Bentley University adjuncts look to unionize

Written by lin_vict on . Posted in News

Vote begins today; University takes formal stance against union action


The work of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has made its way to Bentley campus, as adjunct professors begin to vote on creating a union for Bentley University Adjuncts. Such action would create a legal obligation for Bentley to negotiate with an adjunct committee on key issues. The initiative has been met with success in Washington DC, bringing adjunct unions to George Washington, American, Georgetown and Montgomery Universities.

SEIU has been particularly salient in national news, as it currently represents the McDonald’s employees across the country, protesting for a raise in wages.

“We are dedicated,” said adjunct Professor Joan Atlas, current representative of adjuncts on the faculty senate. “We’re not just in for a semester and gone. This is my 12th year at Bentley… I’m very experienced. I know how to teach Bentley students and I work extremely hard.”

Professor Atlas currently teaches Expository Writing 101 and 201, key entry level requirement courses for all Bentley students.

Currently, adjunct professors make up approximately 40 percent of the faculty. They receive $5,000 per semester course and are limited to teaching two courses per semester. Many adjunct professors teach at multiple schools in any given semester.

“It is very exciting to be a pioneer in the effort to organize adjuncts in the Boston area,” said Doug Kierdorf, an adjunct professor in the History Department. “The problem for me and a lot of adjuncts is you never know if you’re going to have work. I think if most students knew the terms of our employment, they would be appalled.”

“While all of us are doing this because we love teaching and interacting with our students, there is widespread dissatisfaction with our treatment,” said adjunct professor Elaine Saunders. “Better pay, benefits and job security for adjuncts will directly transfer to a rising quality of education for our student body. Also, we have had support from full-time faculty who care about the disparity because they know we are equally dedicated to our students.”

Supporters of an adjunct faculty union cite issues including low pay, lack of job security and minimal health care benefits. Bentley does offer participation in its health care plan for adjunct professors; however, they offer no payments. Full-time faculty members receive assistance of 80 percent in health care costs under the same plan. The Organizing Committee surveyed current adjunct faculty, organizing priorities in categories of economic and non-economic issues.

The University has taken a formal stance against the union. However, the administration is subject to abiding by the results of the pending vote, which will be closed and counted after October 3.

“Currently Bentley is one of the few universities where adjuncts have representation on the Faculty Senate,” said a statement from the University. “This reflects the University’s view that our adjuncts are an integral part of the Bentley faculty. If this petition proceeds to an election, Bentley adjuncts will have the opportunity, after a full and fair discussion of the issues, to determine whether they want to be in a union.”

“I’m sure that the administration will negotiate in good faith,” said Professor Atlas. “And I believe that the university does value adjuncts.”

Adjuncts first became popular in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s when there was a shortage of Ph.D’s. Hiring temporary professors seemed an adequate solution to the trending problem. However, the use of adjuncts, despite an increase in education, has persisted.

“I love working at Bentley and I love teaching,” said Professor Atlas. “I love the students and I love being part of the environment at Bentley. I consider all of that a privilege, but I do feel that adjuncts should be compensated better and that we should receive benefits.”

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