Hamline adjunct professors become first to unionize

Categories: Education
HamlineOldMain.jpg
Hamline's Old Main.
Jennifer Beckham has worked as an adjunct English professor at Hamline University in St. Paul for nine years. During that time, she hasn't received a raise or even a cost-of-living adjustment to her pay, and she has little hope of ever being promoted.

So you can understand why Beckman joined with 44 other adjuncts last week in voting to unionize, creating what the Service Employees International Union says is the first adjunct-only union in Minnesota.

See also:
Hamline's decision to stay neutral on marriage amendment sparks protest


"This is important because Hamline isn't unique," Beckham tells us. "I wouldn't say by any means Hamline University is the bad guy, but there's been a really unhealthy trend in higher education that's been building for the past couple decades of growing dependence on part-time laborers who just get a contract from semester to semester and receive no job security."

Adjuncts who work full-time typically make somewhere between $18,000 and $30,000 annually. But the way things played out at the five other private college in the country where adjuncts have unionized suggests instructors like Beckham can expect to make about 25 percent more than they did previously, according to information in a Star Tribune report.

"If you were to figure out the hourly [pay] it wouldn't come close to what a public school teacher makes," Beckham says. "We've invested a great deal in becoming qualified to do this academic work in higher education institutions, but there's real cost-of-living issues."

Hamline actually has more adjuncts than full-time staff -- 194 compared to 184, according to the Strib -- but only those who taught last semester could participate in the union vote. Out of 62 who cast ballots, 45 voted in favor of unionization.

St. Thomas adjuncts will soon have the opportunity to create Minnesota's second adjunct-only union, as a unionization vote is scheduled there for next month.

"St. Thomas is on the same path, and adjuncts at more area schools are interested in doing this," Beckham says.

In an SEIU-distributed statement, David Weiss, an adjunct who teachers religion classes at Hamline, characterized the vote as marking "a great day for faculty, students, and the whole Hamline community."

"By coming together to address the low pay and lack of benefits and stability for adjunct faculty, we are taking steps to strengthen all of higher education for students and faculty alike," Weiss says. "I'm confident that our success today will help empower other workers, including adjunct faculty like ourselves at schools like St. Thomas, to change working and learning conditions in higher education."

But as you'd expect, Hamline administrators aren't as thrilled by the news.

"We believe this may create inequities and barriers among our larger community of adjunct professors and could impede our efforts to build collaborative processes and stronger relationships," university officials wrote in a statement.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
32 comments
nlange01
nlange01

As a past Hamline student I support this 100%. I had the most amazing ceramics professor my freshman year who left solely because she was a lesbian woman who know she would never get tenured at Hamline. They are using people but not taking the time or money to care about them.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

I have a lot of friends and relatives in academic lift.  Adjunct professorships are one of the dirtier secrets of higher education.  Good for the SEIU and these profs for starting to do something about it.

As with most of what's wrong with America today, corporate management and the dominance of Finance has taken over higher education.  And the corporate finance system has brought higher education the same crap it's brought to health care, public finance, infrastructure investment, retirement finance, and so much else.  What you get is an elite class of executives who make fabulous salaries, and require deluxe accommodations, perks, and squadrons of support personnel.

The money to support these modern-day aristocrats has to come from somewhere. They claim they need the lavish pay to give them "incentive."  Oddly, they claim that students need to pay skyrocketing costs out of pocket to give them "incentive and accountability," and faculty and staff need to work harder for less money to give them "incentive and accountability" too.  Note who doesn't seem to need "accountability."

One trick to free up more money for the Executive Class is to have Adjunct faculty.  Long ago, there were professors who only wanted to teach one or two classes in circumstances where it worked for everyone.  Today, though, it's the rule rather than the exception.  Administrators go to faculty and say they have X number of dollars for the department.  To teach all the classes, they need Y number of faculty.  The math doesn't work unless everybody loses a middle-class lifestyle.  But there is a glut of recent graduates who can't find work.  So experienced faculty, to keep a decent income, look the other way while beginning professionals get slotted into dead-end tracks. There are more adjuncts than permanent staff.  Some adjuncts are getting $2,500 to teach a 4-credit course for a semester.  They get hired last, fired first, are not on a track to tenure or even necessarily permanent employment.  There's less bending over than if they were picking strawberries, but not much.

So it's the same neo-feudal bullshit in higher education as everything else.  The lords and ladies get rich because they deserve it.  Their hangers-on do OK.  The people who actually do all the work get shafted. And the people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries come out worst of all.  It will collapse, but only after the hogs wallowing in the trough have ruined it for everyone.  They won't give up their gorging as long as they can still get away with it.

czoo
czoo

It's a private University @Reid LeRud, so yes they do turn a profit.  I love my pipers keep it up.  So happy to be a progressive piper.

Reid LeRud
Reid LeRud

why should something that dose not turn a profit be in a union

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

so their collective bargaining power increases to .02%

John Quast
John Quast

My overpriced Alma Mater vs the adjunct faculty they have replaced tenured professors with in increasing numbers since I graduated. Can't wait to watch this fight.

Kirk Burback
Kirk Burback

Sweet, another hierarchy that will put professor’s needs first and student’s needs second.

Truth_Teller_1
Truth_Teller_1 topcommenter

College education has become a joke. Look up Hamline tuition:  $33,000 for tuition and $8,300 for a dorm room.   $132,000 for a BA degree from a dumpy school. 

Not only do the kids get screwed, but it appears some of the staff also gets screwed.  The president of Hamline gets $480,000 in compensation a year.

The US is becoming a banana republic!

_Joe_
_Joe_

 "We believe this may create inequities and barriers among our larger community of adjunct professors and could impede our efforts to build collaborative processes and stronger relationships," university officials wrote in a statement."

Translation:

"Fuck, this is going to make it a lot harder to screw these people over...."

muneraven
muneraven

If it does, don't blame the adjuncts, look higher up the food chain at all the administrators who do so much USELESS work and get paid big salaries and professors who do research and barely teach at all.

ericksonbrad9
ericksonbrad9

@swmnguy You've nailed it. It's critical to see the exploitation of adjuncts as part of the larger context of practices in the current "Age of Savage Inequality" as Robert Reich puts it.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@_Joe_ Well, we've already seen time and time again that teachers unions in public schools are a huge impediment to learning and ridiculously expensive and inefficient. So what you are effectively saying is you don't believe in science or are trying to re-invent what the definition of science is. Sweet, dude.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@ericksonbrad9  Thanks.  My dad was a Poly Sci prof who got in before Finance and the corporate model took over everything. He was a stereotypical "head in the clouds" academic and didn't realize what was going on until it was too late.  He worked the last 20 years of his career on one-year contracts.  He got fired twice, despite having tenure.  They didn't fire him, see.  They "Retrenched" his position.  They just eliminated the job. That didn't count as being fired, I guess.  They promised to hire him if anything equivalent came available, which of course it didn't.  Claims of financial exigency trump all.  This was in what's now MnSCU in the late '70s.

I have 2 sisters who teach individual classes at different universities as adjuncts.  They teach about 4 full-credit courses at a time, at 2 or 3 different universities, and bring in a total income under $30,000.  One has a Masters; one is a fresh PhD.  My oldest childhood friend was in that limbo with a PhD until a couple of years ago when he got a full-time position at a state school in Alaska (!?!) where he just got tenure.  I'm going to consider a permanent tenured position in Ketchikan as a good thing, because I'm a lovely friend.

Me?  I dropped out of high school and started college during summer school, when nobody was paying attention.  Then Perpich enacted Post-Secondary Options, so I pretended I was part of that.  Then I dropped out of college.  I grew up too close to the meat-grinder aspects of it and it soured me, I guess.  I turn out to have the least formal education of anybody in my large family going back 3 generations. But other than the attorney, I make the most money and have the most job satisfaction and security.  Several of my close relatives will still not acknowledge how Academe has been gutted in one respect, and turned into a revenue-extraction facility.

What really opened the door for this was the GI Bill, in some ways.  We had a huge wave of people looking to go to college.  So there was a huge building boom.  Once the GIs graduated and had families, we had the Baby Boomers going to college.  Fat times in Academe.

But once the Baby Boomers graduated, half the colleges in the US should have shut their doors.  So they came up with the idea to save everything; they partnered with Big Business to provide all the pesky on-the-job training Big Business didn't feel like paying for or spending time and energy providing to their employees.  Colleges would provide all trained-up employees to Big Business, and the beauty of it was that the students/prospective employees would pay for it themselves.  The Federal Government put the cherry on top by guaranteeing the financing.  So it's a no-risk money machine for lenders.  That fueled an epic vicious cycle, in which colleges raised tuition and fees, lenders made still more money, and then the predatory interests caught a whiff of a huge pile of guaranteed money just sitting there waiting to be claimed.

Eventually though, there's a saturation point for everything, including debt.  It's crushing our entire economic system.  In any closed capitalist system, it seems once the limits are hit, it starts to eat itself.  In the larger economy, we see that in stagnant wages, "stealth inflation" like smaller containers of ice cream at the same price, etc.  In Academe, we see it in adjunct faculty, freshman classes that lose half their cohort before they become sophomores (but not before all those checks clear), etc.  In the employment world we see it in job postings for receptionists that require a 4-year degree.

It'll collapse eventually.  But not before every last penny is extracted.

tim.brackett
tim.brackett

@mingtran teacher's unions add to the quality of education. Greedy taxpayers who don't want to pay teachers what they are worth because they would rather get a big refund every April are the huge impediment to learning. 

_Joe_
_Joe_

@mingtran 

...he said without offering a lick of evidence to support his argument.

 You can't just say "science," like that proves anything.  That's just bad science.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@tim.brackett 

THAT is the crux of my point.  Have there been abuses of union protection?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  BUT - pay a livable wage that actually reflects the expectations and trust we put on teachers, and you'll quickly see the quality of teaching staff improve drastically.  Everybody wins.  Kids get better teachers, Teachers can afford a middle class lifestyle, and more money goes into local economies.  Where is the downside?  Teachers wouldn't need a union if tightwad taxpayers weren't trying to dick them over at every turn.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter
mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@_Joe_ @tim.brackett You've been supporting this for years, yet WHERE ARE THE RESULTS?! Show me the results. Please.Teachers aren't making any more money, students are getting dumber and costs are sky-rocketing, but you want to add to the boondoggle by letting first year professors have even more input and entitlements. When does it end? Slippery slope at it's finest. You only know how to feel, not how to think. 

_Joe_
_Joe_

@mingtran 

Whooooaaa... slow down there Google cowboy...  Those are anecdotal incidents that vaguely support your position.

Where's your data?

muneraven
muneraven

@mingtran @_Joe_ @tim.brackett 

Maybe the problem isn't just teachers or unions or testing or funding or any of that. 

Anytime I see someone online declare that the problem is a simple and THAT right there is the villain . . .I know that person isn't really interested in chewing on the problem.  They just want to fight and get their ya-yas out online.


Every social problem is a complex tangle of various groups putting their own interests first in a short-sighted way rather than putting the communities best interests first via a more long-term view.



mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@_Joe_ Here's some data, doubt you'll read it though as you don't know how to actually research, only listen to Rachel Maddow shit: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28

So I ask you: what have teacher's unions done for teachers, and how HAVEN"T they fucked students? Any kind of response would be great.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@_Joe_ teacher's unions literally and figuratively fuck our nation's youth. Show me data that supports your theory that teachers fucking children is good for them.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@mingtran 

Once again, of the two of us, you're the only one making claims of any kind.  (Granted you're doing it for both of us, which is a very @MichelleBachmann kind of thing to do.)

You're asking me to defend a position that you foisted upon me.  I honestly wonder sometimes...  You can't be more than mid-twenties.  If I had to guess, I'd bet mid to late teens.


PS:  Couldn't help but notice you still haven't provided any real data.  What, Google gotcha down?

tim.brackett
tim.brackett

@mingtran Or, greedy people like you who don't respect teachers are what fuck our nation's youth. 

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@_Joe_ You foisted it upon yourself as soon as your actions said, "education is about the TEACHERS, not the STUDENTS." Not very socially liberal of you, Mr. Progressive. You're too old to be so ignorant.

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...