Faculty discuss teaching conditions on Santa Clara’s campus
May 9, 2019
Adjunct faculty raised awareness of their unionization movement through a panel which brought up the possibility of implementing a reappointment model instead of undergoing a full position search.
In honor of International Workers’ Day on May 1, the panel reviewed their reasons for unionizing. These reasons included issues faced from teaching at Santa Clara, like housing insecurity, and changes the university has recently made as a result of the unionization movement like increasing salaries for those in lecturer positions.
The proposed new union includes three groups of professors: quarterly adjunct lecturers (QAL), academic year adjunct lecturers (AYAL) and lecturers, none of which are considered tenured faculty.
A union would mean having power and voice when discussing hiring practices, department policies and salary.
AYALs and lecturers are hired through an official process each year, which English AYAL Margarita Levantovskaya described as time-consuming and uncomfortable.
“I just interviewed for a job for the third time at Santa Clara,” Levantovskaya said. “I have to officially apply for the job I currently have. It is also traumatic to not know if I’m going to have a job. It’s May and I don’t know if I’m going to have employment in September.”
This sentiment was echoed by Norman Paris, a lecturer in the math and computer science department.
In addition to having adjuncts reapply each year, the rehiring process also takes time away from professors within a department.
“It is very time-consuming to reapply each year,” Paris said. “It’s also time-consuming for the entire department to have a job search every year. People could be spending this time elsewhere to pass on to the students or to do research.”
A proposed solution for this hiring process was to instead to reappoint faculty to their current positions. Previously, the university has said this was not possible.
However, according to Sarita TamayoMoraga, a senior lecturer in the religious studies department, a reappointment model has been recently implemented due to the pressures around possible unionization.
One of the largest issues surrounding unionization is the ability to bargain for salary increases.
While students are concerned that a salary increase will mean a tuition increase, Tamayo-Moraga assured the audience that the union would not bargain for money that is not available.
Other Catholic schools have also seen the unionization of faculty without raises in tuition, including University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College
Additionally, Tamayo-Moraga calculated that a person making $70,000 a year living in the city of Santa Clara would be left with $8.33 of disposable income after taxes and other living expenses.
According to Santa Clara’s human resources website, the salary for an AYAL teaching in the humanities ranges from $48,000 to $61,000, signaling a need to increase the salary of faculty members so they are able to remain in the Bay Area.
The rising living costs in the surrounding area is a problem that many faculty members face.Matthew Harrigan, a political science adjunct lecturer said that his current rent exceeds his paycheck.
“I live in Campbell and I pay more than a paycheck in rent every month,” Harrigan said. “I have to work multiple summer classes every year to be able to then pay rent during the year, which is keeping me from having time to do research in the summer.”
The panel was hosted by sophomore Vasudha Kumar, a sociology and economics major. Kumar believes that faculty unionization is important specifically because of the Santa Clara administration’s reactions.
“The administration’s decisions [about faculty unionization] are inconsistent with its social justice mission and Catholic social teaching,” Kumar said. “The university claims to teach its students to fight injustice and advocate for the marginalized, but how do we expect a university that actively perpetuates injustices against its workers to teach us to advocate for others?”
In order to form the union, an in-house vote would have to take place among all the faculty that would be eligible for the union. Current president Michael Engh, S.J. has denied faculty this vote.
Union organizers at Santa Clara hope to eventually be allowed to conduct the vote in-house rather than through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Organizers are worried that in doing so, the NLRB may be motivated to overturn current national protections that are in place for Jesuit institutions, an action the NLRB has expressed a desire to do.
Santa Clara has yet to implement a system for adjuncts to continue on to the tenure track. Professors can only move up if a position opens.
“It is not a promotional system, which is a problem,” said Diane Taylor, an AYAL in the math and computer science department. “The department has to get money for a new tenure track position, which then is opened up to the entire nation. You just have to hope that your department chair chooses you.”
Despite these grievances, the professors on the panel expressed a strong desire to remain at Santa Clara and continue teaching.
“This is my dream job,” Tamayo-Moraga said. “I get to teach what I researched. I think that the university has Catholic social teachings that are very attractive to me. I feel like I can make a difference here. I can’t imagine being somewhere else.”
Contact Emma Pollans at epollans@scu. edu or call (408) 554-4852.