On a damp and unseasonably chilly morning, adjunct faculty members from the Community College System of NH (CCSNH) peacefully and collectively demanded a contract Tuesday.
As previously reported, the adjunct faculty decided two years ago to form a union through the State Employees’ Association (SEA). They are still working to get their very first contract in place. A group gathered at Manchester Community College ahead of yet another mediation session between the educators and the administration.
Adjunct faculty member Heather Strine was among those who held signs, chanted and distributed informational flyers to students, fellow educators and administrators.
“We are here to call attention to our situation,” she said. “In addition to not having a contract, we are now faced with our teaching hours being cut back to two classes per semester.”
This translated to an annual salary of well under $20,000. Many of the adjuncts who participated in the event had the same complaint. They reported being told that full-timers will be given their courses; they are no longer needed. One adjunct commented, “We are merely contingent workers.”
Strine said that after making her own student loan payments and car payment each month, there is very little if any money left to clothe, feed and shelter her three children. “We will have to sleep in our car,” said Strine, who is a single mother.
Many of the adjunct faculty members spoke about their passion for teaching. They explained that they spend many hours outside the classroom prepping for class and staying current with the latest information, trends and technology in their respective disciplines.
“It is very humbling when students ask me how much I earn an hour,” Strine said. “I tell them that when you factor in the outside of classroom time, we make about $3.75 an hour, less than minimum wage.” She said that in most instances, the students earn more per year working at retail or hospitality jobs.
“We all have Master’s Degrees and PhD’s. We are professionals who are always counseling our students about the importance of an education,” said Ann Clune, another adjunct professor. “And, look at us. CCSNH is not practicing what they preach.”
Throughout the hour-long event, CCSNH President Dr. Susan D. Huard patrolled the entryway to the main building and peered out the window. At one point she had the head of campus security ask the adjunct faculty members and the SEA members to move. When asked what her concern was, she answered that her only concern was the students and their comfort level.
This doesn’t really jive with the way things are. Adjuncts provide 77 percent of teaching time to the students – their contribution to the students’ education far exceeds the full-time faculty. Yet, the college system’s president thinks the students feel threatened by them. It is far more likely the students will be “uncomfortable” when their favorite teachers are no longer employed.
If the adjunct faculty cannot garner support or respect from the administration, what does that say about the administration’s true thoughts about the students? Clearly the adjuncts are second rate educators in the administration’s eye. Yet, they appear to be perfectly good enough to educate community college students. This equation seems out of balance.
Post from SEIU 1984. Follow them on twitter @SEIU1984