Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Campus Equity Week Issue #2: Towards Equity in Ranks, Titles, and Lengths of Contracts for Contingent Faculty

Establishing a university-wide floor for starting compensation for contingent faculty who are paid by the course or credit hour is a necessary first step toward achieving campus equity, but it is not sufficient in and of itself.  Recall the major extant definitions of equity:
  • NCTE: Compensation, per course, for part-time faculty should never be lower than the per-course compensation for tenure-line faculty with comparable experience, duties, and credentials.
  • AHA/OAH: Fair salaries, proportional to tenured and tenure-track faculty compensation for comparable teaching, advising and service work.
  • AAUP: Positions that require comparable work, responsibilities, and qualifications should be comparably compensated.
  • AFT: Part-time/adjunct faculty should be paid a salary proportionate to that paid full-time tenured faculty of the same qualifications for doing the same work.
Equity, in all these examples, requires those with similar credentials/qualifications, experience, and responsibilities/duties/work to be compensated similarly.  This is where the diversity among contingent faculty matters a great deal.  Some are newly-minted Ph.D.s, while others never intend to seek a terminal degree but have decades of experience in college and university classrooms.  Some are brought in temporarily to replace a faculty member on leave, some are brought in to teach specific courses for which they have specific expertise or experience, while others are essentially permanent hires regularly and repeatedly contributing to programs that (purportedly, at least) couldn't afford to stay afloat without them.  Some would love to compete for a tenure-track position were it to open up in their institution, while others wouldn't want to run the risk of losing the work they do have or add research and/or service obligations to their existing work load.  (See the recent reports by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce and the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education for more details and specifics.)

Given that diversity, a more substantive step forward than a university-wide floor would be to establish a system of ranks/titles for contingent faculty that allows for promotion/advancement, comes with compensation floors and/or bumps, and leads to lengthier contracts and/or adjustments of teaching load in light of changing professional obligations.  Such a system should allow contingent faculty sufficient choice to pursue the kind of rank/title that makes sense for them at each contract renewal, with criteria for the various ranks/titles clearly laid out and consistently and fairly applied.  While the Policies of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York seem to preclude following through on AAUP's call for conversion to tenure without first modifying the Policies, there is room to develop a more rational, consistent, transparent, and equitable system of contingent (or "qualified," in SUNY-speak) ranks/titles on individual SUNY campuses.

That's exactly what the leaders of the Fredonia Chapter of United University Professions have called for at SUNY Fredonia.  Building on the successful negotiation of the Handbook on Appointment, Reappointment, and Promotion (HARP), which specifies that "This Handbook...shall remain in full force and effect unless modified by written, mutual agreement of UUP and SUNY Fredonia administration" (IB, p. 8), Provost Brown and Chapter President Arnavut have agreed to form a joint task force consisting of eight members, which will be charged with reviewing UUP’s proposals in light of best practices in the SUNY system (such as at Stony Brook, Cortland, and Farmingdale) and nation-wide, with the aim of proposing specific revisions to HARP IV (pp. 32-35) by a date (to be determined) in 2014. The Fredonia Chapter Executive Board envisions that the joint task force will be formed and charged by Provost Brown and Chapter President Arnavut when the schedule of HARP review, revision, and approval demands it or when negotiations on establishing a university-wide floor have ripened, whichever is sooner.

Stay tuned for updates on these matters!

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