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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
Features Editor

Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics
Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily Gouin April 19, 2024

Group formed to help part time faculty

Adjunct English professor Jason Markle has two master’s degrees and teaches two courses a semester at Northern. He also has a wife, four kids, a mortgage, increasing credit card debt and student loans to pay back. Even combined with his wife’s salary, as an adjunct professor he barely makes enough to live paycheck to paycheck. He is hoping that the Coalition for Contingent Faculty can help change conditions for him and others like him.

The goal of Coalition for Contingent Faculty (CCF) is to gain equality for all educators at NMU. Contingent faculties are those who have term appointments, are adjunct professors or part-time instructors. Term appointments are instructors who are hired for a period of either one, two or three years. Adjuncts and part-time instructors also do not advise students or have to serve on university committees.

On March 14, CCF will host a speaker, David Schaaf, who is a member of the Bay De Noc Community College Part Time Teachers’ Education Association. The presentation, entitled “Organizing Part-Time Faculty at NMU: A Bay De Noc Community College Model,” will detail how part-time educators organized to create a bargaining unit. Alan Maki, a labor organizer with 30 years experience, will join Schaaf and present different options for CCF to effectively organize and express their concerns.

The event will also allow attendees to express any concerns or ideas they might have regarding the establishment of such a bargaining unit at NMU, said organizers from the group.

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Nationally, 48 percent of college faculty are employed part-time, according to a 2005 report by the U.S. Education Department. In 1975, only 30 percent of college faculty were employed in part-time positions, according to the same report.

But in some colleges in Michigan, contingent faculty make up as much as 73 percent (University of Michigan) of the instructors, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Department of Education.

Other universities in Michigan have successfully organized part- time faculty. The University of Michigan accomplished organization of part-time and full-time adjuncts at all three of its campuses in 2003, according to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), its representative union. Full-time, non-tenure tract faculty at Eastern Michigan University formed a union in 2000, also with the assistance of the AFT.

NMU hires term and adjunct faculty according to enrollment and the faculty-to-student ratio, said Cindy Paavola, NMU Director of Communications and Marketing. In the past two to three years, NMU decided to hire 60 full-time equivalent faculty over a five to six-year period, Paavola said.

National trends in college enrollment are going down, and while this is not the case currently at NMU, the trend is expected to hit the Midwest soon, said Paavola. By hiring more term -appointed instructors, if enrollment were to drop dramatically, there would be less layoffs necessary.

“It [the university] is looking at the current situation and future projections and trying to be realistic about both,” she said.

Full-time faculty, those who teach at least 12 credits, are part of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a union for which they pay membership dues. No such bargaining unit exists for part time faculty at NMU.

However, Committee O, one of the standing committees of the AAUP, has taken an interest in helping contingent faculty reach their goals, said committee head and assistant professor in the history department Rebecca Mead.

The AAUP chapter at NMU has taken notice of the growing trend over the last 15-20 years, both nationally and locally, of hiring part-time, adjunct and other non-tenure track faculty, said Mead.

Last fall, Committee O held a meeting on the challenge of contingent academic labor at NMU, said Mead.

Amber Kinonen, a term-appointed English professor and founding member of CCF said CCF has four major concerns. although Kinonen does note that conditions for contingent faculty can greatly vary between departments.

The first concern the group expressed is inequities in pay and benefits among contingent faculty, said Kinonen. Adjuncts receive no medical benefits and are paid only per course they instruct, said Mead.

Adjunct faculty do have some benefits, including a tuition scholarship program. This program allows adjunct faculty to enroll in classes free of charge, up to the number of credit hours they are teaching in the semester, according to NMU’s human resource department. Adjuncts also can enroll in professional development noncredit courses at no cost with department head approval.

The second concern is a lack of job security for contingent faculty. “For many individuals the issue is job security; you never know from semester to semester or year to year what is going to happen,” said Kinonen.

Another of the groups concerns is the lack of respect, acknowledgement and support that some contingent faculty receive from their departments, said Kinonen.

“They can’t do things such as go to conferences. They are not given any funding. They’re not invited to department meetings. Some individuals don’t even have offices or a lot of availability to copy handouts,” said Kinonen.

The fourth major concern of CCF is the quality of education delivered to NMU students. Stress caused by job insecurity and inadequate pay can affect performance in the classroom, said Markle.

“Higher pay–pay that is relative to the full-time faculty and reflects my credentials and experience –would alleviate that strain and allow me to focus my attention on what is important: the students and the university,” Markle said.

In fall 2007, 214 of the total 536 faculty employed by NMU were considered part-time, according to the Office of Institutional Research. In some departments, however, the ratio of part-time to full-time faculty is vastly different. Of the 91 faculty in the English department in fall 2007, 57 are part-time. The departments of biology and health, physical education and recreation employ 38 total faculty each. Of those 38, 25 in each department are part-time.

Paavola also noted that the university values contingent faculty and that higher level administration would be more than willing to listen carefully and address any concerns that CCF might have.

“At this point, as far as I know, the coalition has not contacted Academic Affairs or the Provost’s office to discuss their issues and concerns,” said Paavola.

CCF hopes to make working conditions better for contingent faculty in the near future. It could not come too soon, said Markle.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I love my job. I love teaching. And this is a great place to teach – but we must be compensated fairly. We are dedicating ourselves to our teaching and to this school – the university needs to recognize this,” he said.

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