By Paola Sierra
On November 12, 2014, The Bentley speech and debate team hosted the Adjunct Professor Panel in La Cava. After my professor, Jack Dempsey, reminded our class of the event, a few classmates and I decided to attend and witness the concerns professors at Bentley had. Walking into what seemed like a duel with chairs in a circle and others behind them, my classmates and I exchanged intense, yet puzzled expressions when we spotted one of the University Policemen standing by a podium. We left his intimidating presence to our imagination and quietly sat in front of him. The Bentley Speech and Debate representatives introduced themselves and noted that although this was an Adjunct Professor Union panel; this was not a pro union event. It was then explained that Bentley has increased their number of Adjunct Professors and in turn, received much feedback of their disapproval from students and professors. I was shocked to recognize that not one Bentley Administrator was present.
Each professor was given two minutes to speak and was that respected? Well, there was a fine line between words of wisdom and keeping within the time limit. “What role do adjuncts play in the university? “ Psychology department professor, Barbara Nash underscored time commitment that is put to be an adjunct professor. “We do recommendations, office hours, committee work and just teaching…we are here to teach because we like to teach. Not to get rich.” With this, an opposing professor noted that the point of being an Adjunct professor is to apply for other jobs. Although a good point, maybe what Nash was trying to convey was that although the pay is awful, it’s fulfilling work.
Time was of the essence and the following question, “how many hours do you believe you put into your week each week?” To this, Professor Nash blatantly states, “30 hours a week for $20,000 a year” Professor John Hayward blurts, “four courses a semester for $30,000-$40,000.” The first thing I thought was, this doesn’t even cover a year of grad school- what’s the return on their investment? Surprisingly, the moderator turned the panel over to the students. “Have you noticed a difference of adjunct professors and nonadjunct professors?” Radika Bansil, a senior student this year, responded, “Two of my favorite professors were Adjunct professors and both left because they had a bad experience so, in turn, this was not favorable for me because I was looking forward to taking more classes with them.” Alex Aserraf, a sophomore this year, added, “Of my favorite two professors, one is a part time professor and the other is a full time- I have a good relationship with them and what concerns me is that I don’t know if I will have them next year…it’s a big issue that needs to be solved.” I found it interesting to observe how passionate these students were about keeping their professors.
Moving on, when on the topic of professors having enough time for students, Professor Kaplan noted, “I would be appalled to pay $55,000-$60,000 to not have full access to the professors.” There are definitely many things that are yet to be addressed and accessibility is one of them. Professor Atlas then brought to light the worth of a professor in the first place. Bentley values their professors at $5,000 per course and “5k is just not what the work is worth.” Sophomore, Alex Aserraf, then called out the dedication from many of our Adjunct professors. “I currently have four full time professors with four hours of office hours per week and one Adjunct professor who is available two days in the morning until 3 p.m. and he even gave me his phone number and said ‘call whenever you want’ I called to meet with him to prepare for an interview and he said ‘you could always me before the interview just before if you’re nervous’.” I am confident this comment was about our Professor, Jack Dempsey.
Moving away from the gratitude students have for Adjunct Professors, the problems of forming unions on campus were addressed. 1. Expensive dues 2. Things would be rigid and inflexible 3. Unions will raise tensions in the workplace or community. But is that the case? Should professors really be afraid of voicing their opinions and rights in the workforce? Isn’t ethical behavior in a business something Bentley preaches? I believe actions speak louder than words. Traditional practices are long gone-p professors should feel comfortable enough in the workforce to feel their opinion will be listened to instead of dismissed.
A union representative who spoke on behalf of Tufts’ success in adjunct union exceeded his time limit- but for a good reasons! He reported the pros of having a union on campus. In fact, he noted, Tufts University has had great triumph in the implementation of an adjunct union. Many of the adjunct professors there will receive a 22% raise and be eligible for many benefits like health, tuition pay, retirement, etc. without tuition increases for students. They will also receive appointments that may last up to three years and on top of that, be paid at least $7,300 per course (numbers can go up to $14,000 per course depending on the department). Clearly, there’s hope for those who wish to unionize adjunct professors.
Following this, the question of the disadvantages and advantages of being an adjunct was asked. Professors of all departments had all kinds of opinions. “ As an adjunct, you’re not supposed to be advising, doing independent work, attending committee meetings, etc… in the point of view of the students, they’re missing out… while full time professors aren’t going to be doing these (extra efforts) things anymore that they used to be willing to do- it’s only to the disadvantage for the students.” While others like Clarissa Sawyer from the Psychology Department said, “ Bentley’s work environment for Adjuncts have a good feel about it… it’s welcoming, you have office space, and my administrators are great so, I want to commend Bentley for that.” Dempsey on the other hand, voiced one great concern: “We are last priority at this school. 14 years at this school and I have zero leverage.” That’s dedication.
The most important question was raised, “what potential difference could a union make at Bentley?” To this, a professor wisely and objectively stated, “Unions are a norm in businesses, corporations, universities etc. There’s nothing to be scared about. We are not just asking for things to be given to us- we can offer services, too.” I find this an incredibly valid point. Adjunct professors are educational providers who should be valued like any other Bentley employee. I couldn’t agree more with the freshman who declared, “Adjuncts can’t do this alone. We need students involved.” Bringing this issue to the attention of the student body is one of the most effective ways to carry out a message and implement it.