Adjuncts demand campus equity

Today in the Parkway North cafeteria, campus equity will have its kick-off event with speakers, theater, songs and leafleting from noon to 1:30 p.m. Intent on obtaining better compensation and working conditions, three campus worker unions are coordinating campus equity week Oct. 27-31.

Across the United States, campus workers are holding the campus equity week at their schools.

At PSU, the Portland State University Faculty Association (PSUFA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are sponsoring the event, primarily addressing part-time, or adjunct, faculty.

Pay inequity will be a major issue the unions at PSU address. Adjuncts must teach 45 credit hours in a year to be considered full time, yet they are only allowed to teach 20 credits a year and are not given multiple term contracts. Oregon state law mandates that anyone working over half-time must receive benefits such as health care. Adjuncts are kept from teaching over half-time, thus barring them from benefits.

Full-time professors, represented by the AAUP, must work only 30 credit hours a year and receive health benefits, multi-term or tenured contracts, and higher pay. Full-time professors could work 15 or more credit hours a year and still receive more job security than adjuncts.

Full-time professors make about twice as much as adjuncts. The university saves another $1million through this pay differential, an anonymous PSUFA member said.

Full-time faculty members are given multiple-term contracts, whereas adjuncts are given single-term contracts.

Pedro Ferbel, a PSUFA member on the union’s bargaining team, stated, “PSU thinks it needs to manage its faculty like it’s running a Wal-Mart. You know, hire a bunch of part-timers so you don’t have to give them job security or provide benefits. We think PSU can do better than that.”

Thursday from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Parkway North, the CEW Film Festival will present movies telling “the stories of contingent faculty, their working conditions, and how unions are working to improve those conditions and improve education,” as stated by fliers handed out by the PSUFA.

Michael Conner, a PSUFA member who is also a part of the bargaining team, stated, “If corporate globalization has got you down, PSU is an example of it.”

Conner said that adjuncts are at the periphery and full-time professors are at the core, using a comparison of first-world countries at the core of economic benefits and third-world countries at the periphery of economic benefits. “Once you accept that model,” Conner said, “it’s no different than an academic sweatshop.”

Office space for adjuncts is also a large concern of the PSUFA. In 2002, the PSUFA filed a grievance concerning the agreed-upon office facilities outlined in their contract and won. Presently one-sixth of the PSUFA membership is without offices, nearly 100 teachers. Conner pointed out a list of workplace conditions adjuncts face.

“There’s no regress if you don’t receive a contract extension,” he said. “There’s no academic freedom. Adjuncts can’t continue research” without multiple term contracts.

Ferbel pointed out that “when students see tuition and class size going up and their best professors without jobs from one term to the next, they start to wonder if being Oregon’s largest university is really the bottom line PSU should be promoting.”

Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the browsing lounge (SMSU 238), a forum on education and globalization will take place. PSUFA’s flier advertised, “Jobs with Justice will provide a short; stimulating visual representation on globalization followed by a discussion of the issues that globalization poses for education.”

Ferbel said, “In my class we look at unfair labor practices in economically challenged countries of the Caribbean. But in essence, it’s no different for part-time faculty at PSU.”

According to the National Center of Education, adjuncts make up 43 percent of teachers in institutions of higher education within the U.S., approximately 421,000 people. At PSU, there are 591 adjuncts, making them 37 percent of the professors on campus.