EDITORIAL: Reject freeze on adjunct faculty’s wages and benefits
This month, the University will embark on its fourth round of collective bargaining with the newly instituted adjunct and contract-faculty union. The negotiations delve into job security, intellectual property rights and a transparent evaluation system for promotions, to name but a few topics of discussion. Amid these negotiations arose a situation in which a number of adjunct faculty reported that the University had frozen them out of wage raises and benefit changes while department heads await a decision on the negotiations. As Prof. Christopher Abrams (FA) put it in a Sept. 13 email to the Justice, these actions are a “mischaracterization” of the protocol.
As a board, we are disappointed in the actions of the University which have caused disrespect for the adjunct faculty. The University, a bastion of social justice and progressive reform, has prevented the very rights and privileges which it so often calls to uphold for employees bargaining with their employer.
The University states that they are under obligation not to make across-the-board alterations to union employees’ contracts due to the ongoing negotiations, calling this section of time the “status quo” period. This is accurate but evades the issue at hand; while the University should not institute across-the-board changes to contingent faculty contracts, individual contingent faculty who are up for reappointment are perfectly welcome to bargain for and receive new privileges for themselves during this period — especially if they were promised better contracts before the union formed. The union is negotiating for a basic package for all contingent faculty, but if individual faculty negotiate better terms for themselves, the union won’t object. They have communicated this to the University repeatedly throughout the process, yet the University has not acknowledged it.
Contract faculty are having much-needed benefits withheld from them without any just explanation. The union’s claim that the University is indeed allowed to extend wage raises and benefits to individual faculty — indeed, individual faculty who had sometimes been promised these changes before — is supported by this board as fair reasoning.
While we understand the need of the University to protect itself and its interests, we feel that it has gone about doing so in a sub-optimal way. The adjunct faculty are those who are underappreciated as it stands, which is why they are bargaining in the first place. Adjunct faculty are vital to the student body and our education, yet the University seems to ignore their full value. While the negotiations may prove fruitful for the adjunct faculty, the University is diminishing their efficacy.
Faculty Forward, the organizing wing of the adjunct faculty union, calls for the University to “define equity” and establish “equal value of teaching for all faculty.” These basic rights are those which the University continually impresses upon each class, yet is something that seems to have evaded the administration itself.
If Brandeis is to be an upholder of justice as they so claim to be, department heads freezing these wages and benefits must reevaluate their decision. We call upon them to reconsider their actions and give the adjunct faculty the respect they so rightly deserve.