St. John’s-AAUP Newsletter
A Publication of the
No. 1 (Spring 2007)
Issue Editor: Granville Ganter
In the spring of 2006, the
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 <aaupsju.org>,
and mail it with a check to Theresa Barz, Math Dept.
St. John’s Hall, STJ,
For those who wish to join the
national AAUP membership, dues for
The faculty at
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
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
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
Finally, an important part of the
child-care issue is the question of on-campus day care. Here at
Interest in cultivating a more
family-friendly environment at
An Opinion by Ed Beckenstein,
I believe that at the completion of
this academic year I will have worked for 35 years at
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
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!
On April 6, 2006, the St. John’s-AAUP
chapter sponsored a lecture by Marc Bousquet from
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
Bousquet argued that the current invisibility
of student work is also part of the larger movement toward the causualization and outsourcing of
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.
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
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.
A joint AAUP-FA committee met in the
fall 2006 to inquire about
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
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.