The Santa Clara
May 10, 2018
Approximately 20 students showed up to the student senate meeting on May 3 to discuss their thoughts on a pertinent campus issue: whether or not they support adjunct professors’ right to form a union.
Sam McNeal, Associated Student Government Pro-Tempore, and I, the program coordinator for Labor Action Committee, presented this resolution after crafting it for weeks, in collaboration with a few adjunct professors and discussions with the Provost office.
Whether or not this resolution is approved by senate could influence the administration’s decision to collaborate with union representatives to facilitate a vote.
While any ASG resolution is not binding, it forces the university to take into account that the majority of the student body supports adjunct professors having the right to free speech—the right to vote.
The unionization would allow adjunct professors to “have a voice at the table,” said Dr. Angela Holzmeister, one of the adjunct professors on the organizing committee.
“We are critical to this university, and we think it is reasonable to ask for a voice,” she told the senate.
Currently, all changes to adjunct professors’ contracts occur from the top down, without consideration of their voices. This lack of freedom of speech and self-determination is problematic for the university’s social justice mission and Jesuit ideals.
Refusing their employees’ request for self-governance is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles in the mission statement.
The main goal of these adjunct professors is to work with the administration to negotiate and improve the situation of the lecturers to achieve better benefits, more job stability and a livable wage.
The lack of these, Holzmeister mentioned, has lead several of her colleagues to seek work elsewhere. The more reform the system gets, she argues, the more attractive our university will be to the best and brightest professors. Student education is directly affected by the position of our adjunct professors.
At the senate meeting, several student groups brought up two main counter-arguments to the professors’ request. These students are concerned about the possible spike in tuition that could accompany higher wages for our professors, something that no Santa Clara student wants to hear.
Yet, an analysis of universities that have experienced unionization of adjuncts—such as Georgetown, Tufts and Duke—demonstrate that there is no correlation between tuition increase and unionization.
Here’s the thing: the administration has a budget, and they choose to allocate funds to certain things (like facilities or student instruction).
Student instruction should be the single top priority in terms of funds. It’s in the mission statement of the university: “making student learning our central focus.”
The students also voiced concerns about our professors going on strike. “When it comes to bargaining, everyone needs an ‘or-else.’ For unions, the ‘or-else’ is a strike,” voiced David Warne, a student senator, unsure of whether supporting the professors’ right to vote would be in the best interest of his constituents.
One of the professors refuted this concern saying that strikes are “vanishingly rare.” There has yet to be a professor strike at any of the unionized universities around the country.
My Santa Clara professors have been responsive, supportive and knowledgeable—allowing me a world class education. I believe they are the number one determinant of the quality of my education.
Their dedication to my own and my peers’ education sets Santa Clara apart from larger research institutions. They are supporting us every day, so why don’t we show up and support them in turn? Our adjuncts are simply asking us to have their backs as they exercise their right to vote.
The adjunct professors deserve to have their voices heard. Maybe they will choose to unionize or maybe they will decide now is not the right time.
But that choice, that opportunity, should be theirs to make.
Emma Stinson is a sophomore political science major.