Adjunct faculty members at Plymouth State University, now known as ‘PSU Teaching Lecturers United’ ratified their first contract on December 13th, 2013. This innovative contract provides access to job stability, intellectual property rights, and annual wage increases over the next three years.
For over thirty years, adjunct faculty members were not treated as full members of their academic community, received poverty wages for their work, and little institutional support outside of the classroom. When the group unionized in December of 2011 they connected with colleagues to change their “adjunct faculty culture”.
“Before we unionized” explains PSU Teaching Lecturers United Chapter President Krisan Evenson “I was unable to see a career track, let alone our place at the university. ‘How did we fit in here?’ was a question I constantly asked myself. As we united our community through our union, I knew we could begin reversing trends for our colleagues and students.”
“Adjunct faculty now make up the majority of the higher education workforce. In 1969 78 percent of instruction staff was comprised of tenured or tenure-track professors. In a recent survey conducted by the American Association of University Professors, that figure nearly flipped as 73 percent of all teaching appointments are now currently off the tenure-track.”
Pointing to a crisis in higher education the Lecturers’ bargaining team successfully negotiated numerous goals set forth by the membership. Their goals included increases in pay, intellectual property rights, job stability, and access to benefits.
“Our contract gives us respect, legitimacy of our positions, [and] is our first legal recourse,” said Burrett McBee, Bargaining Team member and Teaching Lecturer of English. “[W]hile the old gentlemen’s agreement may be genteel, it bears little weight in a legal dispute. We can’t rely on a handshake agreement if our teaching sections are on the line.”
Members of the Lecturers union believe their contract will encourage university administrators to preserve teachers, help keep Lecturers out of poverty and improve the quality of public education. This contract is one of two recent agreements SEA-NH/SEIU Local 1984 won for over 1,000 adjunct faculty members that teach in the Community College System of New Hampshire. (CCSNH)
“Key features of our contract will eliminate conflicts through fair and balanced procedures,” said Phil Inwood, Bargaining Team member and Teaching Lecturer of Art. “Our contract was designed to change standards for Lecturers and the university. This was the first time our voices really made a difference.”