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Archive for September, 2012

To borrow a turn of phrase, you can tell a lot about a college by the way it treats its adjuncts. If you read the PASSHE Negotiation Objectives recently distributed to KU faculty via email (referred to parenthetically in this post as “Letter”), you are likely angered and dismayed by most if not all of their positions. For a moment, I’d like you to consider the repercussions of one element of their attack on quality education, their proposed treatment of contingent faculty. And make no mistake: the use and treatment of these faculty does indeed affect and reflect the education the state makes available to students.

Before I came to Kutztown University, I had been an adjunct at several colleges, though “adjunct” became a ridiculous term when I was running the writing center, directing the theater production and teaching several classes at a single institution on three “part-time” contracts. One of the reasons I respected and applied to KU, then, was the way in which it treated contingent faculty. Unlike the national trend, temporary faculty at KU were mostly full-time; benefits were available; the pay system was above the national average; the union included and protected them; and caps were placed on the number of temporary faculty overall. I noted that temporary faculty in the English department were given the title of “Assistant Professor” if they had the PhD, and their scholarship was not only recorded in annual reviews, but supported. Most impressive, temps even had the chance of being converted into permanent faculty after five years, since five years of need suggests that it is not temporary.  I was impressed not only by this ethical approach to labor, but also by the ways I knew, from my own experience, that the quality of education would benefit as a result.

Instead of celebrating and promoting the PA system for these positions, the Chancellor’s new proposal tears them apart. Let’s look at just a few of his objectives and explore the repercussions not just for the faculty involved, but for the quality of education

Out of an expressed desire to “increase the flexibility of the workforce,” the Chancellor lists as a negotiation objective: “Develop an additional non-tenure track faculty member status of “Lecturer.” Faculty members in these positions will be employed on an extended renewable contract basis. The contracts may be terminated with a 90 day notice. (New Provision)” (Letter, page 1).

According to APSCUF-KU officers, lecturers in PASSHE’s proposed plan are not required to complete scholarship and service, and their workloads would increase to 5/5. The PASSHE objectives clearly indicate that no increase in pay would accompany the increase in courses taught.  While this angers me for its disregard for the faculty involved, the administration and, sadly, many in the public, aren’t persuaded by arguments for fair labor practices. So, let’s consider the goal touted by all fourteen schools in the PASSHE system: quality education.

The 5/ 5 workload. Research in the last 10 years has demonstrated that contingent faculty already have workloads that allow them less time to prepare for class; fewer opportunities to meet with students one-on-one; and less time to respond to student work. For example, in “How Effective Are They? Exploring the Impact of Contingent Faculty on Undergraduate Education” Paul Umbach analyzed data collected in the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, administered to 132 institutions. He found that “compared with their tenured and tenure-track peers, contingent faculty…are underperforming in their delivery of undergraduate instruction” (110). Specifically, “Part-time faculty interact with students less frequently, use active and collaborative techniques less often, [and] spend less time preparing for class” (110). Full-time contingent faculty also spend less time interacting with students and “require slightly less effort from their students,” but spend “more time than tenured and tenure-track faculty preparing for class” (110).  Umbach is careful to note, and I emphasize here, that these outcomes are not the result of less dedication on the part of contingent faculty. Rather, while contingent professors are smart, capable and motivated, their schedules and workload impede their efforts to teach to the best of their ability.

A case in point: as Coordinator of Composition in our English department, I encourage teachers to use one-on-one conferencing and large group workshops in our freshmen courses, pedagogies proven in research and recommended by our professional organizations. Working under the 4/4 load, contingent and permanent faculty already ask me how they can possibly manage these approaches with so many students. We don’t have the time and resources, as it is, to give each student the attention they need. A 5/5 load obviously exacerbates this problem, especially when contingent faculty teach a disproportionate number of introductory courses like composition. The tension is felt even in, perhaps particularly in, disciplines that don’t rely as heavily on individual attention in pedagogy. Consider how many freshman-level courses are relegated to large lecture halls. Adding a single course to a contingent faculty’s load may then translate into adding 100 or more students, with all of the accompanying papers, projects, and tests to prep and evaluate. As our rosters grow, we are forced to abandon many tried and true pedagogies for scantrons and multiple choice quizzes just to manage time. As a result, students aren’t getting our best—they’re getting the best we can do under the working conditions management has set, a significant distinction.

 

The End of Scholarship.  Management might be implicitly arguing that temporary faculty will have plenty of time to prepare for classes since scholarship will no longer be required. The truth is, however, that our scholarship informs our teaching. It is one of the most important means by which we engage with the latest research in our fields. Through scholarship, we learn about and contribute to the bodies of knowledge we then discuss in our classrooms; it is often the vehicle through which we discover new pedagogies and teaching tools. Our scholarly work demonstrates our ongoing conversation in our professional fields, and this participation is a necessary step if we are to invite students into these conversations. To suggest that scholarship does not matter, as PASSHE’s proposal does, is to say that teaching is generic, that expertise does not matter. It ignores the reality that expertise is not something one gains once and for all with a PhD, but is a constant pursuit in an ever-changing world.

The Chancellor further proposes that PASSHE “Develop exceptions to the Article 11 F 25% temporary and regular part-time faculty member cap specifically exclude sabbatical replacements, sick leave replacements, grant funded faculty replacements or acknowledge the ability to develop local agreements to exceed the 25% limit (Article 11 F, 1 and 2)” (Letter, page 2, my emphasis).

Under “Other Issues to Consider,” the Chancellor lists, “Develop a structure which recognizes the importance of using Graduate Assistants and Teaching Assistants in additional educational roles other than currently used (Article 7)” (Letter, page 3).

Legions of Lecturers, Gaggles of Grad Students. There is no doubt that using temporary faculty, whether they be part-time adjuncts, full-time lecturers or graduate teaching assistants, is cheaper than hiring full-time permanent faculty. But research tells us that the quality of education suffers as a result.  Multiple analyses of surveys and institutional data reveal a negative correlation between the number of contingent teachers in an institution and student retention and graduation rates (Bettinger & Long; Harrington & Schibik [cited in Umbach]; Eagan and Jaeger; Ehrenberg & Zhang; Jaeger and Eagan; Jaeger). The reasons for this are logical and clear: when faculty can be easily terminated, even with “a 90 day notice” (Letter, page 3), the likelihood that they can establish long-term relationships with students is diminished. Researchers have known for some time that the relationships students make with teachers and staff have a significant impact on their progression towards graduation. In a system of adjuncts and lecturers, the professor—sorry, lecturer—who supported you last semester may be gone the next. Their replacement doesn’t know you, can’t write you a letter of recommendation, has less insight as they advise you on classes and internships. The temporary workforce naturally has a greater turnover rate, with groups of new teachers having to learn the culture of the institution, the town and the students anew each academic year—and we all know that the learning curve at a new school can be tremendously challenging.

I remember very well from my adjunct days, too, that my classroom practices were very much tied to my tenuous employment status. Without tenure, I didn’t want to rock any boats, try anything too progressive, too radical, too…anything. I didn’t want to be noticed unless I was inviting people to notice me: Come see the play we’ve rehearsed! Read this poem my student published! Karen Thompson argues in “Contingent Faculty and Student Learning: Welcome to the Strativersity,” that “When academic freedom is weak, quality education becomes threatened by conformity, mediocrity, and the safest approaches…, grade inflation, and choosing to protect one’s position rather than extend students’ horizons” (45). In “Contingent Faculty and the New Academic Labor System,” Gwendolyn Bradley likewise suspects, “Largely unprotected against sudden termination of their employment, contingent faculty have every incentive to avoid taking risks in the classroom or tackling controversial subjects.”  In my own adjunct career, I had to make some difficult pedagogical choices, and I now have the luxury of admitting that some were bad.

I’m drafting another post for the KU Xchange, one that focuses on the ethics of a labor system like the one the Chancellor is proposing, one that asks you to consider further how the contingent faculty are derided and exploited by this approach. As a first step, though, let’s repeat this to the administrators, local and state: The proposed system is not set up to foster quality education. Instead, the budget’s bottom line trumps good practice. That we teach as well as we do under current circumstances is a testament to our dedication and skill. But can we dance any faster, and if so, for how long?

 

References

Bettinger, E., & Long, T. L. Help Or Hinder? Adjunct Professors And Student Outcomes. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 2005. Print.

Bradely, Gwendolyn. “Contingent Faculty and the New Academic Labor System.” Academe. 90.1 (2004): 28-31. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24  May 2011.

Eagan, M. Kevin Jr. and Audrey J. Jaeger. “Effects of Exposure to Part-time Faculty on   Community College Transfer.” Research in Higher Education. (2009) 50:168–188.

Ehrenberg, R. G., & Zhang, L. “Do Tenured And Tenure-Track Faculty Matter?” Journal of Human Resources. 40.4 (2005): 647–659.

Jaeger, Audrey J. “Contingent Faculty and Student Outcomes.” Academe.  94.6 (2008): 42-43. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 May 2011.

Jaeger, Audrey J. and M. Kevin Eagan. “Examining Retention and Contingent Faculty  Use in a State System of Public Higher Education.”  Educational Policy. 25.3 (May 2011): 507–537

Thompson, Karen.  “Contingent Faculty and Student Learning: Welcome to the Strativersity.” New Directions For Higher Education. 123 (Fall 2003): 41-47.

Umbach, Paul D. “How Effective Are They? Exploring the Impact of Contingent Faculty on Undergraduate Education.” Review of Higher Education. 30.2 (Winter 2007): 91-123.

 

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Some of you may recall a couple of posts I wrote a ways back about the budget crisis myths that the Kutztown University administration had been circulating as truths. For years, President Javier Cevallos claimed that KU continued to face budget crises, even though the numbers didn’t quite add up (check out APSCUF-KU’s “Show Us the Money!” presentation from spring 2011).

KU managers have also continued to claim that they have not received any raises in years. Sure, we know President Cevallos got his nice increase, but the official line has been that managers as a whole didn’t receive raises. Welcome to the wonderful world of half-truth and myth.

At this past weeks’ meet and discuss, APSCUF-KU received a document showing managers salaries for the past several years. AND???  Well, turns out TECHNICALLY managers have not receive raises. TECHNICALLY managers from contract specialists to executive directors to chiefs of staff have received JOB RE-CLASSIFICATIONS that have given managers increases of nearly $17,000 in a single year. Some individual managers have received over $20,000 increases due to job reclassification since 2007.

So, you see? Managers didn’t received any raises. It was magic, magic I tell you! In the real world, we ask to see the proof. Here’s what reality shows us:

Manager RAISES since 2007

Got that warm and fuzzy feeling yet?

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This is turning out to be the most serious Legislative Assembly I have ever attended. You can follow my live tweets at @kuxchange. You can also check out the live twitter feed on the right-hand side of the KUXchange blog. 

One message for faculty: Enough is enough.

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This past Saturday, APSCUF posted the following negotiations update on its blog:

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 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!

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This morning the following email from Kutztown’s Vice President for Equity and Compliance appeared in our faculty and staff inboxes:

Colleagues:

Good morning.

The Office of Social Equity will offer Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Sexual Harassment Training, pursuant to our university policies, as follows:

· Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 at 11 a.m., Room 312, McFarland Student Union
· Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 at 3 p.m., Room 312, McFarland Student Union
· Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at 11 a.m., Room 157, McFarland Student Union

Each session should last approximately 30 minutes. If you would like to attend any of the above sessions, please register by e-mail with Jacqueline Collette Fox at collette@kutztown.edu or socialequity@kutztown.edu. Please note training by department is also available. To schedule a training session for your department, please contact the Office of Social Equity at extension 3-4700. Please obtain approval from your supervisor if necessary.

Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Sexual Harassment Training is also available from the Office of Social Equity through Desire2Learn (D2L). If you choose to take the online training through D2L, instructions on completing the training are provided once you have logged into D2L and clicked on the Social Equity Policies Training link.

Please note, if you have not taken the training during the current calendar year (2012), you should plan to take the training prior to December 31, 2012.

Thank you.

Jesus A. Peña, Esq.
Associate Vice President
for Equity and Compliance
Office of Social Equity
Kutztown University

It should come as no surprise to anyone at Kutztown that we now have university policies that demand all employees undergo sexual harassment training. I mean, it’s an open secret around here that sexual harassment has been a persistent problem over the years even while the university has gone out of its way to keep potentially explosive cases of out of the light of the media. To be fair, the local media has been fairly lackluster in its critical reporting on these issues as well. KU and PASSHE alike have seemed to place a priority on keeping sorted stories of sexual harassment out of the public’s view. So, in some respect, the introduction of sexual harassment training is a step in the right direction.

A couple weeks back I found out some information about these sexual harassment trainings that is NOT being made as public, however. I got word that PASSHE is taking the position that if a faculty member (or staff member, presumably) do not sign up for sexual harassment training, PASSHE will NOT defend them if if they are ACCUSED of sexual harassment. That is, if the faculty/staff member does not go through sexual harassment training and they are accused of sexual harassment, they’re on their own when it comes to legal representation. From what I understand, APSCUF is pursuing a state-wide grievance on this issue.

Let me be clear: I have NO tolerance for sexual harassment or sexual misconduct regardless of whether they are a member of our union. I have argued within our union and publicly that a union must stand for equality and justice in all of its actions, policies, and practices. If you are committing sexual harassment or worse, you should be punished to the fullest extent of the law in my book. However, I am also a believer in that fundamental American right to be innocent until proven guilty. Our university – thanks, in part to the work of our union members – has a sexual harassment policy with clear procedures to follow.

What is a bit troubling to me, however, is that PASSHE is being quiet about not defending employees accused of sexual harassment if they do not take these trainings. Next week is APSCUF’s Legislative Assembly in Harrisburg. I hope to find out more about the details of the state-wide grievance and what else is going on with this issue. As the very least, I think that all faculty and staff should know what’s going on.

 

 

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