results, including that 74 percent of respondents did not consider their salary to be a living wage.
   
Based on the results of the survey, it is apparent some contingent faculty were unhappy with some aspects of their jobs.
   
Faculty also answered more extended questions in the survey. Faculty members said the greatest benefits of their job were “doing what I love” and “[having] time to work closely with students.” 
   
When asked what challenges they face, responses included “not getting paid enough,” having “to work three jobs [two off campus] to pay my bills,” and “this is the death to myself and my family, to constantly be in a state of uncertainty about where my employment will be.”
   
Some non-contingent faculty support their peers in the push for unionization. Troy Storfjell, a tenured associate professor, said he “strongly supports their right to do it [unionize],” saying that it “shouldn’t be a surprise [faculty who have] tenure support it.”

Storfjell said contingent faculty unionizing will affect students. Students may not know the difference or be aware of the title their professor holds, but the outcome can still have an effect on them. Professors can spend “more time on students and less time applying for other jobs,” Storfjell said. It will “strengthen the learning experience.”
   
The next step to unionize contingent faculty is a vote.