Fordham Adjuncts Host Labor Justice Event

David Andrews, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor from Loyola University Chicago, spoke to Fordham about the power in organizing. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

David Andrews, Ph.D., from Loyola University Chicago, spoke to the audience about the power of adjuncts organizing. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

By Mike Byrne

Adjunct faculty members at Fordham are organizing for better treatment from administration. On Thursday, April 14, Fordham Faculty United (FFU), a group formed this year by various adjunct faculty members, held its first event, “Labor Justice at Jesuit Institutions.”

Michelle Rufrano, an adjunct professor in the sociology and anthropology department and founding member of FFU, opened the event by describing the mission of the group. “It is an organization that has come together in order to challenge and change the unacceptable poor working conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty at Fordham University,” Rufrano said.

This meeting coincides with the timing of last year’s activism by the adjunct faculty. In April 2015, Fordham faculty congregated under the advocacy campaign “Fordham Faculty Forward.” They rallied outside of the McGinley Center to raise support of adjunct pay and some participated in a hunger strike to raise awareness for their cause.

Nearly half of the faculty at Fordham is contingent, according to Kathryn Krasinski, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor of anthropology at Fordham. Data obtained by The Fordham Ram in 2015 stated that approximately 650 adjunct professors work at Fordham.

“It totally undermines the mission statement and the key defining features of the university,” Krasinksi said. “The university says that it’s student-centered and we’re supposed to work closely with students, but it’s impossible.”

The FFU event featured a talk from David Andrews, Ph.D., an adjunct instructor of English and film at Loyola University Chicago, who has experience with organizing with contingent faculty. He described how administrations view adjunct faculty members to the audience of students and faculty. “We adjuncts are not individual teacher-scholars. We are interchangeable cogs in a vast academic machine,” Andrews said.

After a long fight with the administration, the National Labor Relations Board granted Loyola’s adjunct faculty the right to unionize, with which the administration had to comply.

Andrews concluded with advice for Fordham adjunct instructors. “In this labor context, you have no choice but to organize,” Andrews said. “Remember, your university is not the administration. The university is all of you. So, it’s your right to stand shoulder to shoulder with your colleagues whenever the administration tries to bully you through hypocritical arguments into accepting an identity as some faceless, voiceless worker drones.”

Adjuncts are allowed to teach a limit of two courses per semester at Fordham and receive no benefits. They are paid approximately $4 thousand a course, or $16 thousand for the academic year, just a few thousand dollars above the NYC poverty line for a single person if taking the maximum workload possible. Krasinski said most of her adjunct colleagues are working multiple jobs, some teaching up to six courses, which is double the full-time load for a tenured faculty member.
Krasinski has been working at Fordham for six years. She also teaches at Adelphi University and has a job in a government office. She argued that adjunct faculty members deserve better treatment as they are equally as busy as tenured ones.

“The contingent system has so many detrimental effects to the students. We often have sub-par office spaces to have private conversations,
Krasinski said in her speech. We don’t have the time to develop really good research programs and we don’t have lab facilities to incorporate you into our projects. It is not a student-centered learning place when half of us are teaching under these conditions…with a tuition ticket of about $50,000—is that really what you’re paying for?,” she said.

Tom Beaudoin, a tenured associate professor in the Graduate School of Religion, said that adjunct faculty members are often subjected to exploitation. He also spoke about the relationship between adjunct and tenured faculty.

“Many tenure-track faculty members don’t understand in depth the situation of adjunct professors because structurally there’s significant separation,” Beaudoin said. He also said that administrations will often pit tenured and adjunct faculty against each other and it can often seem like there is a competition for resources.

According to the American Association of University Professors, in 1975, 30 percent of faculty was part-time, but now non-tenure track jobs make up 70 percent in universities nationally.

FFU has created a petition with three specific demands from the administration. The organization would like the university to live up to the recent pronouncement at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, follow Georgetown University’s lead in adopting the Jesuit Just Employment Policy and hold a meeting between the president, the provost and a group of contingent faculty.

Bob Howe, senior director for communications at Fordham, commented that pay can increase to $5 thousand a semester depending on credentials. Adjunct Instructor of anthropology Alan Trevithick, a 12 year veteran with a doctorate, countered that he still makes $4,000 a course.

According to a 2015 fact sheet on adjunct professors provided to The Fordham Ram states that Fordham pays adjuncts for nine hours of weekly work: three for teaching, four for preparation and grading, and two for office hours. Trevithick and Krasinski both thought this did not accurately reflect the amount of time they spend each week working for the university. Trevithick said the formula the administration uses to calculate adjuncts’ hours has a tenuous relationship with what instructors actually do.

“Many of Fordham’s adjuncts are professionals in the New York area who teach on the side; others may have courses that they teach at other schools,” Howe said.
Trevithick is married to someone with a full income, but did not know what he would do without her financial support. He said many adjuncts are trying to support a household, but cannot with such a low income. Some simply cannot afford to retire.

Some students are standing in solidarity with adjunct faculty members. Lili Huang, FCRH ‘19, and a member of the club Fordham Students United, commented on the conditions of adjunct instructors. “I think Fordham has an obligation to improve the way it treats our adjunct professors. The university cannot give professors only $16 thousand a year and expect them to perform to their highest potential when they are forced to get another job or two just to make ends meet,” Huang said.
-Laura Sanicola contributed reporting


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