My article “Can adjunct unions find a place in Catholic higher ed?” appears in National Catholic Reporter. Here’s a selection:
When Ben Stork applies for full-time teaching jobs, the adjunct film studies professor knows his résumé lands in voluminous piles. “When I’m granted a rejection letter, it almost always comes with the first line, ‘We received between 300 and 500 applications for this position,’ ” he said. “That gives you a sense of the sort of competition for tenure-line jobs.”
As an adjunct, Stork faces a Sisyphean workload. Contracts, which are short-term, can arrive mere days before classes start. Adjuncts aren’t paid for preparation time when courses that miss enrollment benchmarks are canceled. And Stork has retooled syllabuses and teaching plans after a recent contract changed the titles of two assigned classes.
“You can imagine folks not knowing what they’re teaching quarter to quarter,” he said. “If they’re teaching.”
These challenges are becoming increasingly common. In 1969, full-time, tenure-track professorships made up nearly 80 percent of teaching roles at nonprofit schools, noted the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Today, more than 73 percent of faculty is contingent (non-tenure), according to the American Association of University Professors. And, the professors association adds, more than half of faculty appointments today are contingent.
…Stork teaches in the English department at Seattle University, a Jesuit school with more than 7,400 students and an annual operating budget of $190 million. The university is currently fighting part-time faculty’s efforts to organize and unionize.
Tension on campus is “fairly palpable. It’s weighing on everyone,” Stork said. “It’s really pushing against the narrative of Seattle University as a Jesuit institution devoted to social justice.”