Wal-Mart employees better off than adjunct professors
Source Louis Proyect
Date 08/10/14/18:36

The Chronicle of Higher Education
University Official Offers Harsh Critique of Policies Toward Adjuncts

ST. LOUIS--Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, long
criticized for its workplace policies, is a “more-honest employer”
of part-time workers than colleges that employ thousands of adjunct
faculty members. That was the harsh message delivered to a group of
college human-resources officials here on Monday by one of their own:
Angelo-Gene Monaco, associate vice president for human resources and
employee relations at the University of Akron.

Mr. Monaco's presentation was a rare airing of such a controversial
topic at an annual meeting of a higher-education association. Such
meetings are typically plain-vanilla affairs that closely follow a
script. In this case, the meeting was of the College and University
Professional Association for Human Resources, and Mr. Monaco didn’t hold
back in his critique of how poorly most colleges treat adjunct
professors. He filled his presentation with examples drawn from surveys
he has conducted, and his own experience as both an administrator and a

“We helped create a highly educated part of the working poor, and it’s
starting to get attention from outsiders,” he said, noting that unions
are trying to organize part-timers, and lawmakers in nearly a dozen
states are examining the issue.

After pointing out that more than 20,000 part-time faculty members were
added to college payrolls each year between 2003 and 2007, Mr. Monaco
aimed his criticism at several groups, including:

* Hiring managers. Sloppy hiring practices at times give adjuncts
hope that they could eventually fill a full-time slot. Only 5 percent of
60 department chairs he recently surveyed at colleges in the Midwest,
for instance, said they were willing to consider long-term part-timers
for full-time jobs, even for non-tenure-track positions.
* Community colleges. Two-year colleges, he said, run a system of
employing part-timers that "crosses the line in many places.” Since 1993
as many as 75 percent of the credit hours taught in community colleges
have been taught by part-timers.
* Accrediting agencies. The organizations “are run by and for the
benefit of present or former tenured faculty” members whose job it is to
protect tenure, Mr. Monaco said. “The only way to defend the highly paid
tenure track is declare lower-paid nontenure folks less competent,” he
added. But concerns about adjunct quality—supported by data that suggest
that students taught by adjuncts take longer to graduate or drop out of
college at higher rates than students taught by permanent faculty
members—fails to account for the fact that temporary professors are
often hired when institutions enroll record numbers of students, some of
whom are not qualified to be admitted in the first place.
* Faculty associations and unions. The American Association of
University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers, and the
National Education Association all claim to represent the interests of
nontenured faculty members, he said, at the same time they push colleges
to decrease their reliance on that group of employees.

The message clearly resonated with the group of some 50 human-resources
managers. At the end of the presentation, when a reporter asked if Mr.
Monaco's views reflected reality on their campuses, nearly everyone
raised a hand.

But given that human-resources officials rarely have much say in how the
academic side of the work force is managed, would the message have been
more effective if delivered to, say, a meeting of college presidents?
“No,” Mr. Monaco said later. “This is the group that has to argue for
better hiring practices and benefits.”

Some institutions, he said, have built their financial structure in such
a way that they cannot survive without temporary faculty members,
whether they are part time or full time.

Even the term “temporary faculty” is in many ways a misnomer, Mr. Monaco
said. Some 35 percent of part-time faculty members have been supporting
themselves for four years or more as part-timers. Some 50 percent are
“road scholars,” meaning they teach at multiple institutions. He told
one story, based on interviews he has conducted with adjuncts, of an
instructor from the St. Louis area who is teaching eight freshman
composition classes this fall at several institutions for an average of
$2,000 a course.

“That’s all an effort to cobble together a salary of $36,000 for the
year,” he said. “We rely on them for a very important function, and we
assume that they will continue to accept mistreatment in return.”

At some point, part-timers may simply say enough is enough, he said. He
predicted that that time could come within the next five years at many
colleges, particularly public institutions, where conditions are the
worst for this group. “What stops someone from walking out of a class in
the middle of a semester for a better offer?” he asked.

Mr. Monaco suggested several ways colleges could improve their treatment
of temporary faculty members:

* Be more creative in hiring. Use existing professional-staff
members to teach courses; provide full-time employment in other areas of
the institution to part-time faculty members; and combine some part-time
positions into full time nontenure positions.
* Take on tenured, permanent faculty members. Increase their course
loads. Demand a return on the investments associated with sabbaticals,
which now increase a college's reliance on part-time professors. Keep
full-time permanent faculty members from dumping work on temporary
faculty members.
* Treat adjuncts like professionals. Give them office or storage
space. Invite them to holiday parties. Allow them to sign up to teach
summer classes before permanent faculty members.

If colleges don't improve conditions for part-time instructors, they
risk increased unionization efforts, and not just from the groups that
have traditionally organized professors, said Mr. Monaco. He mentioned
the United Auto Workers and Teamsters as potential organizers of
adjuncts. "I'm worried about them. They don't care about the full-time
faculty," he said.

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