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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Chloe Everson
Chloe Everson
Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Chloe and I am a fourth-year senior here at NMU. I am a Public Relations major and have always enjoyed sports. I love being outdoors, shopping, and drinking coffee at all hours of the...

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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.

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Adjuncts move toward goals

Like adjunct faculty across the nation, adjuncts at Northern are facing low pay, minimum job security, no benefits, and limited professional development. They are now looking into ways to improve their working conditions.

Adjunct and contingent faculty are instructors who teach less than 12 credits. They have joined together to form the Coalition of Contingent Faculty (CCF) in order to work collectively to make their working conditions better.

“They don’t have union representation, so we’ve worked really hard to be a single voice for them,” said Heidi Stevenson, an adjunct professor in the English and HPER departments and CCF chairwoman.

There are currently 124 adjuncts teaching at Northern during the Fall 2008 semester; graduate assistants are not included in the CCF because, according to Stevenson, their concerns are different than those of adjuncts. The CCF consists of 40 to 50 adjuncts.

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Adjunct faculty, though they teach fewer classes, often have the same educational qualifications and work just as hard as full-time, tenured professors, Stevenson said. However, they lack the health benefits and salary that full-time professors receive which is affecting adjuncts’ daily lives.

This is also affecting students because adjuncts who are trying to exist off of this job are forced to get another job to support themselves and are therefore not available to help their students as often as they might like.

“I take what I do very seriously, and I’m sure that the students have very high expectations for us,” Stevenson said. “We just want to create working conditions hat enable adjunct faculty to do the best job that they can and offer the university community the best that they can.”

The CCF is working to create a stronger voice by encouraging more adjunct faculty to become active in the group and make campus more aware of their presence by holding meetings for adjuncts and with “Be Kind to Adjuncts Day,” a day in which adjuncts wore a green shirt that said “NMU works because adjuncts do.”

“We are working on organizing ourselves tighter as a group, so that we can say ‘Hey, we have an organization behind us, we’re here and we’re not going to go away’,” said Aimee Cree Dunn, adjunct instructor with the Center for Native American Studies and Web master for CCF.

All adjuncts’ situations are different; some have a full-time, nonteaching job and others prefer to primarily teach but have to take on other jobs to support themselves because their pay from the university is not adequate.

“I keep joking we should hold free workshops for adjuncts about how to apply for food stamps; for some adjuncts this is a reality because we cannot live off of this,” Dunn said.

The CCF is currently looking at options for bettering the circumstances of adjuncts. According to Stevenson, joining a union is among the possibilities because it will allow contingent faculty to enter into a binding contract with administration that will help secure what adjuncts are lacking, such as regular pay raises and health benefits.

Joining a union is not the CCF’s only option, however; they could operate as an individual organization or they could create a chapter of a union that already exists. According to Stevenson, however, the CCF will not move forward until they hear from more contingent faculty and find out about the problems they face working at Northern.

Adjuncts are not included in Northern’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union for full-time faculty. Joining the AAUP, creating a new chapter of the AAUP or joining a different union are among the options the CCF can consider, according to Rebecca Mead, an associate professor of history and chairwoman of the AAUP’s Committee O, for organization and outreach.

Mead said the best option for contingent faculty is to join a union, because it provides many benefits that an organization cannot offer.

“Having a separate organization is great, but . you don’t have that guarantee without a union and the backing of the law to support you,” Mead said.

During the winter semester, the CCF will host an event to inform adjuncts about the research they are doing and options that other universities have adopted throughout the nation. Also, Cynthia Prosen, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies, will host a luncheon for adjuncts that will allow them to talk with other adjuncts.

“I think it’s important for them to go to meetings and hear what their peers are doing,” Prosen said.

Prosen, the point person for contingent faculty, also said that she is working to help adjunct faculty have access to professional development, something they currently lack.

“They’re teaching and they kind of feel like they’re running in place and they’re not getting forward because they don’t have any professional development opportunity,” she said.

Prosen said she does not believe the conditions that adjunct faculty face are negatively affecting students. Rather, she said, they offer students a different perspective that often cannot be found in other classrooms. She said she believes that adjuncts work especially hard and would not be teaching at Northern if they didn’t love to do it..

“I also think that students should be appreciative of the work that adjuncts do. Sometimes I’m not sure that that is fully appreciated,” Prosen said.

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