Temple Adjuncts Join Full-Time Faculty Union

Part-time professors vote two-to-one in favor of unionizing.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has tallied secret ballots cast by adjunct faculty at Temple in an election earlier this fall, and those faculty are now represented by the Temple Association of University Professionals, the union that previously represented only full-time faculty. Many adjuncts had protested in favor of such unionization at rallies on the school’s North Broad Street main campus and at City Hall.

The merger between the TAUP and adjuncts, who teach part-time and are not tenured, will add some 1,400 professors to the faculty union. The final count, according to the PLRB, was 609 votes in favor of the merger and 266 votes not to unionize, with 32 ballots disqualified. All schools except for law, dentistry, medicine and podiatric medicine are affected by the change, which will allow TAUP to represent both full- and part-time faculty in negotiations with the university over pay, benefits and work rules.

Adjunct unionization has become a national issue as the number of part-time professors at colleges has jumped, from 30 percent in 1975 to 51 percent in 2011, according to Forbes. Nationwide, 70 percent of all full- and part-time college faculty are now non-tenure track. Adjuncts are often poorly paid — a median of $2,700 per semester-long class in the 2012-’13 academic year, according to a survey by the American Association of University Professors — and have no job security. A report out of UC Berkeley last year showed that a quarter of all part-time college faculty receive forms of public assistance such as Medicaid and food stamps. They’re often not eligible for health and other benefits from their colleges, according to an article in Atlantic magazine that contrasted their pay with that of college presidents, which has skyrocketed in recent years. When then-Penn State president Rodney Erickson retired last year, he was the nation’s highest-paid public college president, earning $1,494,603 annually. Penn State adjuncts make an estimated $20,000 per year.

Why does it matter? Um, the purpose of college is education, and paying professors so little while administrators earn so much is bad for education and morale. As Dan Edmonds wrote in Forbes,

If you are paying for a college education today, you are paying comparatively more money than previous generations have paid — nearly $70,000 in annual tuition, room and board, and fees at America’s most expensive schools — to be educated by a more poorly resourced, poorly paid, and potentially poorly motivated group of educators.

Temple is on an upward wave, buoyed by national attention to its football team, increased interest on the part of young people in city living, and research breakthroughs in everything from medicine to business to chemistry. The 28,800 applications the school saw this fall were an increase of 12 percent over 2014 and 54 percent over 2013. But that wave should lift all boats. If we want college grads to be better prepared for the workplace, we’d better see that paychecks for the people who are actually educating them aren’t dwarfed by those of administrators, coaches and athletic directors.

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