Members of the PSU community participated in the National Adjunct Walkout Day on Feb. 25. Adjunct instructors at Portland State set up “vent tents” in the Park Blocks outside of the Smith Memorial Student Union and in the PSU Urban Plaza.
Adjuncts were available to answer questions about issues they face and address concerns over low pay and low job security. Adjuncts talked to passing students, wrote notes on oversized notepads and handed out stickers that read, “A is for Adjunct, Imagine if we weren’t here.”
Adjuncts make up 45 percent of the teaching staff at PSU, according to the PSU Office of Institutional Research and Planning. The current contract for adjuncts expires on June 30, 2015. PSU Faculty Association, the union representing part-time faculty on campus is preparing for upcoming contract negotiations.
Anna Gray, an adjunct professor in the School of Art and Design, voiced her concern about the way adjuncts are regarded at PSU.
“When a department hires a bunch of adjuncts to teach a large percentage of its courses and uses only a handful of full-time professors, the workload for committee work and for advising students fall extra heavy on those full-time faculty,” she said. “It means that adjuncts suffer from the conditions of precarious work, low pay, and lack of recognition.”
Rachel Hibbard, an adjunct instructor in the School of Art and Design, said “The power of the Faculty Senate is the decreased because there isn’t a critical mass of tenure professors; so therefore, an unequal distribution of resources and compensation arises and overall, think, this hinders the quality of education offered.”
“The overuse of adjuncts and the retraction of full-time positions and cutting of tenure lines has an effect on everyone in higher education—students, all faculty and administrators as well,” Gray said.
PSUFA is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. David Rives, president of AFT-Oregon said, “I’m hoping that the new settlement will bring salary increases, more money…for healthcare, professional development and faculty education, as well as recognition and acknowledgement [of] adjunct professors’ contributions to the university community.”
Contract negotiations have not yet been scheduled, though AAUP’s website says they will begin in May.
More information PSU’s adjunct professors can be found at psufa.org and psuvanguard.com