St. John’s-AAUP Newsletter

A Publication of the St. John's University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors


No. 1 (Spring 2007)

Issue Editor: Granville Ganter     




            New Information Initiatives

            Parental Leave and Other Family-Friendly Options

            For Adjuncts, For All of Us

            The Invisibility of Student Labor: A Lecture by Marc Bousquet

            SIR 2 Review

            Early Withdrawal of Retirement Funds



New Information Initiatives

In the spring of 2006, the St. John’s chapter of the AAUP began to plan some informational initiatives. Elements include an improved membership database, and the enlargement of the St. John’s-AAUP webpage. The database will allow easier email contact among members. It will also keep contact membership current for those members whose home information does not change.


The AAUP also began a colloquia series to help inform the faculty about issues in their interest. Ideally, speakers will range among nationally-recognized scholars and those who might address faculty questions about specific St. John’s-related issues. The first lecture was by Marc Bousquet, as reported in this newsletter.


This newsletter is also part of the new information initiative. It is hoped that the newsletter will serve as a place for education and discussion about union issues.    


Faculty who would like to support the St. John’s-AAUP can print out a form from our webpage <>, and mail it with a check to Theresa Barz, Math Dept. St. John’s Hall, STJ, Jamaica, NY 11439. Yearly contributions from full-time faculty is $50, part-time $20.


For those who wish to join the national AAUP membership, dues for New York state members are $173 for full-time faculty; $44 for adjuncts. You may join national AAUP at <>



Parental Leave and Other Family-Friendly Options

The faculty at Manhattan College are upset that their school’s maternity policy includes only 6 weeks paid leave. Over the past year several faculty there have been actively researching alternatives and have drafted a new plan for their college that allows faculty a full semester off for birth or adoption at 75% pay. If faculty can agree on alternative duties with administration, faculty members could get full pay for the semester. Armed with a formidable dossier of research, and buttressed with statements by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops asserting the need for modified work schedules and compensation to support family life, the Manhattan faculty are not prepared to take no for an answer.


Like Manhattan’s policy, the current Family Leave policy at St. John’s reflects the minimum standards defined by the national Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and makes no provisions for paid time off. In the same way that faculty can petition for up to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave for serious health issues, they can also petition for 12 weeks’ leave to adopt a child or give birth. With a doctor’s consent, they can apply for up to 6 weeks’ pay during this period for medical disability pay. This situation has left many family-minded faculty thinking that St. John’s could use a better policy. There are a variety of alternative plans for paid family leave enacted across the country. Some of them have day care options.


The improvement of a family leave policy centers on a few basic insights: first, the policy must take into account the discrepancy between the average length of 14 week semester, and the12 week period described by FMLA. At small departments, parents might not even want to take paid leave for part of the semester for fear of making extra work for their colleagues. Schools like the University of Dayton, Fairfield, Hamilton, Smith, and Notre Dame have provisions explicitly written into their policies for covering courses. Many schools have developed arrangements where faculty take up alternative duties to teaching for a semester. At the University of California, this provision is called “active-service modified duty,” and it has become a centerpiece of their parental leave policies.


A second issue is recognizing that the semester system can present a timing problem, and a good leave policy should be flexible about events occurring in the month of December.


The language of a family leave policy should respect the needs of adopting parents and male primary care providers.


And finally, a parental leave plan should have provisions so that un-tenured faculty can get an extra year added to their tenure clock with the same productivity expectations that existed prior to their leave.


In providing benchmark studies for their administration, the Manhattan faculty found that schools in the northeast tend to have leave plans that include a combination of paid and unpaid time. They often require faculty to use vacation and sick time. At Boston College, mothers can get 8 weeks paid leave, or more if medically necessary, and additional 4 weeks unpaid leave. At Alfred University, faculty can petition for up to 12 weeks paid leave.


Dayton University has a plan where faculty automatically earn credit (“salary continuation”) for one month of pay for each year they teach, totaling 6 months’ worth. This time is typically used for illness or maternity leave. In cases of maternity, faculty can take up to 12 weeks paid leave as long as they’ve banked at least 3 months’ continuation time. This procedure helps bring faculty benefits closer to that of administrators’, who can often bank their sick days to accumulate periods of paid time off to have a child.

Beyond the one-time event of birth or adoption, advocates for family-friendly academic workplaces have recommended several long-term measures. Many campuses, including Stanford, the University of California, the University of Washington, and Seattle University, have instituted a part-time option for both tenure-track and tenured faculty.  At UW, options include permanent as well as temporary part-time tenure tracks. As the AAUP’s journal Academe reported in 2004, the university’s administration “views these policy options as recruitment and retention tools.”


Finally, an important part of the child-care issue is the question of on-campus day care. Here at St. John’s, past explorations of this issue have been thwarted by concerns about overall cost, liability insurance, and the logistics posed by a multi-campus system. But administrators at the University of California, such as Graduate Dean Mary Ann Mason, have argued that child care – along with other family-friendly policies – is an important element of faculty recruitment and retention (Google: “Faculty Family Friendly Edge: An Initiative for Tenure-Track Faculty at UC”; also Mason’s essay in Academe 88.6 (Nov/Dec 2002): 21-7). Mason reports that when unable to provide large child care programs, some schools use private vendors as an inexpensive “emergency” day-care option for faculty.


Interest in cultivating a more family-friendly environment at St. John’s is building. Several faculty at St. John’s, including Judy DeSena (Sociology), Barbara Koziak (Gov & Politics), and Marilyn Martone (Theology), have been working even before 9-11-2001 to advance family friendly policies at St. John’s. Among their achievements was research that led to a $5000 lump sum payment to adopting faculty in the last union contract. The Women’s Studies program recently sponsored a viewing and discussion of “The Motherhood Manifesto,” which surveys a variety of family friendly employment ideas across the US. STJ’s Office of Human Resources has recently developed a study of daycare programs at local colleges and universities, such as those of Adelphi and Hofstra.  



For Adjuncts, For All of Us

An Opinion by Ed Beckenstein, Math Department, Staten Island

I believe that at the completion of this academic year I will have worked for 35 years at St. John’s. I began in September 1972. I believe it was the second year that the Staten Island campus opened. There were about 300 students and 35 faculty. We were like a club. In the early days of Notre Dame College we needed adjuncts as we need them now. But in those days being an adjunct wasn’t a career for faculty who couldn’t receive tenure. As I was a chairman, I hired them as colleagues for years. They were usually high school teachers or professionals who simply enjoyed teaching and liked the idea of teaching a college course at a noteworthy university. They were modestly paid, as were faculty. But we prospered and the administration was generous with increases for many years. Years ago our salaries were behind those of many local colleges. But for many years they received increases of from 0 to 2 percent while we were receiving 5 to 7 percent. We caught up to and passed a lot of colleges. The salaries of adjuncts grew as well, but the proportions between their salaries and full timers remained the same. It was when being an adjunct became a career choice that an awful reality began to appear.  


Adjunct teaching now is rarely an experience to add to a rewarding career. It is a way of life for those who want to teach, but for whom there are no full-time opportunities. And it is awful. The university system is taking tremendous advantage of our colleagues, and I deeply believe we have to start creating some balance. We have to start finding a way to raise their wages.


One way could be with contributions from The University as well as full timer salaries. But it should come in a graduated way from the salaries of the more senior as well as higher earning faculty. It could be done with a weighted point system created to determine the contribution. Points could be computed by considering salary and years of service. It isn’t difficult to come up with a formula that not many of us could be upset over. If I knew the actual salary range data (dollar ranges and numbers of earners in those ranges) it wouldn’t be very difficult to do this. To leave things as they are now simply isn’t decent. 


About 10 years ago a new faculty member was hired with a salary ranging around $40,000 per year. With fringe benefits (a $4000 contribution to TIAA; a $10,000 a year medical plan; and the cost of life insurance as well as disability), the cost to the university was about $50,000 per year. An adjunct wasn’t supposed to teach more than 2 courses according to the contracts, but “Special Circumstances” always had them teaching 3. And they needed to teach 3 to survive. They were paid about $2000 per course, often less. They earned about $12,000 a year at St. John’s. They taught a full load of courses but cost 1/4 the cost of a new full timer. Four of them equals one of us at the lowest end! How is that decent on any scale? Despite the low pay, adjuncts currently teach more than 50% of the university courses.


I have known many adjuncts that do as good a job and even better than many full timers. They love it and give it their all! How do they survive? They teach at two and even three colleges. Because our adjunct salaries are not high, teaching about 15 to 18 courses a year has them barely earning $40,000 (with no benefits). If they were fortunate they might get a position at a place like CUNY where they would be rewarded with medical coverage if they taught at least 2 courses per semester for at least a year.


Some few years ago I read an awful article in The New York Times describing career adjuncts at CUNY and how they managed to survive. Usually survival required that the person have a spouse with a better paying career, or there was a marriage to another full time adjunct at CUNY. Each person of the marriage needed to have positions at two CUNY colleges (no more is allowed by CUNY) and probably a third non-CUNY college. It would add up to a livable wage, but each person taught 7-9 courses per semester. I still have the article somewhere. What a way to make a living! It made me feel ashamed of myself. And when I say hello every morning to the folks I work with who are adjuncts, I am reminded again to feel ashamed of myself. It isn’t decent to not to try hard to correct this!



The Invisibility of Student Labor: A Lecture by Marc Bousquet

On April 6, 2006, the St. John’s-AAUP chapter sponsored a lecture by Marc Bousquet from Santa Clara University. Bousquet has written extensively on academic labor and composition studies. His talk was based on his forthcoming book, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (NYU, 2007). 


In his lecture, Bousquet argued that the expansion of student labor is radically changing the quality of education in the U.S. Particularly troubling is that the increase in student labor has become so common that it is largely unnoticed. Frequently advertising itself under the name of internships, teaching assistantships, or simply financial aid, student labor has become a necessary but unacknowledged part of university life. As a consequence, the university system is implicitly teaching students to undervalue their own work and educations.


Bousquet asserted that student labor is a central part of the contemporary university. Even at public universities which have a fairly modest percent of working students---such as SUNY Oswego where about 25% of the students work---at Oswego the student workers actually outnumber the 1500 non-student workers that the university also employs. Graduation and retention rates fall. Bousquet noted that U.S. citizens who are under 25 years old are more likely to be working if they are students than if they are not. The results of this shift? The average undergraduate is 26 years old. Students who work in the joint United Parcel Service/University of Louisville education “work to study” venture typically have a 10% graduation rate and subsidize enormous profits for UPS. And most distressing: despite the staggering amount of low-wage work that students perform nationally, they are not even recognized as workers or protected as such. 


Bousquet argued that the current invisibility of student work is also part of the larger movement toward the causualization and outsourcing of U.S. labor. Stripped of benefits or job security, workers have become part-time "associates" rather than employees. Current university assumptions about student work help to provide a foundation for these practices.


Bousquet is nationally known for debunking the widely prevailing theory that tenure track job opportunities follow a model of supply and demand. This "market" logic formed an unacknowledged premise of most thinking about university hiring in the 1980s and 90s. According to this premise, if the number of jobs people apply for is fixed, then it behooves graduate schools not to over supply the market with PhDs. As many of us had been taught to believe, the market determines job opportunities. If we reduced the supply of PhDs, as began to happen in the 1990s, jobs would become abundant. In actuality, this boon did not occur, and it looks like it never will.


Why didn’t job availability follow the market model? Bousquet notes that it has been administrators---not markets---who made the decisions to not to hire qualified PhD candidates to tenure track jobs, despite the fact that colleges and universities needed them desperately. During the worst days of the job market in English, the mid 1990s, if schools had hired every PhD on the market to teach English, there still would not have been enough to cover all the sections needed, a situation which still exists today. Thirty-five years ago, 75% of the professoriate was tenure-track, and 25% adjunct. The statistics are reversed today, and national surveys suggest that half the adjuncts make less than $2000 per course.


During the question session, Bousquet was asked if the apprenticeship model were not a time-honored way of training new students. Bousquet said they could be called apprenticeships only as far as they actually provided entry to full-time employment. Right now, the university system relies on a national pool consisting of the 50% of PhDs who will not be hired, and thus they become only a resevoir of disposable low wage workers.



SIR 2 Review

In the spring of 2006 a university committee was established to look into the possibility of alternatives to the SIR2 course evaluation system. Faculty unions felt the SIR2 was a poor assessment tool. Students had no opportunity to make general comments. The administration also felt the present SIR2 system was expensive and cumbersome to operate. Each semester, the Registrar’s office distributed and collated more than 50,000 pieces of paper. In addition to the bureaucratic costs of administering the SIR2, the university also paid for the tabulation of the data. Because of these problems, the committee felt an online system was worth considering.


The SIR2 review committee was chaired by Dean Jeff Fagen and included Maura Flannery (Center for Teaching & Learning), Maura Woods & Joseph Tufano (Information Technology), Granville Ganter (AAUP); Joe Marotta (FA); Yuxiang Liu (Institutional Research) and Joseph Capobianco (Registrar). After hearing a marketing pitch from Scantron, a company that sells online evaluation systems, the committee decided that testing a pilot program would be useful. 


Scantron’s system appealed to the committee for several reasons: the university could make its own questions and set up customized, internal benchmarks for statistical analysis. For example, faculty could compare their reports against their own department’s averages. In addition to a set of standard, university-wide questions, faculty could also add their own questions to each course. The form also invites students to write essay-style comments.


Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the Scantron system is that it is administered via email. Toward the end of the semester, faculty are sent an email with the form, and it asks if they wish to make any additions. (They may add questions but not remove any.) The form is then automatically sent to students, who are also sent a personal password and due date. Students who do not fill out the survey are automatically sent email reminders toward the end of the evaluation period. At a date set by the university after grading, faculty are emailed the results, which feature statistical breakdowns and full-text tabulations of student commentary.


The committee decided to test a pilot program with Scantron to see how well their system worked. Academic members of the committee designed 20 of the pilot’s basic questions. Institutional Research added several more. The pilot program, which included 49 courses taught by administrators, ran in the Fall 2006.


Results of the pilot were promising. The average response was 64%. (In-class response with the SIR2 averages 75% at St. Johns.) Eleven of the classes were DNY; 5 speech; and the rest of the 33 classes were a sprinkling of other Core and electives. Only two of the courses piloted were graduate classes. 


Concerns still remain about the new system, and it is possible another pilot will be run in the Spring of 2007 if the AAUP and FA consent. Although committee members felt the evaluation form needs to be as short as possible, the number of questions on the last pilot ballooned to 37 questions, which makes it unlikely that people would want to do them for 4 or 5 courses. Another concern is the difference between email and in-class evaluations. Email addresses don’t always work; students don’t always come to class. Although in-class participation is statistically slightly higher, the email version allows the collation of discursive comments, customized questions, and immediate teacher feedback, all of which faculty may prefer over the SIR2 system.



Early Withdrawal of Retirement Funds

A joint AAUP-FA committee met in the fall 2006 to inquire about St. John’s guidelines for the early withdrawal of retirement funds under our 403 (b) plan. After studying the most recent St. John’s “Restatement of the Plan” (2006) and hearing relevant testimony, the committee generated six pages of questions about policy. Two central concerns emerged: 1) the university’s policies with respect to early withdrawal, 2) and the prohibition of withdrawals even after 70 ½ as long as a faculty member remains a full time employee. The chair of the union committee, Bill Gangi (Gov. & Politics), wrote a detailed letter of inquiry to Maria Conti, Director of Employee Benefits, in the fall. As of February 2007, Conti had not yet responded.


The St. John’s plan is called the “Defined Contribution Retirement Plan” (DCRB) and its complex provisions can be viewed at Human Resources on the web. Its broad outlines, however, are as follows: if faculty contribute 5% of their salaries toward this plan, the university will pay 10%. At St. John’s, these funds can be invested in three investment companies: TIAA-CREF, Fidelity Investments, or MetLife.


According to St. John’s guidelines, as long as faculty remain full time employees they are not allowed to withdraw money from their basic DCRB plan except under extraordinary circumstances. This restriction applies even after a faculty member reaches 70 ½ years old (ordinarily the mandatory age to begin withdrawals). In cases of “immediate and heavy” financial hardship, such as emergency medical bills, faculty may petition for a loan or early withdrawal.


The AAUP-FA committee was curious what Human Resource’s working definition of hardship was. Because the IRS does not put any restrictions on withdrawal of investments beyond 70 1/2, the committee asked why TIAA-CREF and St. John’s do. An early withdrawal policy is not illegal since IRS guidelines permit it. In an email, Bill Gangi noted that whether or not St. John’s current policy constitutes age discrimination is a matter to be resolved in the courts.


Many schools, such as the public universities of New York, California, Utah, Illinois, and North Carolina, allow faculty to begin withdrawing retirement funds after the age of 59 1/2 while they remain employed although the conditions under which that is permitted differs among the institutions.


The committee was also puzzled by section 3.3b of the 2006 Restatement which concerns maximum plan contributions for Highly Compensated Individuals, and felt union officials were entitled to know if administrative contributions diverged from faculty contributions.


The committee generally found the language of St. John’s 2006 “Restatement” unnecessarily complex, and they requested a clear list of what faculty members may or may not do with their retirement investments.