Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Structuring faculty senates 

(NOTE: I apologize for not being around for a couple of days. We had to say goodbye to our dog of fifteen years, and frankly my head hasn't been into the blogosphere for a bit.)

Invisible Adjunct, in the midst of several posts on adjunct unionization (try here, here, and here), would like to think that faculty senates would work to help adjuncts.
Frankly, at the moment I am inclined to view adjunct unionization as a hopeless cause. First, in practical terms, it is incredibly difficult to organize contingent workers in any sector. I can't imagine that adjunct unionization campaigns could ever succeed at more than a handful of institutions in the urban areas of the more liberal states. Second, even where adjuncts did successfully unionize, precisely because they would form a body separate from that of the tenurable, any increase in the bargaining power of adjuncts would be perceived as a threat by full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty.
So this gets to the question, she continues here, to how one structures faculty senates. On unionized campuses like ours, membership in the union is a prerequisite to service on the Senate. Since fair-share dues (payments by non-members for the union's collective bargaining "services") are about 85% of member dues, the remaining fifteen percent is a sort of poll tax so that one has the possibility to serve on Senate. As Dave points out, this representation isn't all it's cut out to be.

Now what is quite interesting now that I've read more about our situation is that if you are an adjunct and teach more than one course at SCSU in an academic year (three semester credits), you are covered by our union contract!

All faculty teaching more than 3 semester credit hours or teaching more than one course during the academic year are employees in the IFO bargaining unit and pay either dues (if a member) or a fair share fee (if a nonmember) according to the following schedule adopted by the Delegate Assembly in March 2002:
So see, IA? We already have that here. What has it gotten us? We had a history department explode from fixed-term faculty trying to force a dean to give them tenure. And we have the union also engaged in using adjuncts to get through a budget crisis.
FA (Faculty Association, the union): ...How will adjuncts be used?

Adm(inistration): To the extent that there is money in the budget. We will need to use some adjuncts. I would like not to micro-manage that. Last year there was a $750,000 fund for adjuncts. Two colleges have indicated that they will use adjuncts similar to this year. I can�t promise there will be $750,000 for next year until I know what the allocation will be. I can�t see that we would be using fewer adjuncts than last year.

FA: Are you saying that positions out there will be fixed term or adjunct?

Adm: In our college there were 26 positions requested. We reduced that number by 25%, so the number became 20. We have reduced that to eight fixed term.

FA: What about departments with poor adjunct pools? Will you allow for faculty overload?

Adm: It would be preferable to find adjuncts because the salary would be lower. We can advertise to build adjunct pools.

FA: We tried that. We got one response from someone in a different discipline.

Adm: I believe that adjunct pools are enriched late spring, early summer.

FA: We are close to the U of M. A lot of adjuncts are already teaching there.

What we've seen at SCSU is the use of the union by adjunct or full-time fixed term faculty to lobby for tenure. The union seems not to mind, and seems not to give a fig that adjuncts are used as cost-saving measures (the minimum specified in the contract -- Article 11, Section A, Subd. 5 for those scoring at home (and if you are, good for you!) -- is virtually a maximum as well), and even encourages their use not only for teaching but to be trained for student advising. Fixed term faculty can join the Senate here, beyond the sensible suggestion from Cold Spring Shops, as long as they join the union. If you do not join the union, not only can you not be on Senate, you cannot serve on a single committee that covers more than one academic department. Stephen is correct:
the principle of comparative advantage applies to membership (more prolific researchers stay away), and the academic standing of the university may be inversely proportional to the ease with which the body [faculty senate] achieves quorum.
So I guess the fact that quorum was harder to get last spring is a good sign? No, it's not. They just jigger the rules to do what they want to do anyway. So who do you think shows up?