Re: Temple should value educators

A member of the university’s administration responds to a Letter to the Editor written by an adjunct professor in the Intellectual Heritage Program on March 27.

Last week, Wende Marshall, one of Temple’s committed adjuncts teaching in the College of Liberal Arts, wrote a heartfelt Letter to the Editor regarding the current negotiation with TAUP over labor contract provisions applicable to adjunct instructors.

Unfortunately, in this case, passion did not come with precision.

First, Marshall states “Although we have been at the table since last May, negotiations are not going well.” This is not true.

In the negotiations to date, TAUP and Temple have reached agreement on nearly half of TAUP’s proposals and agreement in principle on others.  From our perspective, the negotiation process is going very well – conversations are productive and collaborative, and continue to move forward.

As has been the case in prior negotiations, the university is wrongly accused of not showing proper respect to its faculty. In fact, Temple has approached negotiations with profound respect for all of its faculty, including adjuncts. At several times during the current negotiations, Temple has questioned the impact of a TAUP proposal on full-time faculty; TAUP responses routinely indicate a lack of consideration or concern for these unintended consequences.  The university is responsible for ensuring that this new contract will continue to allow Temple to achieve excellence while maintaining affordability and accessibility for our students.  This requires ensuring that the needs of full-time faculty and students are not overlooked in this process.

What is evident from discussions to date is that Temple already provides many of the resources and services that TAUP has proposed for adjuncts. For example, adjuncts already enjoy free parking, professional development opportunities and complimentary class materials. As for access to health coverage, which TAUP calls a priority for adjuncts, the university has provided adjunct faculty access to health care benefits since 2008.  The benefits presently offered by the university are in fact more affordable than TAUP’s initial proposal.

Marshall uses a variety of figures to paint an unequivocally bleak picture of adjunct compensation.  But in comparing the proportion of adjunct faculty to full-time faculty, she fails to paint a complete picture.  All faculty perform critical roles, but the expectations of full-time faculty extend well beyond those of adjunct faculty. Our adjunct faculty, hired primarily to provide classroom instruction, serve an essentially different role.

Marshall concludes her argument by saying “an adjunct teaching the maximum number of credits at Temple would make … 38.5% below the cost of living for a single person with no children in Philadelphia. The math here is crystal clear.”

We agree. The math shows that being an adjunct – anywhere, not just at Temple – does not pay the same as a full-time position. It is plainly unrealistic to think that it should.

There are significant issues remaining to work through and we look forward to addressing them with TAUP’s representatives. The parties now are discussing the “big ticket” item of compensation which, in typical labor negotiations, routinely is addressed toward the mid-point or end of negotiations.

Marshall’s closing paragraph – “the arc of Temple’s moral universe will finally bend toward justice when we grab it and shape it with our bodies and our strength” – is beautiful, intense prose, and we respect both her invocation of these important words from Dr. Martin Luther King, as well as her dedication and zeal. While we may disagree on the shape or reshaping of that arc, we could not agree more that, as Marshall aptly notes, the ultimate goal is that Temple’s “highest priorities are teaching and learning.”

Sharon Boyle is the associate vice president for Human Resources and chief negotiator on the university’s negotiation team.

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