Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Professors react to new part-time union

By: Alex Pearlman

Since 1997, a group of College of Arts and Sciences adjunct faculty have been working toward getting a contract with the Suffolk University administration for a more stable employment situation. Now, over ten years later, their dream has been realized. As the Journal reported in its Oct. 14 issue, Suffolk’s adjuncts have formed their own chapter of the American Association of University Professors union, the Suffolk Affiliated Faculty (SAF/AAUP).

“Official recognition is something we hadn’t had,” said Professor Robert Rosenfeld of the Philosophy Department. “[Before the agreement], we depended on very informal communication [with the University].”

Rosenfeld, who began teaching at Suffolk in 1991, was a part of the negotiating team that came to the table with the University.

Negotiating for Suffolk were Judy Mindardi, Director of Human Resources, and Paul Lyons of the Foley-Hoag law firm, who is Suffolk’s General Counsel. No Suffolk University administrators were directly involved in the negotiations, although Minardi and Lyons consulted with a number of administrators on all decisions, including the University’s Deans.

AAUP’s Barbara Gottfried and Curry College adjunct union leader Marcy Holbrook were also involved in the negotiations as consultants.

“It seems to be a fair contract to the [adjunct] faculty and the University,” said Communications and Journalism Chair, Dr. Bob Rosenthal.

Suffolk University officials involved in the talks declined to comment for this article, however.

Rosenfeld and Professor Ken Martin, who is President of the union, were joined by a number of other adjuncts from departments such as NESAD, Government and English who came together hoping for pay raises, health coverage, better job security, academic freedom, and a better defined grievance policy.

Now, the negotiations have ended, a contract, which took effect on Sept. 1, has been signed and many professors are excited about the concessions guaranteed to them.

“I think what most people seem to like is the pay increases,” said Rosenfeld. “For those who get health benefits, it’s less to worry about.”

But the hard work has just begun, as many involved in the SAF/AAUP hope to revisit this contract in a few years, citing specific areas that need work.

“We did not get as much as we asked for in job security,” said Rosenfeld.

Job security is a top issue, as some lecturers, as the adjuncts are now called, can get one-year contracts. Most, however, will have to wait until after they’ve been teaching for more than five years, depending on what they’re teaching and what department they’re in.

Other issues that will most likely be revisited in the next round of negotiations are lowering qualifications for lecturers to get health benefits and allowing leaves of absence.

Also, the current contract doesn’t forbid the school from having lecturers teach classes of fifty students for the same amount of pay as for teaching twenty students, a provision that other adjunct unions in the area have in their contracts.

The contract, which is a dense 23-page document in 25 sections, also specifies a new, multi-stage grievance policy.

“Whenever someone has a problem, the first thing they want to do is call the union – and that was happening before the contract,” said Martin. “We had to tell people we’re powerless without a contract.”

Now, the policy encourages an initial, informal discussion of the problem, then, if it isn’t settled, it gets taken to the college’s dean, then the provost, then to arbitration.

“With the contract, we can help out more,” said Martin, of the policy.

Still, one of the most controversial parts of the contract is the No Strike/No Lockout section, which some lecturers have said, on the condition of anonymity, they weren’t necessarily pleased with.

Although some have called the No Strike/No Lockout part of the contract “restrictive,” many lecturers agree that it was necessary to give up rights to strikes, picketing, leafleting and demonstrations as a bargaining chip for more important aspects of the contract.

In all, as SAF/AAUP grows, over 400 of the adjunct professors on campus can benefit from the contract’s provisions.

“Given that this is the first one, it’s a pretty great contract,” said Rosenfeld.

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Professors react to new part-time union