Sunday, May 30, 2010

Press Release: National Unemployment Initiative

Ed Note: I missed the usual "immediate" part but better late than never. This version is also on the website. There's a shorter one too that I'll post when I find the file. We invite you to share this press release, this length or shorter with your local or campus newspaper and blogs. Broadsite it: go the traditional, low-tech broadsheet route: print it out and pin to the break room bulletin board. Slip it under doors anonymously... and wherever else your imagination takes you, the more original the better. Let us know where that takes you. Anything but just standing in line passively, waiting passively



National advocacy group, New Faculty Majority, launches campaign to assist jobless part-time, adjunct professors.
(May 24, 2010) NFM announced a national campaign to help eligible adjunct college and university faculty obtain unemployment compensation in between academic terms.  Many instructors don’t check to see whether they are eligible.  Others are denied on grounds of having reasonable assurance of re-employment, a phrase in federal law whose invocation by postsecondary employers has been challenged, most successfully in California and Washington, by arguing that employment which depends on variables like enrollment, funding, and administrative prerogative cannot constitute reasonable assurance. 
Adjunct (also called contingent, contract, or non-tenure-track) faculty are professors and graduate teaching assistants who work term-to-term, often at multiple institutions.  They constitute 73% of the postsecondary instructional workforce nationwide, numbering over one million.  They have the same responsibilities to their students as full-time, tenure-track faculty, but usually work for a fraction of the per-course compensation, often without benefits or adequate professional support, increasingly while carrying the same or a heavier workload.  Their ability to secure union support is often restricted. 
According to Maria Maisto, President of NFM, “Many adjuncts teach a full-time load and still qualify for public assistance.  Work is scarce between terms. Institutions should not obstruct eligible contingent faculty from access to unemployment insurance, one of the few economic rights that contingency, by definition, affords them.  In other industries, seasonal employees who face similarly precarious circumstances do not have to prove ‘no reasonable assurance’; neither should college teachers who are denied continuing contracts.  This situation stems from higher education’s overdependence on contingent employment, which is devastating the teaching profession and is detrimental to education.”
The NFM Unemployment Compensation Initiative website provides information on eligibility, applying, and on appealing denials.  It also includes links to available union resources. NFM will collect statistics about institutional and state practices in order to advocate for clarification of applicable state and federal unemployment laws. The initiative is part of a broader effort to enlist public support for the reform of faculty employment practices in postsecondary education.
NFM is a membership organization dedicated to improving the quality of American higher education by encouraging stable, non-exploitative work environments, advancing academic freedom, and achieving professional equity for all faculty. Its primary activities are education, advocacy, legislation and litigation.  
Contacts:
Maria Maisto, President maria.maisto@newfacultymajority.info
 Matt Williams, Vice President matt.williams@newfacultymajority.info
Ph: (202) 580-8341, www.newfacultymajority.org.

4 comments:

  1. I am somewhat disturbed by Ms Maisto's quote, specifically her final sentence. I'm not sure I completely understand the message she is conveying.

    As many of us adjuncts come from and/or have also remained within the business community, I see us as a significant component that is all to often lacking with "professional academics", a so called "real world perspective" in our instruction.

    I certainly could not agree that higher education's dependence on contingent/adjunct professors, as she puts it, "...is devastating the teaching profession and is detrimental to education.” If anything I would argue we bring to the classrooms of our institutions a the needed perspective that has been missing for far too long.

    I generalize however I think you get the gist of my, "not-so-humble" opinion.

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  2. Steve Vaitl:

    As a long-time career adjunct, a professional educator as well as a practitioner of my field, I concur that "devastating ... and ... detrimental" is troubling. Without putting words in Ms. Maisto's mouth, I think "devastating to educators" might be a more accurate emphasis, and teacher working conditions are student learning conditions, education suffers by extension. It's the contributions of part-time educators like you, who (I'm assuming from your comments), draw the bulk of your sustenance from your other employers and work communities, that have allowed higher educators to withhold sustenance from a good proportion of their faculty. Few adjuncts hired in the first place -- either your kind or my kind -- are substandard. It's our working conditions that are, even if you don't notice yours all that much. And it's the working conditions that I believe the New Faculty Majority aims to criticize, not the adjunct workers.

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  3. I believe the previous commentators misunderstand Maria Maisto's remarks, which are twofold 1) the current reliance on underpaid and otherwise badly treated adcons is indeed devastating to the teaching profession in higher education if you accept that a profession, in order to remain such, needs to maintain some minimal level of respect and 2) because the demands on many adcoms are so great—teaching many courses on different campuses—and because many adjuncts are not able to develop long-term relationships with any one campus—the adcom process is, again, indeed detrimental to education: all things being equal, job security will tend to provide instructors with the kind of time and opportunity they need to maximize their teaching contributions. Finally, it is also the case that for many adjuncts—I am am one—adjunct teaching is their only source of support. Some disciplines, of course, are more applied than others, and there will always be a place in universities for teacher-scholar-practitioners, but such instructors represent only a part of the adcom community and, in any case, it should not be the policy of universities to assume that adcons are somehow "getting enough" from their "other jobs," or, for that matter, from their spouses, partners, private incomes or whatever. Full disclosure, I am with NFM, and on its board.

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  4. @Steve V ~ I gather from your comments that you have a summer income. Unfortunately, the majority of this majority does not, and in my own not so humble opinion, Maria's comments need to be read in that context. As for "detrimental," how an operation based on unfair, even unethical employment practices (that would make a 19th c. mill-owner blush) be totally without consequences. Do the ends justify the means?

    @all ~ have you seen the CHE piece, "An Adjunct's Summer Plight, He's out of work and out of pay. Now what?"?

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