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Support adjunct faculty unionization

The Brandeis Hoot supports Brandeis Faculty Forward and the right to unionization of Brandeis adjunct, contract and otherwise non-tenure track faculty. As shown at Wednesday’s Speak-Out event hosted by the Brandeis Labor Coalition, our non-tenure track faculty care deeply about Brandeis and their students, but sometimes struggle to make ends meet. The event was also openly endorsed by the Brandeis Democrats.

Currently, the national average salary for tenured professors is in the area of $80,000, whereas adjunct professor salaries amount to around a quarter of that. Many non-tenure track faculty are paid a specific amount per course, and because many staff members’ contracts only allow them to teach one or two per semester, they experience serious financial hardship.

Low pay, short contracts and a lack of negotiating power at many American colleges and universities can even force non-tenure track faculty to try to teach at multiple institutions, which adds costs of travel and more paperwork to the desks of already-busy teachers. All of these factors and the non-tenure status of these hard-working professors contribute to job security that is shaky at best.

As the national Faculty Forward website says, “When colleges act like corporations, we all pay the price.” Non-tenure track faculty teach classes just like tenured faculty, and have just as much positive effect on Brandeis students through their work at the university as tenured faculty do. Considering how over-complicated and long the tenure process can be, it is unfair for any school to treat its faculty as expendable. That Brandeis is part of that category is unacceptable. We are a university that stands for social justice and human rights that falls behind Boston University, Tufts and other much larger universities in the Boston area in the treatment of non-tenure faculty.

Brandeis’ policy takes faculty for granted, something that can be easily repaired through union negotiation to allow more fair contracts. Last year, “Inside Higher Education” reported the Tufts union’s success in arranging for higher compensation and longer contracts, as well as easier access to applying for permanent or tenured positions there for faculty. These facts were shared at the Speak-Out Wednesday by Tufts lecturer Andy Klatt, as was Klatt’s relief that he and his colleagues no longer had to worry about their job security while also working to be the best educators they could. The Hoot hopes that Brandeis professors will be able to do the same thing in the near future.

However, we also acknowledge the complexity of the situation and the need for faculty support for a unionization vote. The Hoot thus calls on tenured faculty at Brandeis, as well as the Brandeis student body to support a “yes” in unionization. To do so would allow adjunct and non-tenure track faculty to negotiate on equal terms with Brandeis, rather than wait in fear for their fates to be decided. It would support movement towards an egalitarian system in a grassroots and populist way, in support of Brandeis’ values as a university. Change is never easy, but in this case, it is necessary.

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