New resource aims to fulfill faculty’s higher ed dream, too

Adjunct faculty now have access to services, programs, and community online

adjunct-AFT-facultyThe treatment of contingent faculty in higher education today has not only been called the “corporatization of higher education,” but through increasing exploitation, has also led to a weakening of the university status, the devaluing of education, and the stripping of campus democratic values.

It’s an issue that at its least understood may sound like work gripes, but at its most nuanced understanding could undermine the promise of the American Dream through higher education…not only for faculty, but students as well.

According to data released by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), there are more than 1 million contingent faculty across the country, making up approximately 75 percent of the college teaching workforce. Seven in 10 are part-time, and most lack employer-provided benefits.

Thankfully, with increasing awareness and information dissemination, more national organizations are taking up the cause; including the AFT and the Freelancers Union’s creation of a new online web portal for contingent faculty support.

In a speech delivered last Friday (July 11), newly re-elected AFT President Randi Weingarten emphasized that the promise of the American dream is out of reach for too many—both faculty and students included—and highlighted the innovative organizing work being done by contingent faculty in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, where the AFT is helping adjunct faculty organize at 53 colleges and universities.

(Next page: The adjunct web portal and more)

The AFT and Freelancers Union’s new partnership will enable contingent faculty across the country to “access tailored benefits and connect, share and learn with others in their professions,” part of the Freelancers Union’s earlier creation of its National Benefits Platform, which enables any independent worker in America to search by ZIP code for a suite of tailored benefits available to them.

The partnership with the AFT will feature a unique web portal that will allow contingent faculty access to the programs and services of both the AFT and Freelancers Union. Contingent faculty will have access to this new online community during the fall semester.

“While we continue to look for new ways for contingent faculty to use their collective voice to advance their work, we will also continue to advocate for an end to exploitative contingent faculty employment, in favor of a system that is more sustainable for faculty and students,” said Weingarten.

“The workforce is changing, and the ways to support them need to adapt, too,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union in a statement.

AFT delegates at the recent AFT national convention in Los Angeles also unanimously passed a resolution titled “Ending the Exploitation of and the Reliance on a Contingent Academic Labor System in Higher Education,” reaffirming their commitment to improving the lives of contingent faculty.

For contingent faculty eager to participate in the “fight” for better benefits and resources, The Chronicle of Higher Education, as part of its Adjunct Project is encouraging adjuncts to participate in its data collection process on the faculty, lecturers, and instructors who do not hold permanent or full-time positions. Data includes stats on pay and working conditions.