By Catherine Whitley (EUP English & Theatre Arts)
Sun Tzu (ca. 500 B.C.), Philip II of Macedonia (382-336 B.C.), and Julius Caesar (102-44 B.C.) are each credited with the first articulation of this very effective strategy: divide your enemies into smaller groups to fragment their power, so you can more easily conquer and then rule them.
The most recent proposals by PASSHE administrators constitute an attempt to divide faculty members into two separate camps and set us against each other in order to weaken the power solidarity affords us.
Specifically, if PASSHE successfully implements its suggested changes to our next CBA, faculties at state schools will be sundered into a two-tier system. Tenured and tenure-track faculty will make up the “upper” tier, while temporary faculty, who presently constitute more than 30% of all current PASSHE faculty members, will be relegated to the “lower” tier, one that will resign them to either an increased workload (5 classes each semester) or reduced pay (a 35% reduction). Compensation for temporary faculty will no longer be calculated according to the union pay scale; instead, a separate, “competitive” pay scale based on local markets will be devised. Given the depressed local economies in Pennsylvania, in future contracts this pay scale could likely result in even larger reductions in salary than 35%.
Tenured and tenure-track professors must not allow this to happen; we must not disenfranchise the weakest members of our community for our own gain.
Adopting an “Us” versus “Them” mentality would not only divide our ranks; this mindset would signal our surrender of power to the administrators. Let’s face it: we are they. Yes, most of us can recall working as a “lecturer” or an “adjunct” at some institution (or several). Yes, we worked hard to get our tenured or tenure-track jobs. But remember: our temporary faculty work hard, too, while also finishing up degrees and/or going out on the (dismal) job market. If tenured and tenure-track faculty cooperate with a system that denigrates our fellow employees, then we accept the PASSHE system’s valuation of us all as not being worthy of fair treatment. We are indicating that we will take whatever they feel like dishing out without remonstration.
Temporary faculty members are our colleagues. We should treat them as such. They teach the same classes and the same students as we do, for significantly less money, and without any real job security. PASSHE is pushing to expand the number of temporary faculty members teaching on our campuses; if this effort is successful, temporary faculty will be a growing, permanent underclass. If APSCUF members help to create this underclass now, why should temporary faculty care about the union or its members in the future? We will be divided; we will be conquered.
Instead, we must all stand together and stay strong.
Dr. Catherine Whitley is a professor at Edinboro University. After getting her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine, she worked as a temporary faculty member at UCI and then at USC. She has been teaching at Edinboro University since Fall 2002.