KPTFA in the News

Article in the Kent Stater:

Adjuncts seek parity at Kent State

  • Alex Delaney-Gesing

Editors Note: A previous piece of information in this article claimed KPTFA received disinterest from various professional alliances around Ohio. Kent State Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP-KSU) has provided full support to KPTFA in its endeavors to achieve parity. The previous claim was incorrect and has since been removed.

Traci West doesn’t teach film courses in Kent State’s Journalism and Mass Communication program for the money. She teaches because it’s what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

“I love what I do — I really do. I love being able to talk film with my kids,” she said. “And then there’s always that one person who’s the serious film buff, and I just love being able to have these conversations with these kids.”

Teaching is one of those occupations people who aren’t in for the money do, Ken Jurek said, part-time faculty in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“They genuinely love to teach,” he said.

But a passion for teaching can only get an individual so far, as is the case with West. Last summer, not able to teach, she was forced to apply for unemployment and received food stamps just to make ends meet.

The course load West is allotted to teach varies by semester: She’s teaching two classes this fall, and is scheduled to teach three classes in the spring, providing they don’t get cancelled.

West is one of 1,356 adjunct — or part-time —  faculty members spread out across Kent State’s campuses. In total, 2,693 faculty members are employed by the university this semester.

In response to a growing financial and job security concern among adjuncts at Kent State, the Kent Part-Time Faculty Alliance (KPTFA) was founded this past spring. The organization aims to give adjunct-faculty a voice in the community, as well as make a change for the better of all adjunct faculty.

“Our goal is simply parity,” Jurek said. “Just being on par with (the other faculty). That’s all.”

Adjuncts account for more than 50 percent of all faculty at the university, according to documents obtained through the Office of General Counsel. This matches nationwide numbers provided by the United States Department of Education.

“That’s a point to make: all the part-timers love to teach. They’re not doing it because they don’t like it; they love it,” Jurek said.

Of the total number of part-timers employed at Kent State, 62 percent — just over 800  — of adjuncts teach at the main campus.

While a love for teaching is a strong incentive for many professors, sometimes it’s not enough. Especially for adjunct faculty. Part-time faculty at Kent State haven’t seen a wage increase in more than a decade, Jurek said.

“I think it’s shameful, it truly is, that we all came into this and we are all highly educated people,” West said. “A lot of us have actual real life experience in what we do … (and) have been on the ground. So we do have value.”

Adjunct faculty members at Kent State are hired on either semester or yearly contracts. They typically teach specific courses or a set of courses, according to the Kent State website.

Unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts are not eligible for full-time employee benefits. Their sick leave benefits are dependent on their teaching load, and they receive tuition waivers of up to four credit hours for every semester they teach, according to Kent State’s website.

Unlike full-time faculty, adjuncts are not eligible for full-time employee benefits. Their sick leave benefits are dependent on their teaching load, and they receive tuition waivers of up to four credit hours for every semester they teach, according to Kent State’s website.

West said that earlier this year, when she went to reapply for health insurance, she was just $4 shy of being eligible for Medicaid. “I was advised to go ahead and apply for Medicaid, and then immediately start the appeals process as soon as I got the refusal,” she said.

In September, Jurek attended a Kent State Faculty Senate meeting on behalf of KPTFA with an end goal of getting a vote on the senate.

“If we get a vote on the Faculty Senate, it will at least allow us to be a part of the faculty’s decision making process and say ‘we’re here,’ ” Jurek said.

Jurek retired from a 19-year career in the Time Warner Cable sales industry last December. Before and throughout that time, he taught as a full-time professor at Kent State’s Stark Campus. He started as an adjunct at the main campus this fall.

As a retiree, Jurek has a pension and social security benefits. A portion of other adjuncts are also retirees and receive the same aid. But a majority are young people, he said, who are hurting for money.

“They don’t have a lot of money, and a lot of times they have to work at a couple different (campuses and) take other jobs just to make ends meet,” Jurek said.

Some of these adjuncts travel to various campuses at different universities in Northeast Ohio,”  said Michael Carano, a former adjunct faculty member at Kent State and member of KPTFA’s organizing committee. “Many have much grading, class preparation, families, etc. that makes it difficult to come to meetings. Their life schedules are not conducive.”

It’s this group of adjuncts for which KPFTA is fighting, Jurek said.

Full-time faculty and staff receive benefits such as retirement plans, either through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio or an Alternative Retirement Plan. Adjunct faculty receive no benefits or retirement plans. Healthcare is not provided. KPFTA hopes to decrease the number of adjuncts from more than 50 percent to only a quarter of the teaching faculty at Kent State, Carano said.

“We want to be able to be on campus for more classes so we can better serve our students instead of having to rush off to other jobs and other campuses across the state,” he said.

Being recognized and (properly) compensated for the work they do is all members of KPFTA — and any adjunct faculty — wants, Carano said.

“We want to (be) assured of classes to a much better degree than now … so we can plan our lives, figure out how to pay our rent and bills (and) how much food we will be able to buy each week,” Carano said. “When classes are cut, ones we have spent time preparing for, we want compensation of some sort for the work we have done.”

As of this fall, KPTFA has approximately 120 adjunct faculty out of the total list of those employed by the university who have agreed to receive updates from  the organization.  {Now 208 as of Dec. 20, 2016}

The alliance meets each month to discuss progress and plans to increase their benefits at the university. As many as 25 adjuncts meet at a venue in the Kent area — a number that Carano said is rather remarkable, considering how difficult and scattered the lives of adjuncts are.

During a Nov. 19 meeting at the Kent Free Library, just under 30 individuals — an estimated 5 percent of the total number of Kent State adjuncts — gathered together to vote on unionizing with the United Steelworkers (USW). During the meeting, adjuncts from different departments and at different stages in their lives shared their experiences:

One communication studies faculty member teaches courses at Kent State, Walsh University and The University of Akron this semester. She voiced her desire and indecision to pursue a Ph. D. for fear she will be considered “overqualified” to teach future classes. She’s only been an adjunct for 1.5 years, but said “I’m really honestly already tired of this.”

A mother of two, who wishes to remain nameless, has taught online courses in the music department at Kent State since 2010. She struggles each semester to make ends meet, and said there have been times when she’s been told just two days before a semester that she won’t be teaching a class. Both times she’d turned down other jobs to teach the courses.

“The worst part is you never know if you’re going to be teaching,” she said. “Last year I had five part-time jobs because I — ironically — couldn’t find more jobs. They said I was overqualified.”

The group voted to become unionized with the steelworkers on Nov. 19.

KPTFA plans on meeting again in January, on the second Saturday before the spring semester begins. After that, the group will meet every third Saturday of the month.

In response to the organization’s decision to unionize, the university has “no comment to offer at this time,” said Eric Mansfield, Kent State’s executive director of media relations.

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter. Contact her at adelane3@kent.edu.

###

Akron Beacon JournalDec. 2, 2016

KENT STATE UNIVERSITY

Faculty joins steel union

KENT: Members of a part-time faculty group at Kent State University unanimously have joined forces with the United Steel Workers in an effort to strengthen its contract negotiating efforts.

The Kent Part Time Faculty Alliance (KPTFA), whose membership numbers about 200 of the 1,349 adjuncts on the main campus and seven regional campuses — half of all faculty at KSU, unanimously voted last month to affiliate with the United Steel Workers. The group had no collective bargaining representation.

Leaders of the KPTFA said its employees are paid a third of what full-time, tenured track faculty members are paid and receive no benefits such as health care because they don’t work enough hours to qualify.

Some have not received raises in more than 10 years, a news release said.

http://www.ohio.com/news/local/regional-news-briefs-dec-6-2016-1.731754

Article in the Record Courier:

KSU faculty unit seeks union

Part-time group affiliates with Steel Workers

By ANDREW BUGEL Staff Writer Published: December 7, 2016 4:00 AM

In an attempt to improve the salaries and benefits of part-time teachers at Kent State University, Kent Part-Time Faculty Alliance (KPTFA) has formed an affiliation with United Steel Workers.

According to Michael Carano, co-chair of KPTFA, United Steel Workers will open the doors for KPTFA to become unionized, allowing them to strengthen their efforts to negotiate a contract with KSU administration for benefits and higher pay.

“The public doesn’t really understand what part-time faculty have to deal with,” Carano said. “Everybody think that if you teach at KSU, you’re set. I come from a union background and after I retired, I started teaching part time at KSU. I’ve kept up on education issues and once I started teaching and saw what these people were getting paid, I saw a problem. Some of them haven’t had raises in years and they have sick days they can’t even use. What good is that?”

A total of 1,349 part-time teachers are employed across KSU, including its seven regional campuses. This number represents more than half of all faculty employed. Until now, the part-time teachers have not had any collective representation. They also have no benefits.

“A full-time tenured teacher could make upwards of three times as much as a part-time teacher who teaches the same exact class,” Carano said. “These people have to go from university to university for work because the universities can’t give them too many classes because they will have to be given health insurance. These people are highly educated and they do great work, but they aren’t being given the financial support they need.”

Carano said it’s better for students if the part-time teachers could stay at one university because it offers students a chance to have better access to them instead of trying to chase them down all the time.

KPTFA’s affiliation with United Steel Workers marks the first time they have attempted to unionize. Carano admits the partnership with United Steel Workers may seem an odd choice to some, but it was the best move to make.

“The Steel Workers have organized in Pittsburgh and actually have a lot of success in covering all kinds of other industries in their union,” he said. “They will stand with us.”

Carano said much work still needs to be done to push KPTFA into becoming a union, but they are off to a good start.

[See also – Pa. professors end three-day walkout]
“We’ve been working over the last eight months and have been talking to people,” Carano said. “We’re getting some support. We’re going to work and build the union. These people deserve better job security than what they have. We’re going to build support throughout the ranks with our teaching staff of 1,349 and then we will put out the vote to get the union. This is where it all starts.”

###

Moving Forward and Moving on Up!

Update of  KPTFA’s Saturday, Nov. 19th General Meeting

When Ben Franklin came out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Dr. James McHenry reportedly asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin’s famous reply was, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Well, if asked what we had gotten after our Nov. 19. 2016 Kent Part-Time Faculty Alliance meeting, one might be inclined to say, “A road to better life, if we build it.”  With a unified determination, that is just what the 30 or more part-timers who participated in our meeting are intent on making reality. At the meeting, we unanimously voted to affiliate with the United Steel Workers (USW).

At the start of the meeting, we introduced ourselves and shared our personal experiences about our struggles as precarious contingents.   As each spoke, heads around the room could be seen nodding in agreement to the story of the speaker. In some way, it was reassuring to find that one’s experiences were not unique, that others understood what you were going through.  But in other ways, it was more troubling listening to these familiar injustices, ones that for long-time, part-timers grew in number over the years, have been allowed to exist and persist for part-time faculty with no way to address them.  The shared histories, all deeply personal, touched upon the great financial difficulties and sacrifices made by those who teach part time at the university level endure daily.   By the time introductions were finished, a sense of solidarity was palpable in the room.

Then, Robin Sowards, a fellow adjunct and USW organizer from Pittsburgh, addressed the group. He explained that the injustices we are experiencing are those going on across the country.  He spoke about having a regional strategy so that part-timers across NE Ohio can lift the boats of everyone. He talked about union democracy and local control of the union. He explained what support USW is willing to do to help us bring our desires to fruition, our desires to fashion a better, more secure, and more tenable future. When it came time to vote, only one option was in the minds of those present. Affiliation with USW.   The vote was unanimous.

What does that mean for all of us, those who quietly support us, those unable to come to the meetings, those who want to get involved, even if in small ways? It means that beginning today we must all reach out, listen, talk to our part-timer co-workers.  We need to hear their stories and let them know can improve our lives, a way that will end in respect, dignity, and—yes– in the financial security deserving of a highly motivated, highly educated, and highly professional group of employees who daily go beyond the call of duty.  It is up to us to make this happen. And make it happen we will.  Join us in the cause by sending us a note at our contact page.

¡Basta!

Michael Carano, co-chair of KPTFA

November 20, 2016

 

 

Advertisements