APSCUF and PASSHE negotiators met Friday, September 14, at the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. The Chancellor’s team passed a proposal on retrenchment language and made suggestions for future bargaining sessions. APSCUF caucused and responded to their proposal in writing. The two sides reconvened and failed to come to agreement on the language, but agreed to session definitions for the next two times: on Oct. 5th APSCUF will present on curriculum, class size, and distance education and on Oct. 22nd the Chancellor’s team will discuss temporary workload and concessions on retiree health care. There was neither discussion of nor progress made on the Chancellor’s team’s demand for concessions on distance education, active and retiree health care, and temporary faculty workload.
There is so much packed into this statement, but I want to focus on one issue in particular: temporary faculty workload. It seems that PASSHE negotiators have learned their lesson from our last contract fight. During our last round of contract negotiations, temporary faculty issues were front and center. The issue that got the most attention was the raising of the cap on part-time, temporary members from 7% to 25%. Pretty significant, no? I am sure that some members of our negotiating team that worked on that contract would take issue with my characterization. For example, our negotiators argued that our previous contract had NO CAP on the TOTAL number of temporary faculty members. So, for example, as long as a State System university kept the numbers of part-time temporary faculty members below 7%, that university theoretically could have a faculty that was 60% temporary – as long as 53% of that faculty were full-time temporary faculty. I concede the point. It’s true, the 25% would be the first time the total number of temporary faculty would be capped and 25% is still significantly below the national average, which is between 40 and 60% depending on the study and institution. However, by refusing to distinguish between part-time and full-time temporary faculty, a State university could now turn 25% of the faculty into part-time adjuncts – effectively stripping away any pretense to job security and effectively eliminating their health insurance.
When it came time to sign the final agreement, the State System threw in the fact that the one-time cash payment faculty would receive in year one of the contract (instead of a cost-of-living adjustment) would NOT be given to temporary faculty members. There are several versions of how that happened – and, frankly, I don’t know which version is the most accurate. Suffice it to say that, for many temporary faculty members, that felt like the second slap in the face for that contract. First, the university can now turn your job into piece-work. And, just to make sure you don’t think you are a crucial part of the work of the university, we’re not going to give you what your tenure-track or tenured colleagues are getting, no matter how long you’ve been here.
On my campus, temporary faculty were up in arms. Several were so disgusted, they wanted to leave the union. Many more just retreated to their offices feeling they are totally on their own – best to just “shut up and teach” (a phrase that a temporary faculty member expressed to me at the time) and hope they have a job next semester. From the perspective of the State System administration and Chancellor Cavanaugh: Mission Accomplished. Divide-and-Conquer.
Well, we’re now facing round two in Chancellor Cavanaugh’s Divide-and-Conquer strategy. This time around he’s leading his team to cement a two-tiered faculty system by going after temporary faculty workload. PASSHE already requires faculty to teach a 4-4 load – that is, four classes per semester. By any reasonable measure, we already have a heavy teaching load. The Chancellor is proposing that we up the load to 5-5 for temporary faculty members. He is attempting to hold out the carrot that in exchange for a heavier teaching load, temporary faculty will no longer be evaluated on their teaching, service, and scholarship – they will only be evaluated on their teaching. The Chancellor is trying to drive a permanent wedge between temporary faculty and their tenure-track and tenured colleagues. The Chancellor drove the first spike in during the last negotiations and now he is seeking to bring the hammer down once again, turning a crack into a fissure. The move is an attempt to get tenured and tenure-track to be narrowly self-interested and say, “well, at least I don’t have to teach a 5-5 load.” The move seeks to play on the fear that if we don’t accept such a two-tier system, then everyone will suffer. The move holds tenure-track and tenured wages, medical insurance, and workload hostage, threatening to destroy them all if permanent faculty don’t offer up their temporary colleagues up for sacrifice. This is the world we are living in now folks.
But let me open the workload issue up a little more. While it’s true that full-time temporary faculty would see their workload increase by 25% (without any increase in compensation), the consequences of moving to a 5-5 load are much more serious. Take my department, for example. We have a total of 41 faculty members, eight (8) of which are temporary faculty members. Only one of those faculty members are part-time. If you turn those positions into full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions, we have 8.5 faculty positions teaching a total of 30 classes. If the State System turns a 4-4 FTE position into a 5-5 FTE position, our department will not have 6 FTE temporary faculty positions instead of 8.5. And since there is no such thing as a half-person in the real world, you are talking about two people losing their jobs – not exactly a model of job creation in a down economy.
But, it gets worse. Let’s say that a particular university takes a slightly different approach. Let’s say that a university administration – perhaps even at the direction of the Chancellor – tells all departments to keep all faculty schedules as they are and not increase the temporary faculty load to 5-5. Such a university president might even come out and try to sound all benevolent by saying “we don’t want our temporary faculty to be overburdened…we want them to be able to really focus on their classes.” Sound good? Well, guess what? While my department might be able to keep the number of temporary faculty constant (that is, to keep seven temporary faculty on a 4-4 load and one temporary faculty member on a 2-2 load), ALL of those faculty are NOW CONSIDERED PART-TIME. That is, they will lose their FULL-TIME status and with that, they will LOSE THEIR FULL HEALTH CARE BENEFITS. That’s right, instead of just cutting 1.5 FTE faculty positions, a university could cut health insurance for ALL TEMPORARY FACULTY MEMBERS by doing NOTHING.
So, while Chancellor Cavanaugh may want us all to focus on different workloads for temporary and permanent faculty, his proposal is an attempt to pull the rug out from under ALL temporary faculty members and rip away even the smallest scrap of job security.
Frankly, the only reason we are able to keep the high-quality temporary faculty we have now is because they are paid on scale with tenure-track faculty (well, almost, they do not receive steps as they should) and they receive the same benefits. The temporary faculty members in my department, for example, can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their tenure-track and tenured colleagues. The only reason the vast majority of these highly qualified temporary faculty members do not have tenure-track jobs is because of the job market. And we all know that story. If you constrict the job market, the competition for any single job increases. That’s a pattern that has held steady for the past several decades. Competition for academic jobs is already intense. The Chancellor’s plan not only rips away job security for temporary faculty members, it further constricts the academic job market across the state for ALL higher education faculty. Earlier this year we saw the Chancellor call upon university presidents and faculty to unite and help stave of Governor Corbett’s 20% cut in higher education. He played the role of a PASSHE advocate, a uniter. Well, just a few short months later, we learn that same Chancellor is wielding his Divide-and-Conquer hammer, going after the same people who have helped deliver the high-quality education he touted before the Pennsylvania House and Senate.
The message I have for my APSCUF brothers and sisters comes from a sign that has been carried through the streets of Chicago this past week: “Enough is Enough.” Ya Basta! We have to see the Chancellor’s proposal for what it is: to divide us so he can weaken and conquer us all. We have to begin to think of our current contract fight in the same terms the striking Chicago teachers see theirs: as a fight for the future of public education. If you think of this contract fight only in terms of “getting mine,” we will all lose in the long-term. We cannot afford to lop off limb after limb and think we can be effective for the long haul. I for one will not sell out my temporary faculty colleagues for the same reason I will not sell out my tenured colleagues: we are in this together. This is a fight for the integrity Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. And it is a fight for our futures and our children’s future.
Enough is enough!