Kean, UCC adjuncts feel disrespected

Part-time teachers have similar work load as tenured staff, make far less money

By:  - Staff Writer 

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The role of adjunct professors in higher education is continually expanding, but these non-tenured employees at both Kean University and Union County College claim while their numbers continue to grow, they are not respected or valued by administration.

The percentage of adjunct professors versus full-time faculty at universities and colleges in New Jersey and throughout the nation has increased from 22 percent in 1970 to 43 percent in 1999. Although there were no recent updates available, locally educators expect recent percentages to be even higher, but that does little to quell the rising tide of resentment felt by Kean and Union County College adjuncts.

Like most full-time tenured professors, whose positions are guaranteed, adjunct professors usually have a Ph.D. but they are hired by universities and colleges on a contractual, part-time basis opposed to the traditional role of full-time tenured professors.

Typically, the only difference between adjuncts and tenured faculty members is that part-time educators spend all their time teaching while tenured professors have other duties, including conducting research, publishing papers, attending staff meetings and events.

Adjuncts also share offices with tenured professors, if they have offices at all, and are paid by the course so their income is considerably lower than a tenured professor.

The role of adjunct professors is important because colleges and universities always need instructors and taking a position that is contractual allows qualified educators the opportunity to try out the role of professor.

While the role of an adjunct professor may be a perfect fit for some because it may be the only path to teaching at an institution of higher education, more often than not these part-time faculty members are not treated the same as tenured members of the staff by administration. Finding a way to bridge this gap, though, has been an uphill battle.

At Kean University the relationship between administration and adjunct professors can only be described as strained at best.
Kate Henderson, president of the Kean Adjunct Professors Union, and also a professor at the University for more than 20 years, has fought for improved relations and respect for her fellow professors.

Henderson is outspoken and does not hold back when it comes to letting the board of trustees know how Kean has treated adjunct professors.

Recently she stepped to the podium to tell the Kean Board of Trustees their reputation is continuing down a very slippery slope.

“It is my pleasure to announce to the board that Kean now holds yet another first among all its global accolades – the first in the state of New Jersey in having the highest number of adjunct faculty employment turnovers in any statewide institution,” she said, adding the Union based university has turned over 2,970 adjuncts since the AFT national and local union began to track employment turnovers in the fall of 2001.

“That averages to about 112 adjunct employee turnovers each academic year,” said Henderson, who readily admits Kean has outstanding full-time tenured and adjunct faculty. A rare few, she said, have even been recognized by University President Dawood Farahi, holding the title of “Distinguished Teaching Professor.”

But even those that are honored with such titles, she said, feel this is not enough, especially at Kean.
“Titles do not guarantee that even the best employees, including those with excellent evaluations, will be hired again,” Henderson said, adding “one can wonder why this is so.”

“It couldn’t be because adjunct faculty are not academically qualified, teaching competent, classroom ready, dedicated, student driven and technologically up to date,” the AFT union president said, noting she believed that was why the university keeps hiring adjuncts semester after semester for the last 38 years.

Still, animosity and lack of respect by the administration continues to smolder at Kean, Henderson said, with these dedicated employees not getting the benefit of the best administrative practices.

At issue is that Kean is forcing many good and extremely qualified faculty members out and she fears the only ones that will really suffer in the end are students and the state university’s declining reputation.

With more than 1,000 adjuncts on the payroll at Kean, and less than 400 tenured professors, the state university fits into the growing trend of using adjuncts in lieu of tenured staff. Nevertheless, in the end, public universities and colleges rely on a large pool of part-time people who earn considerably less money and do not receive the health and other benefits tenured staff do.

To be clear, not every adjunct professor desires tenure. The role of a the adjunct professor was, and still often is, sought by people who want the teaching experience without taking on all the responsibility of a full-time career in education.

About half of all course credits at community colleges are taught by part-time or adjunct faculty who make up approximately 80 percent of the faculty, according to information compiled by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The ratio is less at most four-year colleges but it is increasing. And students pay the same tuition regardless of who teaches the course.

The move to hire more adjuncts saves money for state universities like Kean and also for two-year institutions, including Union County College.

Statewide, in the fall of 2011 semester there were 8,077 full-time and 7,894 part-time faculty at New Jersey public four-year colleges. That number did not include Thomas Edison State College, which has no faculty of its own but contracts with professors from other colleges.

Startling is that since 2001, although enrollment increased 15 percent at state colleges and universities, the number of full-time faculty increased by 1,021 professors, or 11 percent, while the number of part-time faculty increased by 3,334, or 73 percent. Nationwide that came to only 24 percent of faculty attaining tenure, a decrease of about 45 percent since the 1970s.

According to The Press of Atlantic City, at the 19 state community colleges there were 2,281 full-time faculty and 7,805 part-time faculty in 2011, an increase over a decade of 10 percent for full-time faculty and 58 percent for adjuncts. Enrollment during that same period increased 26 percent, though it dropped in 2012 and 2013.

Thanks to better representation by the state union during the last 15 years, adjuncts have been paid better, receiving $1,225 per credit, or $3,675 for a three-credit course and $4,900 for a four-credit course. But adjuncts are limited to teaching a certain number of courses and this has held true at Kean and Union County College.

In some cases adjuncts are only allowed to teach two courses each semester or three courses a year, which means the amount of money an adjunct professor can make is approximately $15,000. By comparison a newly tenured professor earns in the low $50,000 range annually.

Community college rates for adjunct faculty members are negotiated by each college, but part-time members of the faculty at Union County College maintain the workload is the same as tenured professors, but the pay is lower.

Until recently when their contract was settled, the 380 adjunct professors at Union County College spent close to two years negotiating, but in the end they were not happy.

William Lipkin, an adjunct professor at the college for many years and co-president of the local AFT faculty union, explained that the 375 adjunct faculty members at the college teach 50 percent of the courses. And even though their contract finally was settled, adjunct faculty readily admitted they continue to have the same complaints as their fellow adjuncts at Kean.
“Over the past few years the administration of Union County College has become quite disrespectful of the adjunct faculty, even refusing to refer to us as professors,” Lipkin said, pointing out that even though adjunct faculty makes up 70 percent of the faculty, they still have absolutely no say in college governance. And while the contract was settled, the entire process left a bitter aftertaste.

“After two years of negotiations and mediation the adjunct faculty finally settled our contract with very little gain other than a minimal pay increase,” he said, adding “we actually had our teaching load reduced by 25 percent, with no justification, which will create an economic hardship for many of the adjunct faculty.”

Lipkin said adjunct faculty are in the classroom every day teaching students at Union County College and are only paid a quarter of what the 163 full-time tenured professors receive. Adjuncts also do not receive health benefits or other perks, but are expected to respond as tenured professors do.

“We get minimal support from the college and are expected to interact with our students after class without being compensated for the time,” said the adjunct AFT co-president.

“Many of us do this because we have a passion for teaching and know we have something to offer our students, but we also have families to support and bills to pay,” Lipkin added, noting they “simply want the respect and equity that we deserve.”
Lipkin also mentioned that morale was at an all time low during the long negotiation process but the administration continued to arbitrarily reduce the number of classes they were eligible to teach.

Dave McClure, co-president of the local AFT, was just as bitter, if not more so than Lipkin.
“The administration at UCC is made up of vindictive, arrogant control freaks,” he said, adding that this attitude forced nine tenured professors to retire at the end of the spring semester, but none are being replaced.

Also adding to the tension is that UCC is changing how things are structured. For tenured professors and adjuncts, this reorganization has not fared well.

According to one Union County College faculty insider who preferred his name not be used, everything has changed since President Margaret McMenamin was appointed four years ago. He said the college president is at the center of the reorganization that will dissolve all departments now headed by tenured professors.

The reorganization eliminates 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.

“This is a done deal,” said another tenured faculty member, who said it is expected everything will be in place as early as July.
“Why do we need deans?” asked another tenured professor, admitting he was perplexed by the college president’s move.

“Has she completely forgotten that Union County College is a two-year community college and not Harvard?” he added, noting the reorganization smacks of “a huge ego and power play.

McMenamin makes $226,000 annually as the president of Union County College.
LocalSource reached out to Kean University and Union County College for their comments on this issue but at press time had not heard back.

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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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