Faculty Advocate 14:1

Volume 14: Number 1, December, 2004

NEW CHARTERS AT LCSC, BSU, AND ISU

The AFT chapters at LCSC, ISU and BSU have been rechartered and are under new leadership. At BSU John Freemuth from political science is acting president and Andy Schoedinger from philosophy is acting treasurer. In the late 1970s the BSU local was our largest at 125 members and our goal is to exceed that number by the end of the academic year. The acting president at ISU is Skip Lohse from anthropology and Diane Davis, emeritus faculty from counseling, is the treasurer. Acting officers at LCSC will be appointed very soon.  This means that the AFT now has chapters on five of Idaho’s seven campuses.

OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR KEMPTHORNE

by Nick Gier, IFT President

The one issue that I heard most in my conversations with Idaho faculty was the overuse of “contingent” faculty. I will use the term “contingent faculty” to represent not only part-time faculty, but faculty who teach a full load but do not have continuing contracts. In order to frame the problem, let me give you some national statistics gathered by our DC office.

From 1971-1986 the number of contingent faculty increased 166 percent while the number of tenured positions increased only 22 percent. Currently two of three first-time hires in our community colleges are contingent faculty. In a survey of nine disciplines, only 48 percent of the introductory courses were taught by full-time, tenured faculty. The remaining 52 percent were taught by TA’s and contingents. In English and Foreign Languages only 25 percent and 28 percent of introductory courses were taught by full-time, tenured faculty.

Gender differences are significantly higher among contingent faculty. In 1998 36 percent of full-time faculty were women, but among the contingent faculty it was 48 percent. In the humanities the difference is staggering: 38 percent full time versus 59 percent female contingents. Currently only 17 percent of contingent faculty have medical coverage and only 20 percent are on a subsidized retirement plan. Finally, 73 percent of these faculty are paid at a rate of less than $3,000 per course.

On my campus tour I was able to get the most recent figures for Idaho, where the situation is worst at BSU. Just before Thanksgiving a BSU official announced that the number of credits generated by contingents is approaching 60 percent university wide, exceeding the national average by 8 percent. BSU’s English Department used to have a dozen full-time instructor positions with benefits. That number has now been reduced to three, so that there are now 46 contingents and 34 full-time faculty in the department. The BSU history department currently has 15 full-time and 18 contingents.

adjuncts

FOUR “Cs” FOR CONTINGENT FACULTY

Nationally the AFT represents 45,000 contingent faculty, more than any other faculty organization. Here are some contract items that have been successfully negotiated with contrasting Idaho campus facts.

Continuity. After a period of satisfactory performance, contingent faculty receive a “Certificate of Continuing Employment” that gives them hiring preferences and access to benefits. As a stark contrast, UI part-time instructors have recently been fired at the end of the semester so that benefits would not have to be paid.

Compensation. Contingent faculty should be paid a salary proportionate to the salary paid to the full-time faculty with equivalent qualifications. In dramatic contrast, pay per course at the UI ranges from $1500 to one third of a full professor’s salary. Some UI contingents have never received a pay raise, and we propose that all Idaho faculty go to a salary step system like the one in place at North Idaho College.

Consistency. Not only are there wide discrepancies in pay, there are also wide differences in contingent appointments. The ISU Department of English and Philosophy should be commended. Of its 58 faculty only nine are contingent. Although their salaries are low, the 20 instructors are employed full-time with full benefits on continuing contracts.

Coverage. Combining consistency and continuity, all contingent faculty who are working more than half time should be entitled to medical and retirement benefits. In June, 2002 one UI college, without any notification, cancelled the contracts of its part-timers and left them without medical benefits until they were rehired in the fall.

STATE-WIDE SALARY STEP SYSTEM

I had not been on the NIC campus for some years, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the faculty has a salary step system. In 1976 the UI Federation proposed a step system based on the federal G-S scale, and if UI had gone to that system, its faculty would now be at the top of its peer institutions rather than at the bottom. If the NIC faculty can benefit from a step system, then there is no reason why all Idaho faculty should not. When asked about merit pay, the NIC faculty voted to stay with the guaranteed steps instead. The AFT position has always been that as a long as salaries do not keep up with the cost of living, then merit pay is a moot point. When legislative raises are applied according to merit, many faculty end up with pays cuts because of the decline in general buying power.

TENURE AT NIC; WHY NOT AT CSI?

The other significant discovery at NIC was that their faculty can earn tenure. It is sometimes argued that academic tenure is only for faculty who do research, but this reasoning is invalid. Tenure provides the strongest protection for academic freedom, the freedom to choose the content of syllabi, the range of discussion with students, and the topics of our research, which some 2-year faculty indeed do. Therefore, all faculty, after a rigorous probationary period, have the right to be considered for tenure.

I also discovered that the technology faculty at CSI, NIC, and LCSC do not have tenure.  At LCSC the faculty were told that their fields were changing so quickly that the administration could not risk giving tenure to faculty that might not make efforts to keep up.  All academic fields are changing in terms of new techniques and new methodologies, and besides the technology faculty are required to update their skills for annual evaluations.  Furthermore, I discovered that the librarians at LCSC do not have tenure, but they, too, require academic freedom to defend new technologies and controversial titles.  In sum, every higher education faculty in classrooms, labs, or shops deserve the right to earn tenure.

In my discussions with NIC faculty I learned of an odd confusion about tenure. Some administrators have claimed that it means something different at 2-year colleges as opposed to 4-year schools. Academic tenure means the same for all faculty; it means that one cannot be dismissed except for a felony conviction, professional incompetence, or moral turpitude. Tenured faculty can also be fired during financial exigency or because of program discontinuance, but it is the program, not any particular faculty, that must be the target.

Speaking of program discontinuance, I wrote to the SBOE’s Executive Director about our problems with the policy that was rushed into existence in October, 2002. (This is found in Section III.G.8 and III.G.9 of Governing Policies and Procedures.)  We are particularly concerned about the lack of faculty consul-tation in the decision to close programs.  We are also distressed about the lack of due process for faculty who appeal their termination under 9.b.2.d.  In essence, this policy undermines the rights of all tenured faculty. I received no answer to my letter of December 30, 2002, and I urge you to request the SBOE reconsider this policy and make the fact finding and appeal process at least equal to the policy on financial exigency.

STATE-WIDE OMBUDSMEN

For thirty years the IFT has been the de facto faculty union for grievances on Idaho’s campus. (See the enclosed flyer “The AFT in Idaho: 30 Years of Achievements.) We have handled well over one hundred grievances, most of them settled at the department or college level. Ten cases have gone to court and the AFT has won eight of those. During the 1990s the UI Federation successfully lobbied its administration for an ombudsman’s office. The AFT there thought that some faculty were loath to come to the union with their problems, so this office would provide a much needed service. The UI ombudsman now handles over one hundred cases a year, and the AFT case load has now come down to manageable levels. We believe that ombudsman services should be established on every Idaho campus.

Finally, we urge you keep the penny on the sales tax. Our budgets are already cut past the bone because of years of financial exigency. Every program that is eliminated and every faculty member that is dismissed impacts the local and state economy. For example, in 2002 the mining and geological engineering program was eliminated under the policy discussed above, and six faculty members were dismissed. We, together with the American Association of University Professors, saved the three tenured positions, but the three untenured professors have now left. One had a $5 million research grant, the overhead of which could have paid all three salaries. With silver mines reopening and new mining opportunities in Southeast Idaho, this appears to have been a very unwise decision, not to mention the body blow to young untenured faculty who had bought houses expecting long careers at the UI, careers that would have contributed millions to the local and state economy.

We urge you to take these recommendations seriously and discuss them with your advisors and the State Board of Education.

Sincerely,

Nick Gier, President, IFT President

UI ATHLETIC FUNDING

by Dale Graden, President, UI Federation

On January 18, 2005, the UI Faculty Council will be asked to reaffirm a decision that it made in the early 1980s regarding appropriated funds for athletics. The resolution proposed that because intercollegiate sports were not central to UI’s academic mission, UI athletics should no longer receive any appropriated funds.

The faculty’s opinion on this crucial issue was ignored, because as early as 1987 the State Board of Education auth-orized $665,500 for UI athletics, which grew to nearly $2 million for FY04, according to UI budget books. Furthermore, while all UI programs were required to make substantial cuts, $322,600 was added to the athletics budget for FY05, an amount identical to what one of the UI colleges had to give up.

When athletic departments across the nation report that their programs are profitable, they usually include appropriated funds in their figures. If that money is removed from the budgets, the national average for I_A schools is a $237,000 deficit, up from a $174,000 deficit in 1993.

Assuming that $615,000 profit for UI football was used to pay for other sports, and then subtracting appropriated funds plus an outright gift of $500,000 from the president’s office, the deficit for FY04 was $2.4 million.

For the entire UI Federation position paper and the UI athletic director’s response see webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/ift/bigsky.htm.

JOIN US IN THIS IMPORTANT WORK

Membership in the American Federation of Teachers and its local and state affiliates includes a $1,000,000 liability policy, access to legal and moral support, and national/state AFT publications. Dues are calculated progressively on the basis of salary. For an application form and dues schedule please click here.