We Are Not Disposable Faculty
As we discussed our contract proposals during negotiations with the Bentley administration, the most telling conversations revolved around our goal of “moving past contingency” and our assertion that academic freedom is a protected and valued right of all faculty, including adjuncts.
We are interested in more stable and predictable employment for adjunct faculty. We think such employment arrangements will benefit students’ educational experiences which are defined in large measure by educational and mentoring relationships with faculty members, including adjuncts. These relationships commonly extend well beyond a single semester. Since many of us have taught regularly for several years, we also think longer appointments with greater guarantees for adjuncts reflect the actual experience at the University. Semester appointments are inefficient for the university and create unnecessary anxiety about whether we will be reappointed.
The Bentley administration seems committed to treating adjuncts as temporary, even if this “temporary” status spans many years. The administration wants to preserve a status quo that allows them to dispose of adjuncts at any time and for any reason.
In negotiations, some representatives of the administration even asked if we would agree to allow them to terminate any adjunct who does not hold a terminal degree, regardless of the quality of his or her teaching or commitment to our students. (Our response was an emphatic “‘no.”)
Likewise, the administration rejected including academic freedom protections for adjunct faculty in the contract, and incorrectly wrongly stated that academic freedom only applies to research. In fact, the Bentley Academic Freedom Policy specifically states that academic freedom is related to classroom teaching and public citizenship as well as research. (Incidentally, many adjuncts also engage in research.)
Moreover, in many ways academic freedom protections are more important for adjuncts than tenured faculty, since we are not protected by tenure and are vulnerable to non-reappointment simply for what we say, do, or teach both inside and outside the classroom.
The challenge in further negotiations will be to find a balance between the administration’s demand to preserve their absolute authority and our need for stability and predictability. Our students need adjuncts with job security and academic freedoms who can focus their time and energy exclusively on excellent teaching. A more balanced approach is in the best interest of our students and the faculty.
Do you support our bargaining priorities? Make that clear by signing our open letter!