Tufts Part-Time Professors to get Better Pay, Job Security
By Matt Rocheleau | Globe Correspondent October 27, 2014
Most part-time professors at Tufts University will get a 22 percent pay raise over the next three years and improved job security under a new contract that could influence negotiations at other schools in the Boston area and beyond where adjunct faculty have recently organized or are considering doing so.
The Tufts deal, a three-year agreement ratified Friday after receiving approval from more than 95 percent of the roughly 200 adjunct teachers, will also keep an existing arrangement where professors who teach at least three courses over the course of an academic year are eligible for health, retirement, tuition reimbursement, and other employee benefits, according to union officials.
Other improvements to working conditions include: first notice and a guaranteed interview for full-time openings; a revamped performance evaluation process; and the establishment of a $25,000-a-year fund that will pay adjunct faculty up to $500 a year to undergo professional development related to teaching.
“Previously, we had some benefits and advantages to working at the university, but they were not protected at all,” said Andy Klatt, who has taught Spanish and translation part-time at Tufts for 18 years and helped lead the unionization and negotiation efforts. “Now we have an agreement and some security.”
The contract goes into effect Jan. 1.
Part-time faculty members will generally receive at least a one-year appointment, though the university can hire teachers on a per-semester basis in certain cases, including to cover a sabbatical or leave of absence.
Lecturers with more than four years of service will receive two-year appointments, if approved through a performance review process. Those with more than eight years of service will be eligible for three-year appointments, the maximum length available to part-timers.
Previously, part-time faculty were never appointed for more than one year.
About 16 percent of Tufts adjuncts, who currently are the lowest paid, will receive a 43 percent raise over three years; another 19 percent of adjuncts, who are currently the highest paid, will receive cost-of-living increases during that span, officials said.
The remaining two-thirds of part-time professors, whose current pay falls between that of the other two groups, will receive a 22 percent raise over three years.
By September 2016, the final year of the contract, all Tufts part-time faculty will make at least $7,300 per course, and those with more than eight years of service will earn at least $8,760 per course, officials said.
Previously, faculty were paid as low as $5,115 per course, and even those with the most seniority were paid as low as $6,138 per course.
Professors will also now receive additional compensation for work outside the classroom — including advising, mentoring, and independent studies. And, if the university cancels a course taught by a faculty member who is on a three-year appointment, the professor will still be fully compensated; professors with shorter appointments will receive $750.
Tufts spokeswoman Kimberly Thurler said the contract “successfully balances the needs and priorities of the lecturers and the university.”
“The contract resolved important issues involving course assignments, compensation and security and strengthened the avenues for evaluation and accountability for performance,” she said via e-mail.
The contract ratification marked a major milestone for a campaign that has organized part-time faculty at two other Boston area colleges and that is pushing for professors at several other area institutions to unionize in an effort to improve their pay, benefits, and overall working conditions.
The Service Employees International Union launched a national effort a year-and-a-half ago to organize adjunct faculty at campuses across the country, including around Boston.
In September 2013, Tufts adjuncts became the first local group within the SEIU campaign to unionize. A month later, a push to organize at Bentley University in Waltham fell two votes short; however, adjunct faculty there are planning to hold another vote in the coming months.
In February, about 700 adjuncts at Lesley University in Cambridge unionized, followed by about 960 adjuncts at Northeastern University who organized in May. Faculty from both of those schools are now in negotiations.
Meanwhile, Boston University adjuncts expect to soon vote on whether to unionize, and campaigns to unionize are underway at Simmons College and other area schools.
Laurie LaPorte, who has taught anthropology part-time at BU since 2005 and is a member of the adjunct organizing committee there, said job security is a chief concern for her and her colleagues. She said she was impressed by how the Tufts contract addressed that issue and hopes that will help convince BU adjuncts that unionization will improve their work life.
“To see a contract come out where the university and the union have come together to say ‘let’s decrease that instability’ should be compelling to people [at BU] who are on the fence,” she said.
William Shimer, an adjunct who is helping to lead part-time faculty negotiations at Northeastern, said the Tufts contract “covers all the points we are asking for.”
However, adjuncts at other colleges that, unlike Tufts, do not already offer major benefits to part-time faculty may face greater hurdles during negotiations. For example, adjuncts at both Northeastern and BU are not eligible for health benefits and only some qualify for retirement benefits, according to part-time professors at each school.
“It will be more difficult, I think, in our negotiations,” Shimer said.
In 1975, about 30 percent of faculty across the country were employed part-time, according to the American Association of University Professors. Today, part-time faculty account for more than half of college teaching jobs, and about 76 percent of higher education instructors hold non-tenure-track positions.
Nationally, adjunct faculty are paid on average about $3,000 per three-credit course, the SEIU said. About 80 percent of them do not receive health insurance from their college, and about 86 percent do not receive retirement benefits. Employed on a per-course or per-semester basis, they typically have little to no job security.