Bentley Adjuncts Remain Hopeful for Unionization
Attempt at building momentum towards a new vote continues
By Michaela Stephenson
Last semester, there was increased discussion on campus about creating a union for Bentley University adjunct professors. The discussion spurred from many open forum discussions and action committee meetings that spanned across the entire school year in hopes of finally establishing a legal obligation for the university to negotiate with Bentley adjunct professors on important employee benefits.
Over the course of the past year, the country saw many successes in forming adjunct unions. A growing group of dedicated staff and students at Bentley look to build off this success and continue to push for a vote in favor of unionizing. Professor Jack Dempsey, helping to lead the charge, gave a brief background of the different voting results from the past. Last fall, a little over a third of the Bentley adjunct professors signed a card in support of a vote in regards to getting an adjunct union at the university. “We had a very good ground game and outreach to adjuncts,” said Dempsey.
Professor Dempsey currently teaches writing and effective speaking courses, some key courses in the graduation requirements for many Bentley students. This semester, the group is building momentum towards a new vote and they are confident that it will happen soon. Currently, there are 225 adjunct professors at Bentley, making up approximately 40% of the faculty. This percentage is responsible for teaching over half the courses at Bentley. These professors only receive $5,000 per semester course and are limited to teaching only two courses per semester. “What is at issue is compensating adjunct faculty as the professionals that they are. Students usually do not know who is an adjunct professor and who is a full-time professor – we are all professors in their eyes,” said Professor Atlas in a past interview. This semester’s push for another vote comes after a recent unionization of adjuncts at nearby institution, Tufts University. According to Dempsey, Bentley’s committee has been affiliated with Tufts committee for unionizing, since the beginning. The hope is to follow suit shortly.
According to the Boston Globe, adjunct professors at Tufts will get a 22% pay raise over the course of the next three years. This year they are under a new contract that improves job security. This may act as a catalyst in negotiations on other campuses. Along with Tufts, Lesley University and Northeastern University are both in negotiations to unionize. Along with Bentley, Boston University and Simmons College are organizing campaigns. The new contract also makes adjunct professors eligible for health and retirement benefits.
The current salary cap at Bentley means that adjuncts do not reach the income threshold for healthcare. While professors are allowed to participate in university health plans, they are offered no university health plans. In contrast, full-time faculty members are offered 80% assistance in healthcare costs. Adjunct professors, however, still have similar duties as these full-time faculty members. These duties include designing courses and syllabi, meeting with students, mentoring students, composing recommendation letters and counseling after hours.
According to Professor Atlas “Not only do the professors teach their classes, but they prepare for each class, grade papers and exams, meet and communicate with students and routinely go out of their way to help students by doing such things as writing recommendations and providing career advice… Currently Bentley is one of the few universities where adjuncts have representation on the Faculty Senate,” said a statement from the University last year. If anyone is interested in getting involved, feel free to contact Professor Jack Dempsey or Professor Joan Atlas, the Faculty Senate Representative. Also, be on the lookout for any upcoming open forums on campus.