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Adjunct ‘layoffs’ increase concern

As the Fall 2010 semester comes to an end, not all professors are gearing up for spring classes.
Of the 59 adjunct professors who taught courses in the First-Year Writing Program this semester, only 14 will be teaching in Spring 2011.…

As the Fall 2010 semester comes to an end, not all professors are gearing up for spring classes.

Of the 59 adjunct professors who taught courses in the First-Year Writing Program this semester, only 14 will be teaching in Spring 2011. This news came to the 45 adjunct professors, who will lose their current appointments, in a document titled “Spring 2011 First-Year Writing Program Staffing (Projected).”

Although university officials were hesitant to call the announcement a layoff, many of the affected teachers said they feel this is indicative of a rift between the university and its adjunct instructors.

IAN WATSON TTN

While attempts by the adjuncts to unionize have yet to come to fruition, adjunct faculty members suggest a union could have prevented this situation.

“We’re the last hired, first fired, and this is a continuation of that relationship,” said Frank Fucile, an English instructor who was not assigned to teach any courses next semester.

Fucile is part of the Adjunct Organizing Committee, which had its first Adjunct Awareness Week last year to make students and other university professionals aware that adjunct professors made up 50 percent of Temple’s faculty. The group began collecting cards in support of a union last March.

“It is true that this will make it harder to unionize. We could all be gone permanently or be having this conversation in three years,” Fucile said.

English instructor Eli Goldblatt, who presented the affected adjunct professors with the projected staffing numbers, said the decrease in staffing is not a layoff.

“It’s not a layoff because adjuncts are employed each semester rather than in a continuous year-by-year contract,” Goldblatt said. “Yes, some are out of jobs next semester, and we regret that, but unfortunately, adjunct work is not stable.”

Ryan Eckes, an adjunct professor in the English department, has not been assigned classes for the Spring 2011 semester.

“The refusal to call this an adjunct layoff or firing shows the administration’s utter indifference toward its teachers,” Eckes said. “To say that we are not being laid off or fired is to suggest that we’ve never really worked for Temple, that we are not an essential part of the university, not a vital part of its community.”

Fucile and Eckes said they have been told the cutbacks are due to two factors: a reduction in the number of sections and an increase in courses that graduate students teach – which they and others have called a change in “gradjunct” policy.

The number of sections offered this spring is consistent with the number of sections taught in Spring 2010, according to the projected staffing document.

Deciding how many sections of each course are taught depends on enrollment and staffing patterns, Goldblatt said.

“This semester, a combination of lower enrollments in English and First-Year Writing courses and higher employment for graduate students resulted in fewer courses available for even our most-valued adjunct faculty,” Goldblatt said.

As for a change in “gradjunct” policy, Andrew Dixon of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association said that on March 19, 2010, the university announced a change in policy that would prevent departments from hiring graduate students as adjuncts.

For those graduate students who have been at Temple for more than five years, the typical duration of an assistantship, this means becoming teaching assistants. In accordance with TUGSA’s collective bargaining agreement, graduate students hired as teaching assistants will receive benefits greater than those of adjuncts, who do not receive health insurance or tuition remission.

Dixon said the amount of courses taught by graduate students has not increased and that, prior to this situation, he had never heard the term “gradjunct.” To his knowledge, he said the term does not exist as an official rank in the teaching system.

“No one was willing to speculate that it was because of the unionization. It just seems like it was abrupt and poorly planned,” Fucile said of the change in hiring graduate students being announced around the same time the AOC began collecting signature cards. “There’s nothing unfair about that except when they changed it was beneficial to union busting.”

“While there’s no way we can prove certain things,” Fucile added, “there is definitely going to be an impact for students.”

Rosella LaFevre can be reached at rosella.lafevre@temple.edu.

2 Responses to “Adjunct ‘layoffs’ increase concern”

  1. Fikenhild

    In order for the adjuncts to legitimately cry foul, they need to demonstrate that, as a group, they are better teachers than the graduate students. With the latter, the university can claim that it is providing much needed work experience for students who will be seeking professorships and other full-time teaching positions upon graduation.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Eckes

    The issue here is not “adjuncts vs. grad students.” Most adjuncts are more experienced than most graduate students. Some adjuncts are more experienced–and better–than some full-time professors. And most adjuncts would prefer to work full-time with benefits at one college rather than work at two or three schools for less than $10,000 per semester, no benefits, and no job security.

    A system for evaluating teachers (beyond those course evaluations you fill out at the end of the semester) to ensure quality, fairness and opportunity would be great! But for the university, that would be a waste of time–because what the university wants is CHEAP LABOR. Temple has followed the national trends in higher education of reducing full-time positions and devaluing the humanities–which should be a concern for everybody, not just a bunch of part-time teachers.

    For more information about adjuncts at Temple and the necessity for a union, go here: http://www.adjuncts.taup.org/

    And here is some suggested reading: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/09/0082640

    Reply

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