University faculty busts myths about adjunct union
May 24, 2018
The adjunct professors and lecturers at Santa Clara are making moves to unionize in the face of various demands that they say the university administration has failed to address.
Together, adjuncts and lecturers want to form a union that will allow them to negotiate changes with the university.
A few of these changes include having a greater voice in their respective departments, changing their yearly hiring practice as well as increasing job stability and salary changes.
In general, lecturers and adjuncts are barred from serving on department committees and participating in department meetings.
While policies may vary between departments, lecturers and adjuncts typically cannot vote on curriculum changes, tenure promotions and new faculty hires.
Additionally, adjuncts who wish to continue working at Santa Clara have to be rehired when their contract ends, usually after a quarter or academic year.
This rehiring process is an open one, meaning that adjuncts will also have to compete against any outsiders that may apply for the position.
Maggie Levantovskaya, an academic year adjunct lecturer in the English department, described her frustration with this policy. Many adjuncts are often unsure if they will be rehired and are not told until the end of their contract if they will continue to have a job.
“Right now a major concern is when do we know if we have a job next year,” Levantovskaya said. “We have to formally apply as if we were strangers, submit a full portfolio of application documents and interview with colleges as if they don’t know us. This also tends to take place pretty late in the academic year. For example, I just found out last week that I have a job for next year. It’s difficult to commit to a place that isn’t willing to commit to you.”
One widely-held concern among the student body regarding unionization is that an increase in salary for adjuncts and professors will likely mean an increase in tuition for students.
A potential $5,000 increase in tuition has been a rumor circulating around campus, specifically through petitions passed around in opposition to the unionization of adjuncts and lecturers. This arbitrary number has been determined false and baseless.
Instead, according to information Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021 gathered, Santa Clara has seen a 36.7 percent increase in tuition since 2010 and an average annual tuition increase of 4 percent.
This increase is higher than that of recently unionized institutions such as Saint Mary’s College, University of San Francisco and Notre Dame de Namur.
SEIU 1021 is a union that represents various occupations. Currently, they are supporting Santa Clara’s adjunct faculty and lecturers in their unionization process.
“SEIU would provide expect negotiators, researchers and communication staff,” said Jonathan Nuñez-Babb, a lead organizer at SEIU 1021. “Although SEIU would provide robust support, ultimately all decisions would be made by faculty themselves.”
The next step in unionization is for University President Michael Engh, S.J. and Santa Clara’s administration to decide if they will partner with the union organizing committee to hold a vote.
Santa Clara has already begun to address many of the concerns raised by lecturers and adjuncts.
“We are working to accelerate the process for appointments and reappointments of lecturers so someone knows earlier about their job opportunity for the coming year,” Jacobs said. “We are also looking at the classification of lecturers, and whether there are better titles or a system of promotion and rank and how they would affect the development of teaching.”
Despite these assurances, adjuncts and lecturers still say they want to push forward with unionization. Many feel that these concerns have been brought to the attention of the administration in the past, and have largely not been addressed.
“It’s a question of the long term future, not just the near term future,” Levantovskaya said. “Right now, there’s a lot of upheaval on campus. So we see the university attempting to respond. What happens when new problems arise? We don’t have a system in place where we are identifying and responding to problems in a systemic and democratic way. We still will not have a seat at the table.”
Contact Emma Pollans at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.