Sunday, February 6, 2011

News from NFM, #5

As announced recently, the newsletter is here. Sent to members a few mornings ago, posted to our Facebook page midday same day ~ and tweeted @NewFacMajority shortly thereafter, so this won't be the first time some of you get the news. Call it building in redundancy, aka the new nagging... 

The Newsletter Archives page has a link to the online version, link valid for 60 days before Constant Contact archives it and I have to hunt down the new link. 

Table of Contents: (sorry, still no targeted anchors ~ use Control + F to navigate) 

  • Presidents Message, 
    Big Changes Within NFM
  • NFM Welcomes Its 1,000th Member!
  • Meet the NFM Board (New Feature!): Vanessa Vaile; Peter G. Brown
  • Me and UC: Fighting To Win ... Again By Adjunct in Connecticut
  • Conference Update By Maria Maisto
  • Announcements: Insurance Update; Post Your Comments on the New Faculty Majority Blog and Facebook; Got regional news you'd like to share?; Call for Stories
  • Passing the Mortarboard ($$)
PS... we're making plans for 2011. Tell us what tops your NFM wish list by taking this short poll.

Issue: #5 - New Faculty Majority E-Newsletter, February 4, 2011

New Faculty Majority 
 The National Coalition for Adjunct & Contingent Equity
Big Changes Within NFM   
by Maria Maisto, NFM President
Dear Colleagues,

The usual greeting at this time of year when new years and school terms begin is one of hope and confidence, both of which can be in short supply for so many of us who are uncertain about our class assignments, unpaid until sometime in February, or just plain unemployed. We hope that some of that anxiety might be relieved by the knowledge that this year holds much promise for NFM and therefore for all faculty and others determined to hold higher education to the standards of integrity that students, our colleagues, and the public expect and deserve.

Earlier this month I was in LA to introduce NFM at a session on contingency at the 2011 MLA Convention, and then to participate in the January 8 "Counter Conference" organized by NFM founding Board member Bob Samuels. (You can read my brief report elsewhere in this edition of the newsletter.) The biggest NFM news that I reported at both conferences is the progress we've made in the last several months on forming our nascent 501(c)3 NFM Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit that will focus on fundraising, public education on a broad scale, support for targeted research on contingency-related topics that have been misunderstood or neglected, and other projects that fit most properly into the category of educational and charitable activities. Our fiscal agent, which provides us with the legal ability to fundraise while our 501(c)3 determination is pending, is CTAC, the Community Training and Assistance Center in Boston, MA. We have several fundraising prospects in the works and hope to have happy news to report very soon.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to build membership -- see the profile of our one thousandth member! -- in NFM proper, which is a 501(c)6 tax-exempt professional organization that promotes better working conditions for its members through activities, including lobbying, that are free from the restrictions placed on a 501(c)3. By having two affiliated nonprofit organizations, we believe that we can expand and maximize the opportunities available for accomplishing our core mission, which is of course to end the exploitation of adjunct and contingent faculty at colleges and universities nationwide.

Now that our organizational structures are stabilizing, we have specific projects that we need help with:

  •  We are looking for volunteers with fundraising experience, including prospect research and grant writing, to work with the NFM Foundation to raise the necessary resources to allow us to pursue our public education and research objectives in earnest.   
  • We need people with experience in journalism, public relations, and publishing to help us develop our communications plan and materials.
  • Because fundraising for the membership organization involves soliciting donations (we have been reluctant to require dues in deference to the financial precariousness of so many of our members) and developing revenue-producing programs, we could use volunteers with experience in business and marketing to helpwith some specific projects that are currently in the works.
Please contact our Board member in charge of membership, Vanessa Vaile, to let us know if you have particular experience and interest in any of these areas. If so, we really are ready to put you right to work!

Finally, I want to add an important note about our Unemployment Compensation Initiative. As you know, we developed this project believing that it could address several important needs: 1) to support those of our colleagues who cannot survive the breaks between academic terms without the support that unemployment compensation was designed to provide; 2) to affirm the right of all eligible contingent faculty to collect the benefits to which they have a right; 3) to resist the cynical and intimidating efforts of many institutions to prevent adjunct and contingent faculty from filing or appealing denials; 4) to subject institutions to some of the real dollar costs of contingency; 5) to collect important data with which we can develop a realistic strategy for effecting change on legislative levels; and last but not least 6) to build cooperation and solidarity among all of the existing faculty unions.  

On this last point I want to say how gratified we are that all three unions have expressed their support for the initiative and in many instances helped to promote it. We are particularly grateful to NYSUT, an AFT affiliate, for providing financial support in the form of $2,000 last year. Last year we also approached national AFT for financial support for the Initiative. While they were unable to support our request this time, they have informed us of some new research they intend to carry out related to unemployment benefits for adjunct faculty. This year we will also be formally asking NEA and AAUP to consider providing financial support for the Initiative, and urge all NFM members who are also members of all three of these unions to let us know whether you might help us to persuade them to support this unprecedented national initiative and help us to build that important solidarity without which the task before us is so unnecessarily difficult.

I want to invite all NFM members to help us to grow this organization into the powerful force for change we know it can be. Remember that people do not need to be current adjunct or contingent faculty to be members of NFM; all they have to be is people who care enough to add their voices and, if possible, actions to the cause of improving higher education by ending the exploitation of its faculty. Invite your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues (faculty AND administrators) to join NFM. Help us to create the national movement that will finally end contingency once and for all. Adjunct and contingent faculty have been "working for change" in higher education for far too long. It's time for all of us to finally come together to work for the kind of change we really need in higher education: the end of contingency as we know it.

Best wishes, 
Maria Maisto's Signature 
NFM Welcomes Its 1,000th Member! 

On December 24th, Hope Leahey became NFM's 1,000th member when she joined and added her voice to the call for professional equity and academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent educators. Hope received a gift card to Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Here is Hope's story ...

I have spent many years in health care and in the business world. I went back to graduate school because I wanted to teach at the community college level after I retired. My first teaching job, however, was when I was 8 years old and taught my 4 year-old sister how to read in our favorite game of "playing school". I must have done a good job because she is now a veterinarian with her own successful clinic.

My husband and I recently moved to Charleston, SC which I really love and I started teaching an introductory pathophysiology class in the Allied Health program at Trident Technical College. The first semester was great, but one reason I was interested in your organization was how surprised I was at how little orientation and teaching support was available to adjunct faculty.  Everything is geared toward the full-time faculty. By the time I got done preparing for my class and teaching, I must have made about $5/hour.

I have now gone back to work fulltime at the Medical University of South Carolina as a Nurse Case Manager, but will be teaching again next semester. Luckily, the majority of the basic class prep is now done so I can spend what extra time I do devote to preparation in making the class better. Now I just need to get the retirement part done.                              

Best Wishes,
Hope Leahey
Meet the NFM Board 
Over the next couple of newsletters, NFM will run "Meet the NFM Board," where we will feature one or two Board members so you can get to know who we are, not just what we are doing. Perhaps you'll read something that will make you want to connect with one or more of us, so please feel free to contact any of us at any time.

In this first running of "Meet the NFM Board," you'll meet Vanessa Vaile and Peter D.G. Brown. 
Meet Vanessa Vaile

Members may already recognize my name from NFM's blog, tweets and Facebook page. Please allow me to introduce myself.

I live in a relatively isolated rural central New Mexico community in the foothills of the Manzano Mountains. More or less retired, I am active online with community networking, blogging, advocacy, teaching ESL and other online projects. My last official adjunct gigs were with a handful of online institutions, cuyo nombres no quiero acordarme, and at the only community college within commuting distance where I helped organize an AAUP chapter, serving as secretary (as well as newsletter editor and webmaster) and last president.

Between on campus times, I managed a car rental agency in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, worked as an airlines reservation agent in NYC, broke and trained horses, managed a livestock operation that included Brahma cattle, worked as technical writer, office manager, purchasing agent, and materials manager for an oil field engineering and construction firm, waited tables, and had my own business (The Riding Place).

Throughout most of this period, I did the single parent without child support thing. Back then, no programs funded college for "displaced homemakers" and other non-traditional students. In my late 40's and ready to work indoors winters, I returned to college part time and finally completed my undergraduate degree. Initial course work, USL/UL Lafayette 1961-62, had been added to along the way at the Goethe Insitut, Universidad de Zaragoza, American University at Cairo and another USL stint before the economics of single parenting caught up with me. I continued straight on through an MA in English, graduating just a few months short of my 50th birthday, and headed to California.

The Comparative Literature Program at the University of California, Davis, made me an offer, a Humanities Institute Research Assistantship, I couldn't refuse. The languages I picked up along the way didn't hurt. At the time of moving to Mountainair to take care of my mother in her last year, I was teaching comparative literature as a graduate TA and finishing up my dissertation, interrupted but written although neither revised nor submitted. I stayed on here. From time to time, I think about self-publishing the dissertation by blog, naming it for the topic (citylit, short for spatial representations of the city in literature) or just ABDammit. 'Tis a pity and all that, but not worth going into debt to remedy.

Although I am NFM's Membership Chair and on the UCI committee, my most important contribution as an NFM board member would have to be my social media work.

I hope to see NFM become a force for change on behalf of contingent academic knowledge workers and an effective voice within the communities of higher education. For the immediate future, I want NFM to initiate and support grassroots advocacy programs raising public awareness, promote legislation, hold institutional feet to the fire as needed, and form more chapters.

Vanessa Vaile

Meet Peter D.G. Brown

I did not become a contingent labor activist until I turned 60, some seven years ago. Until then, I was a fairly typical senior professor at SUNY New Paltz, passionately involved in teaching my students and interacting with my tenured colleagues on a variety of faculty governance committees. I have also pursued a fairly active research agenda. In addition to publishing my own scholarly articles, I have edited more than a hundred books dealing with modern German literature, Jewish history and women's studies. Last year saw the publication of the third book I have written on Oskar Panizza, the 19th-century German author.

When I sent out an e-mail with the subject line "Calling all Adjuncts" in 2004, about 10 percent of the 350 adjuncts then teaching at SUNY New Paltz showed up for an initial organizational meeting. This was the largest meeting of adjuncts that had ever occurred in the college's 182-year history. At that meeting, several dozen brave adjuncts formed the Adjunct Faculty Association. Soon thereafter, the adjunct group launched a highly visible campaign to push for higher compensation, and in less than a year it had brought about the first substantive wage increase in years.

The adjunct association's leaders would later also become activists within our 35,000-member union, United University Professions (UUP), where they broadened their struggle for contingent equity. Together with adjunct activists from other SUNY campuses, including NFM board members Anne Wiegard and Ross Borden from Cortland, we formed a Coalition for Contingent Faculty within UUP. Under the leadership of Anne, a recent report by the Task Force on Contingent Employees recommends the establishment of a new statewide officer's position, Vice President for Contingent Employees, as well as structural changes within the union to ensure meaningful ad-con representation on UUP's executive board, in its delegate assembly, and on its contract negotiations team.

Five years after convening the adjuncts in New Paltz, I did something similar on a national level. I served as emergency midwife at the birth of NFM in February 2009. Those contingent colleagues who were unfamiliar with my previous work have gradually overcome their initial hesitation and puzzlement at working with me, a member of the oppressive tenured elite they generally mistrust, if not actually despise. They have seen me invest thousands of hours and substantial financial resources to advance the cause of contingent equity, and their fear has long since dissipated.

I am also asked by tenured faculty why on earth I would be spending so much time and effort advocating for a group of "others" whose fate I have never shared. I suppose this is a perfectly legitimate question, but the answer is perfectly obvious to me. Why wouldn't I insist that these precarious colleagues be allowed equitable compensation, job security, fringe benefits and academic freedom? And whyshouldn't I want them to have equitable access to unemployment compensation, professional development and advancement?

If more tenure-track faculty would summon the courage to speak out in support of their fourth-class colleagues, it could make a decisive difference in college senates and governance councils, in union governing bodies and in state legislatures. Not only are tenured faculty members largely immune from retaliation, they possess widespread credibility plus significant monetary and other resources to help tip the scales in favor of equity.

Peter D.G. Brown
Me and UC
Below is the this newsletter's installment of "Me and UC," a place for you, our members, to share your stories, if not your blues, about your process of filing for Unemployment Compensation.

Whether or not you've been successful, the particulars of your situation in your particular state are invaluable to NFM members and adcons across the country who are or might soon be in similar situations, pursuing similar processes in filings of their own. As most of us already know from serving institutions without really being considered a part of those institutions, one of the benefits we often have to do without for a long time is the knowledge that we're not alone.

These stories are meant to convince you otherwise: far from having "nothing left to lose," as Janis sang it, we have everything to gain and many ways of gaining it.
Fighting To Win ... Again
By Adjunct in Connecticut

I'm an adjunct professor of English in Connecticut's Fairfield and New Haven Counties, although I live in Fairfield County. Over the past three years I have worked for six different community colleges and universities, as it's a challenge to make sure I have enough work. (Before this, I lived in Pittsburgh, where two schools kept me busy all year, including summer for seven years.)

Two of the past three summers have found me teaching, although a smaller number of classes, which has been just fine. However, in the summer of 2009, none of the five or so schools for which I'd taught in the previous two years were able to offer me anything. On top of this, requests for unemployment compensation during that summer were repeatedly denied. I started applying for benefits as soon as spring semester ended, was contacted by the county's UC office and told I would have a phone hearing on June 16 to determine my eligibility. This meant I already had to wait for benefits, even if I got them, which I didn't. Meanwhile, healthcare payments ceased being an option, and work I needed done on my vehicle had to be put on hold. In fact, everything had to either be put on hold or done without. I did have savings that barely allowed me to make rent, but as an adjunct, I simply am not paid enough money to make it through a nearly five-month period without pay.

Once I had my phone hearing, I was denied fairly quickly. Over the course of the summer, I appealed twice and was twice more denied, the first time after a hearing in downtown Bridgeport, CT. I went for one last appeal and assumed the case was already closed. However, in early 2010, I received a letter about a hearing where I would be given what was apparently a last ditch attempt at making my case, this time before a judge. I presented myself eloquently, much more so than anyone I'd heard while I waited, and even impressed those working in the courtroom that day.

Ultimately, the argument against me was that summer was considered a "break" and that a teacher could not use "education wages" toward UC. This was precisely the argument I refuted. I explained in writing and before the judge how adjuncts are paid - that we make so much per class and that when there are no classes, there is no pay. I explained the difference between this type of payment and those with salaried contracts, even calculating how many classes I'd have to teach to make what a full-time faculty member makes at various institutions. I also explained how I had worked eight out of 10 summers I'd been an adjunct, and the one summer I didn't work in Pittsburgh, I received UC benefits, although not without a fight. I also explained that on top of not making a salary, I received no benefits, so had to pay for them myself and could no longer do so if paychecks weren't forthcoming. I then explained that I'd been told by the person I'd talked to at my initial in-person hearing that in any other profession, if I were laid off for a period of time, even if there was a verbal guarantee of work, say, four months down the road, that I could certainly receive UC. So, an out of work dishwasher whose job ended due to a restaurant closure could get benefits even if he or she knew that he or she would be working at another restaurant a few months later. A carpenter making much more money than I've ever seen would be in the same position, and so on. Yet this situation doesn't always apply to educators as indicated by the denial of benefits at this fourth hearing. But I've fought this same criminal behavior in Pennsylvania, had my case taken to the state's capital, and finally won.

My next move is to contact the labor commissioner, as those I have talked to in the UC benefits office in Bridgeport at least agree that what has happened to me, and no doubt many others, is wrong.
Conference Update
By Maria Maisto
In early January I attended the MLA conference in Los Angeles, where the Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession had invited me to speak on a panel on "Collective Work and Working Collectively." I reported on NFM's ongoing and planned activities, but more importantly, I got to meet some of the many dedicated and energetic faculty and graduate students working on securing equity for adjunct and contingent faculty.   
I also attended every session on contingent faculty that I could, spreading the word about NFM, and had good conversations with some MLA delegates who would like to see disciplinary associations like the MLA take a more consequential stand on contingency, for example by providing concrete incentives (like awards or grants) for working for real change  -- or disincentives for failing to do so. I pointed out that at the University of Akron, the current provost has publicly stated that the institution will finally be addressing the issue of part-time faculty in part because Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society, denied them a chapter due to their full-time/part-time faculty ratio. This year, we hope to persuade more higher ed organizations to follow Phi Beta Kappa's example.

While in LA, I was also able to participate in the January 8 "Counter Conference" organized by NFM Board member Bob Samuels. I joined our eminent advisory board member Joe Berry on a panel on organizing contingent faculty.  

The Counter Conference was very well attended and I hope that other events like it will take place around the country. The more we speak out, the more people will learn and be moved to action!
Insurance Update
NFM has identified and approved the carrier we will work with and received final quotes and summaries for medical, dental, and vision insurance. We are working on obtaining life insurance as well. We are now working through the logistics of enrollment to ensure we provide appropriate methods by which members can enroll - online and via calls to a customer service representative. In addition, we are planning insurance webinars so members can watch a live presentation and ask questions about our new insurance offerings from your own computer. Please watch for special editions of this newsletter in the coming weeks for specific information. If you have any questions, please contact Tracy Donhardt at

Post Your Comments on the New Faculty Majority Blog and Facebook: The NFM blog and Facebook page, developed and managed by Vanessa Vaile, support the NFM mission and promote an open exchange of ideas and information about higher education and professional issues, especially concerning adjunct and contingent faculty. Your comments are welcome.

Got regional news you'd like to share?
Is there a local adjunct rally going on in your area? An education forum? An anniversary of your group's organizing efforts? Send us your calendar events or other regional news and we'll run them in the next newsletter (events generally must be two months out as the newsletter is published every other month, although we can acknowledge past events in celebration). News and events can be sent to Tracy Donhardt, at

Call for stories
NFM wants to run stories from our members. For our next newsletter, we are seeking stories that illustrate the implications of working within the two-tiered higher education system. In other words, stories that show what it means to work as an adjunct or contingent faculty member within a system that treats the tenure-track model as the norm. Send your stories to
It's Not Easy to Ask for Money, But ... 

In the last couple newsletters, we've been informing members that NFM's Board of Directors voted to solicit annual dues of $15 as a minimum suggested contribution. 

We at NFM are all volunteers, relying on one another. While it remains far more important for us to gather members than dues, every organization needs sources of funding - even to do work that is rewarding in itself.

Dues are payable online at New Faculty Majority or by check to

New Faculty Majority
1700 West Market Street #159
Akron, OH  44313-7002

Those who join receive a free bumper sticker. To buy a bumper sticker, send $2.00 to the address above. Buy one for yourself and one for a colleague!

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