College Of Saint Rose Adjuncts To Vote On Unionizing
Unhappy with what they say is low pay and inconsistent scheduling, more than 300 College of Saint Rose adjunct professors are preparing to get out the vote in their upcoming union election.
The adjuncts make up more than 50 percent of the faculty at St. Rose in Albany. Ballots were set to be mailed out Friday. The adjuncts filed nearly two months ago for a union with Adjunct Action, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200 United. SEIU has also been trying to organize adjuncts at Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
Bradley Russell, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the College of Saint Rose and member of the union organizing committee, wants parents of college students burdened with heavy tuition fees and loans to understand why unionization is important. "When you talk to these people they're genuinely surprised to hear that their sons and daughters aren't being taught primarily by full-time tenured-track faculty with a decent wage and an office, and all of things you associate traditionally with your college experience and you're a little older, and I think its important that they understand that this is the dynamic that's going on at St. Rose, Siena, Union, Hudson Valley, at SUNY. All of the local schools are relying more and more on poorly paid adjuncts with no benefits, with limited if any job security, and it is a system that we can change. That it would be great to have their support in changing it, that they can pressure the administrations of the schools where they're sending their children, to create more full-time lines to better compensate the people who are actually teaching the classes, and they're gonna get a better quality of education for their students that way."
Adjuncts at the University at Albany are already unionized through United University Professions. Russell notes that most of his fellow-adjuncts have no guarantee their classes will even be offered during the coming semester until the last minute.
According to Russell, the lower-paid adjuncts at St. Rose earn about $4,800 a semester IF they teach the maximum of two courses. They have become a larger component of the St. Rose faculty, up from 5 percent in 1995 to 58 percent today. All this while St. Rose continues to build new dorms and administrative facilities, expand the campus footprint and give steady raises to the administrative staff.
Russell finds the trends — and the business model — disturbing. "When I started grad school in 2000, it was 75 percent tenured professors and 25 percent adjuncts. When I got out with my master’s and my PhD eight years later, that number had completely reversed. A whole generation of us are coming out of college and graduate programs and the full-time jobs that we were promised when we went in and we took on the heavy student debt that a lot of us took on to get these kind of degrees, they just didn't exist anymore."
Prominent Albany-area elected officials, including the Albany County Legislature, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and most of the Common Council, County Executive Dan McCoy, state Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblywoman Pat Fahy are collectively calling on the administration of new St. Rose President Carolyn Stefanco to keep neutral on the issue of potential unionization. Fahy is a Democrat from the 109th Assembly district: "St. Rose is one of our premiere institutions locally, and they've had a long-standing commitment to social justice, and we know some of the extenuating issues there with adjunct faculty mirror what's going on in many institutions around the country. I commend St. Rose for working with the adjuncts and I do think this is one to really watch."
In a statement released in early August, President Stefanco said she wanted "to be given an opportunity to work directly with adjunct faculty members, rather than through a third-party union." A college spokesman said officials were not available for comment.
The ballots being mailed out Friday are due back to the National Labor Relations Board two weeks later; federal officials will begin counting returned ballots September 22nd.