EDITORIAL: Encourage adjunct faculty unionization efforts
In 2011, according to the American Association of University Professors, 70 percent of college faculty were contingent, non-tenure track professors, paid significantly less than their significantly smaller number of tenured colleagues. The rates of contingent faculty employed at Universities has only continued to rise nationwide, and Brandeis is no exception. Just as at other campuses in the Boston area, the University’s adjunct staff has been pushing to form a union. Last Tuesday, faculty, students and staff organized outside the Usdan Student Center for a “Speak Out” event about Brandeis Faculty Forward, a coalition pushing for unionization. They have two main concerns:―job security and benefits.
This editorial board believes that the adjunct and contract faculty should form a union, and formally endorses Faculty Forward’s efforts. Brandeis Faculty Forward has proven to be a group that engages transparently with the Brandeis community on a critical issue, as they showed through their Speak Out in front of the entire school.
The two main concerns adjunct faculty have are pay and benefits. Adjunct professors can make as little as $5,000 per class per semester. In a 20-person class, the University makes about $125,000 per class per semester. It is antithetical to the University’s message of social justice to pay adjunct professors so little, especially given the amount of money individual students are spending per class. In fact, some professors who spoke at the Speak Out shared how they have to work at multiple universities in the area just to make ends meet. It is unacceptable that those who teach and advise us are forced to live off of what is equivalent to the minimum wage. Additionally, adjunct faculty are not provided yearlong health coverage, even though they are Brandeis professors. This board firmly believes that all University professors deserve to make a living wage, one that is well above the current state minimum wage of nine dollars an hour.
Another issue facing adjunct faculty is a lack of job and financial security. Professors who are not on the tenure track are generally only hired on a semester or yearly basis. This makes it more challenging for them to plan for their futures or teach courses of a contentious nature because they do not have guaranteed financial security from one semester to the next. Because adjunct faculty do not know if they will be returning to the University the next semester, it makes it more challenging for them to advise or serve as a resource to students. This board recognizes these concerns and agrees that professors at Brandeis deserve basic job protections and security.
Additionally, a study by Kent State found that unionization leads to universities using their funds more efficiently by one percent. Unionization is a wise fiscal move, in addition to an ethically just action. Job security and benefits of our faculty are well worth any imagined cost.