Before students and professors leave campus for the semester, a vote will be made by the NMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on whether or not to invite members of the Coalition of Contingent Faculty (CCF) into the union.
The AAUP is the union to which full-time faculty belong, while the CCF consists of adjunct faculty, who teach 12 credits or less a semester. The adjunct and term faculty population changes each semester and therefore the membership of the CCF is always in flux.
However, the only adjuncts that will be considered for invitation into the AAUP are those who have taught 16 or more credits in the past two years, said Rebecca Mead, an associate professor of history and head of Committee O within the AAUP, the committee in charge of organization and action within the AAUP.
“There is a big difference between those teachers who teach a class once in a while, and those who come back and teach consistently,” Mead said. “A lot of those most committed to the CCF are those who teach multiple classes repeatedly.”
Uniting the CCF and the AAUP may prove beneficial to both groups. Both state and national leadership of the AAUP suggests inviting adjunct chapters for the sake of strength in numbers.
Also, the chance for continual improvement in both adjunct and full time working conditions would increase, said Heidi Stevenson, adjunct instructor in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation department and CCF chairwoman.
“This would create the perfect opportunity to unite adjunct, term and tenure faculty,” Stevenson said. “We (the CFF) share many concerns about higher education with the full-time faculty, and we are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to work on our concerns together.”
Even if the 274 voting members of the AAUP decide to invite the CCF members into the union, the process is not yet over. In return, the CCF will have to vote on whether or not it accepts the invitation.
They will also have to participate in what is called a card drive, where 30 percent of the members will have to sign cards showing their interest in joining the union.
After that, the coalition will have to file a petition with the Michigan Employment Relations Commissions (MERC) for an election.
The AAUP will also have to redefine their membership to MERC, Mead said.
“There always has to be a clear definition of who’s in and who’s out,” she said. “After that, there is a long legal process, but it really all depends on if the AAUP happens to oppose the vote.”
If the vote does not pass, the CCF will have two options: creating their own chapter of the union, or going through the same process with another union, most likely the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Either way, the same card drive process and request for election will happen.
Stevenson said the CCF will continue to work toward it goal of improved treatment for contingent faculty regardless of the vote’s outcome.
“We’ll continue to reach out to the NMU adjuncts and act based on their preferences,” Stevenson said. “We have been working directly with the NMU administration on a continuous basis as well, with positive results.”
These results include the continual adjunct luncheon series and the establishment of a professional development fun for adjuncts.
No matter what the outcome, Mead said the adjuncts on campus do deserve more respect and recognition or their work. However, she added that many of the problems that arise are on a departmental level.
“The treatment of adjuncts varies with departments,” Mead said. “What happens within the union only involves the union. The ideal decision would be to treat people as equals, and standardize the treatment throughout departments.”