Today’s guest blogger is Brad Wilson, professor at Slippery Rock University and chair of the CAP Committee since January. We welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments section. Please visit the APSCUF/CAP page for more information about what the committee does and how you can support its work. If you have any questions about CAP, please email Brad or APSCUF staffer Laura Saccente.
I had the good fortune recently to participate in a week-long faculty seminar sponsored by the Aspen Institute in Maryland. The topic of the seminar was “Citizenship in the American and Global Polity” and involved a variety of readings from both Western and non-Western traditions relating to government, economics, ethics and politics. The 40 participants came from a variety of colleges and universities across the country. We formed two separate seminars of 20 faculty members, each led by an experienced moderator. It was a highly stimulating and intense week of thoughtful discussion.
What does this have to do with the APSCUF Committee for Action through Politics (APSCUF/CAP)? Well, during our many lunchtime conversations, I was able learn about the working conditions at other universities. One participant, who teaches at a large public metropolitan college in Denver, was describing her experiences as a faculty member. She has just finished her third year in a tenure-track position after working for several years in a non-tenure track position.
I was interested in her experience at a public college. Was it similar to ours? She told me that her campus had undergone a significant increase in the number of students, now roughly at about 25,000.
“How many faculty do you have?” I asked.
“About 500,” she said. I did the quick math: a 50-to-1 student/faculty ratio.
I was skeptical, so I asked: “How can that be?”
That’s when she mentioned the “faculty affiliates,” elsewhere known as adjuncts or temps, who she wasn’t counting in that number. There are 400 of them.
The teaching load in her department is 4/4; she typically has 50-55 students per section. The affiliates have the same number of students.
“What are the affiliates paid, if you don’t mind my asking?”
She replied, “I worked as an affiliate for several years before getting the tenure-track position. Now they’re paid $300 per credit hour.”
(After checking at her college, I did determine that she was mistaken. Affiliates with a terminal degree are paid about $3,000 for a three-credit course. They can teach a maximum of three courses per semester. At this rate, an affiliate can earn about $18,000 for two semesters of teaching with a 3/3 load.)
At the time, I was stunned. She also mentioned the work conditions: six affiliates to an office, rotated through the day. In the English Department, she told me affiliates didn’t even have a shared office, only a locker. They would meet with students in the library or off-campus.
Finally, I asked the obvious question: “Why don’t you have a union?”
She said, “Over 50 percent of the faculty have voted to unionize, but the administration doesn’t recognize us. Colorado is a right-to-work state.
I cannot attest to the exact truth of all of the facts and figures here. Perhaps affiliates are paid a bit more, teach a bit less. But there is an obvious lesson for APSCUF members: our union matters.
One of the main issues on which the CAP committee focuses in considering endorsements and support for political candidates is their view on Right-to-Work legislation. Right-to-Work bills would strip unions of the ability to require our non-union colleagues to pay a fair-share fee for the benefits they receive from our collective bargaining.
We have seen the dangerous trend in the past six months to roll back the collective bargaining rights of public unions. The rights we have through our union are tenuous, and we must not be complacent about them. Your contributions to APSCUF/CAP are crucial to combating such attempts here and preventing Pennsylvania from becoming a state where we are “extended” the right to work — for less.
Update: The House Labor & Industry Committee held a hearing on right-to-work legislation on Aug. 16. with representatives from the state AFL-CIO and PSEA testifying, but no action was taken any bills. Here’s a news clip on the hearing:
Battle lines form over labor law, West Chester Daily Local
That evening, APSCUF Vice President Ken Mash talked about right-to-work legislation on The Rick Smith Show. APSCUF will continue to monitor this issue and keep its members informed.