Adjuncts at UCC continue to vent frustration with school’s ‘pattern’ of disrespect

By:  - Staff Writer 

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Although both Kean and Union County College continue to use adjunct, or part-time, professors in large numbers, these educators maintain job security, pay and status continue to be an issue despite efforts on their part to change this pattern.

After LocalSource reported in the May 21 edition about the ongoing problems adjuncts were having at both educational facilities, UCC adjuncts came forward to express their views and straighten out any misconceptions there might be about what they are paid for their teaching services.

While it is becoming more common for both colleges and universities to rely on adjunct educators to augment a shrinking tenured faculty, these teachers feel they are treated unfairly by the hierarchy of the college.

The percentage of adjunct professors versus full-time faculty at universities and colleges in New Jersey and nationwide has increased from 22 percent in 1970 to 43 percent in 1999, the last year statistics were available. However, adjuncts maintain that while educational facilities such as Kean and UCC continue to increase the use of these contracted educators each year, they are not receiving the pay or respect compared to tenured faculty.

Although LocalSource reported that generally the only difference between adjuncts and tenured faculty is that part-time educators spend all their time teaching, while tenured faculty may have other duties, including conducting research, publishing papers, attending staff meetings and events, adjuncts say that is not necessarily true. Adjuncts said that while they do not have to publish papers, many do but they are not paid to do so. They also hold office hours so they can meet with students. Complicating things further is that while tenured faculty have their own offices to meet with students, adjuncts do not. This is frustrating to these part-time contractual employees because they still have to meet with students. One adjunct reported that at UCC they are not paid for meeting with students and to add insult to injury, the administration only provides a small office with eight computers and a few filing cabinets that have to be shared by several hundred adjuncts.

“This is not a professional way to meet with college students who may or may not be having problems they do not want discussed in an open forum,” said one adjunct professor who has taught at the college for close to 15 years.

Another said a UCC adjunct’s pay is considerably less than the $1,225 New Jersey average previously reported. In fact, one professor, who preferred he not be identified, said new adjunct hires earn $600 per credit at UCC to teach a three-credit course such as history, psychology, English or business courses.

That means a new hire adjunct professor, who is only allowed to teach a maximum of three courses, or nine credits, earns $5,400 each semester.

“This is gross pay, with no benefits, no perks and adjuncts even have to pay for their vehicle parking pass,” said the frustrated adjunct, adding the college makes it difficult to get an additional course load.

For example, he said that while there are workshops offered at the college on a semester basis for adjuncts, they are on a “tier level.” An adjunct must complete all three levels before they are compensated and there are three workshops on each level. Another reason adjuncts are only offered nine or less credits is because of the new federal health care law signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“This law states that if an employee works 30 hours or more each week the employer has to offer health insurance,” the adjunct professor said, adding that UCC makes sure the amount of credits an adjunct takes on stays below the federal healthcare regulations.

“So the new healthcare law and the employer being careful not to exceed hours results in the part timers losing again,” he said, noting the system of structure “has become an upside down triangle.”

“There is top heavy decision making while the bottom is filled with qualified professors with the least pay and say in the matter,” said another adjunct professor who asked to weigh in on the matter. Like the others, adjuncts working at UCC were wary of using their names because they feared retribution by the administration. This professor said students interact with professors they see on a daily basis, have conversations about class topics, including career decisions, job advice or even life outside the classroom.

“These students look up to the faculty as role models. We as faculty should be there to mentor these students,” he added, pointing out that students do not always know if a professor is full-time tenured or a part-time adjunct at the college.
“This should not be a student’s concern. A student’s focus should be the material they will learn in the classroom and if the professor is qualified to be there,” he said.

“I have been a part of the UCC community for over 20 years and taught there for seven years. I see this from a student’s point of view and as an adjunct hired for 15 weeks at a time. I bring an abundance of information to students far beyond any text and also from my enthusiasm and my students enjoy being in my classes,” said this adjunct, mentioning that a lot of preparation and planning goes into preparing courses so they are interesting and fun at the same time. William Lipkin, an adjunct professor at the college for many years and co-president of the of the local AFT, which has 375 members, said the pay scale for UCC adjunct faculty ranges from $624 to $821 per credit, with no benefits. These part-time professors are also limited in the number of credits they can teach, he said.

“Many of us stay at school beyond our required teaching hours in order to serve our students. We do this because we are dedicated and committed to student success, but we would like to be recognized for our work,” Lipkin said.

Lipkin also pointed out that some members of the adjunct faculty have “been targeted” for speaking out in public and the administration “is attempting to instill fear in the minds of everyone at the college by their actions.”

“The morale at the college is the lowest I have ever seen in 27 years,” said the co-president of the adjunct faculty union.
Other adjuncts at UCC expressed concern about the way data was manipulated in order to get up to a 10 percent graduation rate last year.

“Strange things were done to get to that graduation rate,” said another adjunct who contacted LocalSource.
For example, this adjunct claimed students with more than enough credits to graduate but did not were contacted over the summer of 2014 and were offered a diploma.

“Some had to take a course or two to qualify, but I believe over 100 students took the bait and came back to graduate,” the adjunct explained, noting also that some students were granted waivers for required courses, especially developmental courses, in order to graduate.

Other students, another adjunct said, were called by counselors and told they could graduate earlier if they switched to a liberal arts major.

“Some students who did this have found that when they transfer they do not have the proper credits in their major and have to catch up with these required courses at a four-year school, which costs more money,” the adjunct said.

Also of concern is that the UCC administration raised the minimum number of students in class from 10 to 12, while others have been canceled even though there were as many as 9 students.

“One student was found in the hall crying because all three of her courses were canceled at the last minute and she could not get into any other classes. She was upset because this put off her graduation,” said the adjunct who has taught more than 20 years at UCC.

This adjunct said before Margaret McMenamin was appointed president classes ran with low enrollment, especially if taught by adjunct faculty.

“In fact, some sections were run on a ‘per student’ basis where the professor would be paid per student if it was a low enrollment section,” the adjunct said, adding that this year one adjunct had an online course canceled that had 11 students and the limit was 21.

“The college is losing money by these actions, but I understand the administration wants lower enrollment so they can get a higher graduation percentage.

Ten full-time tenured faculty members left the college in May, including one who was recently named a “dean.”
In an earlier article, LocalSource reported that UCC has been undergoing a reorganization since McMenamin came on board, including a recent move that eliminated seven or eight departments previously chaired and coordinated by tenured professors, in lieu of five divisions that will be overseen by Deans hired from the outside.

“None of these professors will be replaced and the courses will be taught by new adjunct faculty coming in,” said the adjunct professor, pointing out that the estimated savings in salaries and benefits for these professors is $1.2 million.

“That is a huge savings plus the 7-percent tuition increase approved for the fall semester, but the college has to find ways to pay for the new deans and assistant deans, plus their benefits and this is part of it,” he said.

“They are also terminating middle management employees and staff at a rapid rate. You never know when you walk on campus who you will find has been fired,” another adjunct told LocalSource.

Although calls to McMenamin have not been returned, two members of the administration agreed to talk to LocalSouce but did not want to be identified.

“The adjunct and tenured faculty is not happy with the changes that are going on and that is evident. However, the changes going on are for the benefit of the college and students. Change was needed and Dr. McMenamin has taken the steps needed to bring this college into the 21st century and beyond,” said one source.

Another member of the administration felt that the adjunct faculty was “afraid of change.”
“They have been use to how things were run and change is never easy. The changes the college is undergoing are important to ensure that we provide the best education, guidance and support staff. It is a structure that has been well thought out and is used at many universities and colleges,” another source said.
Lipkin had another take on all the changes going on at UCC.
“Even though adjunct faculty make up over 70 percent of the faculty and teach 50 percent of the course sections, we are not included in college governance,” he said noting that until the summer semester adjuncts were allowed to serve on several committees and have their voices heard, but this changed with the restructuring effort. Initially, Lipkin said, under the new structuring, adjuncts were told they would no longer be allowed to serve on committees.

“I mentioned this at a board of trustees meeting during one of my presentations and was later reprimanded by the Vice President of Academic Affairs and told I lied to the board,” Lipkin said, adding that this member of the administration told him that decision would be left up to the newly formed Governance Council to decide.

“I later spoke to a member of the this council and was told that they could not make decisions on anything, only recommendations to the administration,” Lipkin said, adding that he was told that two weeks before the council had recommended that adjuncts serve on committees.

“I have not heard back from administration regarding this,” he added, but added that “the administration has no regard or respect for adjunct faculty who make up the bulk of the instructional force.”

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