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Vol. 41, No.3 September 01, 2008
In the spirit of free speech & open dialogue The Patriot continues to broadcast the diverse views of faculty members. Here is yet another E-mail that we've been asked to pass along to our colleagues. The opinions expressed are solely those of the undersigned author.
Adjuncts, Part-Timers and a Day of Labor
Historically, adjuncts came to a University with a full time career in place. They were supplementing their profession with some teaching. Getting involved with us brought some measure of enrichment to their career – they wanted the work and the affiliation with us. At the same time, we needed some coverage in a basic course or a special topic. There was synergy and, symbiosis. This was reflected in their remuneration.
THE PHILOSOPHY WE NEED
The mission of any University was lost in the "unionism" unity chant heard on July 1 during the PSC Delegate Assembly. This is NOT about union issues per se - it is the other way around. The long term interests of academia and any University are better served by full time people with "reluctant" yet appropriate use of adjuncts. Part-timers do not have the same stake in the business as we do. Using them too much waters down what we do. We must hold the line on the number of these positions (reducing them to some degree, perhaps by attrition in the years ahead) while applying continued focus on creating more full time positions to do the work. The new contract will sustain and perhaps advance those longer term full time University interests. The PSC executive committee and CUNY management have done their job considering the environment (economic, social and political). The stage was set for even more such realistic gains on the next contract including workload reductions and reallocation.
THE REAL PROBLEM
It is sadly true that throughout all CUNY campuses today there is still more work to be done than people to do that work despite recent personnel gains. We have a ways to go, but not with increases in part-time personnel. Unless the State and society make greater long term monetary commitments to the University other tools include gradual reductions in enrollment and gradual raises in tuition. Direct coordination with UFT & SUNY for contract negotiations is also indicated.
One ought be flabbergasted by the thought of "adjunct security". The idea of a "secure" part time job (perhaps in any industry) seems like a bit of a contradiction and even somewhat dysfunctional - for both sides. But given the demeanor in the union hall on July 1 and the ensuing DA/PT e-mail flurry it may be an indication of where the union might choose to go and, it is the wrong direction. It seems fundamentally wrong that part time workers try to drive a union created by and for full time faculty and full time staff. This approach, over the years, has now gone too far and is becoming shortsighted and even somewhat parasitic.
A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
If we continue to use too many adjuncts we are "saying" academically qualified faculty and professionally qualified staff are really not needed. For example, it's hard to see how we can make adjuncts who are paid primarily for class time/prep/grading/student contact more expensive, than full-time faculty who are paid for varying combinations of class time/prep/grading/student contact, conducting research resulting in published articles, writing books/textbooks, attending conferences/making presentations & publishing proceedings, fulfilling editorial roles/performing editorial work, performing service assignments as well as the immense amount of time spent acquiring the advanced knowledge and skills obtained in pursuing Doctorate - the first in a series of four apprenticeship stages. The professoriate chronically allows students to graduate while having no idea whatsoever of what we do for a living and how we spend voluminous amounts of time "off stage." Now these former undergrads and masters students of "ours" want peer status in droves without apprenticeship stages. They are instructing and grading us?
The less than complete list of professorial duties above underscores that the three legs of the proverbial academic stool are splintering – creating tragic harmonics into the palpable quality of instruction, eroding the core purposes of conducting research and politicizing faculty service. Too many tasks too little time in tandem with vetting that which can not really be vetted exacerbates these conditions. Furthermore, short interval changes in the posts of Dean, Provost and President often creates an unintentional vacuum in administrative accountability.
Another thing to be mindful of - the professoriate manufactures it own ingredients - we often take for granted that Doctorate give us that ability and the "license". In the long run, who will create those syllabi and determine the associated curricula if we keep sharing our course outlines (formerly an innocuous practice) with adjuncts who then ultimately replace us altogether. Who will do the development work? We are reducing our production capacity to generate "seed corn" and are active participants in the seemingly imperceptible demise of our own jobs and industry. Think about it!
More full time people properly paid and supported, with a much smaller yet slightly better paid and properly supported adjunct complement is indicated for the well being of any University in the long run. The proposed contract moves us a little closer to restoring balance to the long-standing "social contract" between society and the professoriate where our remuneration is high enough to restore intrinsic motivation to its rightful proportion. Adjuncts have regrettably become a force to be reckoned with. The PSC top brass may understandably have needed to court them when it first sought power and inadvertently created another problem. Full time people will have to become more vocal within their union and on campus once again. Most of all, voting on any matter as it pertains to the prerogatives of the professoriate can no longer be seen as optional. It probably never was.
Dr. J. David Lichtenthal - Alternate Delegate - PSC CUNY - - Full
(Some of the views herein reflect input from my CUNY colleagues at many campuses that asked to remain anonymous)
Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.
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