Friday, May 20, 2011

Correspondence With UVU Administration About Adjunct Faculty


President Matthew Holland
Vice President of Academic Affairs Ian Wilson
Senate President John Balden
Senate President-Elect David Connelly

21 April 2011

Dear Matt, Ian, John, and David,

As members of the UVU faculty and as members of the UVU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, we are disturbed by the letter sent this week to all adjunct faculty indicating a yearly “purge” of adjunct employees. We are also troubled by the lack of antecedent public discussion (or even timely departmental notification) of this important decision. We have been contacted by several angry and disheartened members of the adjunct faculty who are seeking recourse in this matter. As far as we can tell, their strong feelings reach across the faculty.

We recognize that federal law requires benefits for those who work thirty or more hours and understand (while not condoning) the University’s consequent desire to limit adjunct hours. However, the decision to follow the purging policy causes further hardship to the most exploited segment of our university faculty and even more administrative burdens on already overworked campus departments. There must be other options.

As we all know, adjuncts at UVU are drastically underpaid and unbenefitted. To require these additional administrative hurdles for them to continue working is a slap in the face to our colleagues whose pay is least proportionate to their level of education. It is a clear sign of disrespect.

UVU is one of the most rapidly changing (and improving) universities in North America. One reason for this is the improving quality of its faculty – a faculty that includes and depends heavily on its adjuncts. When you increase the procedural and bureaucratic hurdles facing adjunct faculty you inevitably make it harder to retain the most qualified teachers. By making staying harder, one encourages the best to leave.

Requiring adjuncts to reapply hurts loyalty and morale as well as retention. Low morale hurts students regardless of who stays and who goes. By what algorithm does one measure the loss of quality attributable to a generally lowered morale among an important class of faculty?

In short, the new rule requiring reapplication for all adjuncts will drive some people away, irritate and depress those who remain, and increase bureaucratic frictions. This, in turn, diminishes the one thing we really hope to do well: offer high quality university education.

If adjustments need to be made to individual adjunct employment, then each adjunct ought to be respected as a valuable employee of UVU and approached individually in contract negotiations by HR. A mechanical purging of all adjuncts from the rolls of HR is unilateral and fails to respect adjuncts as persons with rights to due process. We urge the University to pursue policies designed to give our quality adjunct faculty more rights and job security rather than seeking administratively to avoid such requirements.

Below, you will find the conclusion of a recent AAUP investigation of the administration of North Idaho College. The report states a set of principles that, in our opinion, ought to guide all relations with members of our adjunct faculty. These principles include reducing vulnerability and insecurity, clearly stating reasons for any changes in status, supporting faculty review of disputed cases, and avoidance of “at-will” conditions wherever possible.

We strongly urge you to revoke this harmful and unnecessary requirement and to work instead to support and reward our colleagues. The disrespect manifest by this new regulation has no place in our work together as faculty and administration of UVU.

Members of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP would gladly meet with you to discuss the ramifications of and alternatives to this decision.

Respectfully,
(for the members of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP)
Scott Abbott, President
Chris Foster, Vice President


AAUP Investigative Report, North Idaho College, 2009
Conclusion
“The case of Jessica Bryan exemplifies the plight of many contingent faculty members: vulnerable and insecure no matter how long and how well they might have served their institution. An experienced, highly regarded parttime English instructor with thirteen uninterrupted semesters of teaching at North Idaho College, Ms. Bryan was informed by e-mail on the last day of the fall 2007 semester that the administration would not offer her any courses to teach in the spring (or any time thereafter, it would appear) despite the fact that other part-time instructors junior to her in years of service were being assigned courses she had taught for more than six years and the administration engaged new instructors to teach some of those courses in fall 2008. When she asked for a substantive explanation for its decision not to reappoint her, the administration, through college counsel, declined to do so. When she requested an opportunity for faculty review of her claim that inadequate consideration had been given to her qualifications and that the decision resulted in significant measure from impermissible considerations, the administration, again through college counsel, told her that the contract governing her temporary appointment afforded her no such rights.
“The North Idaho College administration terminated the services of Ms. Bryan in disregard of the provisions on part-time faculty appointments set forth in Regulation 13 of the Association’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The administration appears to have treated her as it did in part because it could do so, and under the official policies of the institution she had no recourse. Those policies view the college’s part-time instructors, who serve on semester-by-semester contracts renewable at the administration’s discretion, as virtually at-will employees, subject to nonretention for any reason or no reason, simply because someone in authority no longer wishes to retain them. As an AAUP investigating committee wrote with regard to at-will employees, ‘the conditions of their appointment leave them without the procedural safeguards of academic due process. Moreover, the mere presence of at-will conditions has a chilling effect on the exercise of academic freedom. Faculty members placed at constant risk of losing their position by incurring the displeasure of the administration must always be on guard against doing so.’”





27 April 2011
Ronnie J. Price, Sr.
Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Equity

Dear Ron,
Thanks for your response to my email about the new process for adjunct faculty.
I’m sorry, as I noted before, that our first contact was confrontational. I would have preferred to meet you and joke about the other Ronnie Price (whom I very much admire) and to welcome you to the University as an influential and important colleague. The work done in Human Resources is crucial to all of us as we search for and hire and work with full-time and adjunct colleagues. Past interactions with HR have often been difficult. We are hoping that with your arrival we’ll have an office that works for us and not against us.
Nonetheless, this new process caused a lot of damage to the morale of a group of colleagues whose morale is tenuous anyway, given the nature of their status as adjuncts. When members of our faculty feel unfairly treated, they often approach us. That has happened again in this case, with several members of the adjunct faculty asking for support.
Our AAUP Chapter steps in when policies have been violated, when members of the faculty are mistreated. We are interested especially in due process, shared governance, and academic freedom. Over the past few years we have helped the UVSC/UVU administration rethink several cases, one of which, for example, involved overturning a tenure decision after the appropriate Faculty Senate Committee investigated and found the decision flawed.
That example indicates, I think, how we hope to work with and for the University. We don’t want to make decisions about tenure or hiring or anything else. We simply want good decisions made by the administration, by departments, and by the Senate.
Your suggestion that “since the group you represent is not recognized on grounds” (sic) is similar to a statement made by Moh el-Saidi a year ago when I represented the AAUP in the case of a faculty member. If it is a technical statement about union representation, then it’s true. But it completely misses the point when it comes to the important issue of shared governance at UVU.
We are involved in any number of issues. A year ago, to give just one example, we were asked by the Faculty Senate President to work with a Senate Committee on the new tenure document that was later voted on by the Senate. Because the AAUP invented and defined tenure, and because the AAUP holds all colleges and universities in the US to its standards of tenure and shared governance and due process, it made good sense for us to work together on that and other policies.
That brings me back to the matter at hand. As we wrote in our initial letter to President Holland, VP Wilson, and the Senate President, this new process is doing damage to relations between faculty and the administration, to relations between adjunct faculty and students.
Neither Ian Wilson’s speech to adjunct faculty at the “appreciation” dinner nor your letter to them indicates that the problem is understood. Your reference to “crisp reporting” and your statement that “this is a norm for applicant pools after job searches are finished” may be true; but they don’t get at the problem. The problem is that we’re dealing with colleagues, valued colleagues. They teach a majority of our classes. Many of them have been doing so for years. If we respect them, we don’t throw them into an applicant pool every year, demonstrating our power over them, requiring that they humbly request to teach again for us.
Your offer to meet with me and my colleagues is appreciated; but I think we’ve said what we can say. I’ll copy this to Ian and Matt and John and Dave, as I did the previous letter, hoping that you all can figure out a way to ameliorate a bad situation.
Sincerely,
Scott Abbott
President of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP 

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