Magazine Article

Tearing down the walls
A Conversation about Faculty in the Age of Two-Tier Hiring

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by Leslie Bryan 
CFA Associate VP Lecturers South
Theatre Arts, CSU San Bernardino
      and
Susan Green
CFA Treasurer
Chicano Studies and History, CSU Chico

Whenever people who work for a living try to improve their income and work lives, they face a simple truth—there is strength in numbers. And that truth comes up against another common factor—there are so many ways people divide themselves from one another.

In the academic world, the most stark ex-ample is the need for tenured/tenure-track faculty and lecturer/adjunct facult common cause.

In the California State University, tenure-line faculty and lecturers are united in the same bargaining unit; we are covered by the same contract. Years of experience have shown that we all get a better contract when we support one another through the California Faculty Association.

California Faculty magazine asked two CFA Officers to have a conversation about our two-tier system of faculty hiring. 

Susan Green is CFA Treasurer and a tenured Associate Professor of History and Chicano Studies at CSU Chico.

Leslie Bryan is CFA Associate Vice President-Lecturers South and a lecturer in dance at CSU San Bernardino. 

Q: You have a union contract that covers all faculty in the California State University system, tenure-track and lecturer. Does having that contract make a difference either way, better or worse?

Bryan: Having a common contract makes a difference for me. By covering all faculty in the same bargaining unit, as a lecturer, I have access to the same benefits, salary increases and retirement afforded tenure-track faculty. 

Green: This two-tier hiring system, which is going on in universities all over the country, causes all kinds of unequal treatment, and problems for tenure-track faculty, too. With this contract, I can know that all faculty are treated with respect, and with a minimum of guarantees in salary, workload, course cancellation, evaluation, and so on. That is a very minimal expectation of professional treatment we can all expect from our contract, regardless of tenure status.

Bryan: I agree. Also, without a sound contract like ours, my working conditions would be entirely in the hands of administrators. I think we all know we can’t rely on administration to always have faculty interests or our student’s best interests in mind. My course load easily could be affected by administrative whim, leaving k to make a living wage.

Green: And let’s not kid ourselves over here on the tenure line. Whatever happens to lecturers will surely be visited upon tenured/tenure-track faculty at some point. Only a strong contract protecting everyone’s rights, like ours, makes a real difference.

Q: Does having one union for everyone show up in issues that matter?

Green: We are all in this together, including with our students, so having a shared contract is a very real advantage for all of us. If counseling faculty or library faculty, or lecturers, or some segment of the faculty bargaining unit suffers, everyone does because we are so tightly inter-connect-ed. If there are fewer tenured librarians, students suffer in the classroom. If there is an insufficient number of tenured mental health counselors providing consistent continual care, students in our classrooms suffer. We cannot short-change one part of the bargaining unit without the rest of us feeling the impact.  

Bryan: Academic freedom under our contract for all faculty is an example of something that matters. It allows me to cover course materials in the way deemed by my profession. This is a big assurance in the performing arts, whatever our appointment status, although it’s especially big for lecturers. Creative works and the ways we approach these works can be seen as relevant by one administrator and inappropriate by another. It is my job to expand the minds of my students through theatre and dance without the worry of being reprimanded by administrators who do not know the work.

Green: Absolutely. The CSU is one place that defies gravity; crap rolls uphill. We cannot allow anyone’s academic freedom to be violated, ever, anywhere. Employment status is immaterial in the protection of this right.

Q: What should tenure-line faculty know about lecturers that will help us all get behind our contract? And vice-versa, what should lecturers know about faculty on the tenure-line?

Bryan: That is a question I have been wanting to answer. There is this gap that can be used to set us at each other, and we need to understand one other if we all want to do well.

Green: So here is my thought. Tenure-line faculty want more people to share in the work. We want people to serve on commit-tees, to be involved in shared governance, to be available and be the best educators they can be for our students. The increasing use of lecturers means fewer colleagues to share in all these conversations and this work. It hurts lecturers more, but it also affects us on the tenure track.

Bryan: The amount of prep for a course, delivering course content and grading student’s work is the same for everyone. However, a big difference is that lecturers lack the job security that guarantees being able to teach the same course again, for the same salary and benefits. I hope more tenure-track faculty will appreciate how difficult and sometimes threatening people find this lack of job security.

Green: That’s right. We on the tenure-line have a long-term road, and we have uncertainty when we are still probationary. At the same time we on the tenure-track have to remember that lecturers must get reappoint-ed constantly.

Bryan: By the way, in the classrooms our students see us all as faculty; they don’t see a division between lecturers and tenure track. 

Q: Why is it that in so many university and college systems there seems to be such a divide between tenure-line and lecturer faculty?

Bryan: Some faculty believe the union fights harder for one line of faculty more than the other or that one line of faculty is more deserving than the other.  

Green: I have heard the complaint from some tenure-track faculty that we are always more concerned with lecturer issues than theirs.

Bryan: It cuts both ways. Some believe that to win a contractual gain for one member there must be a take-away from someone else. Of course, that is so short-sighted since we all suffer from this two-tier system, even if the impact on our respective lines is different in some ways. 

Green: It often happens that there are those who are facing a particular wrinkle at a particular moment and we must deal with that specific problem. For example, when CFA managed to get CSU management to address salary compression, some faculty experiencing inversion felt shorted because that wasn’t solved. The fact is, we battle uphill for every gain. And if a person doesn’t face a certain problem right now, he or she sure could be facing it later. My point is, we have to view all the gains in any collective bargaining agreement holistically as a gain for everyone in Bargaining Unit 3: Faculty. 

Bryan: The universities themselves sometimes create this divide between faculty to diminish the power of the union. 

Green: The administration does everything it can to divide segments of the bar-gaining unit and play them off each other. We don’t need to do it to ourselves.

Q: Does this two-tier system of faculty hiring affect our students? How so?

Green: Absolutely. Consider the students who cannot find their instructors because they are lecturers teaching at multiple institutions simultaneously, or because the lecturers only get to teach semester to semester. Those students don’t have access to the kind of quality instruction and help that these educators could provide if they were supported properly. 

Bryan: A two-tier system of faculty hiring devalues our work while it shortchanges students. One of the biggest ways this plays out is when lecturers, who are hired on a lower pay scale, become frequent flyers. They move from department to department or even campus to campus to earn a living wage. This leaves less time to meet with students individually, to mentor them, to advise them, even simply to get to know the students we are educating.  

Green: Students mourn the loss of great lecturer faculty, and feel cheated when they are not available to them.

Q: If you had a magic wand and could change the hiring system or the relationships among the CSU faculty, what would you do?

Bryan: Wow, if I had that magic wand I would have each of us spend one academic year in the shoes of the other. Tenure-track people would struggle under the huge class load of lecturers teaching 150-plus students per class, up to four courses per quarter. And, lecturers would struggle with the research/publication/service demands of tenure-track faculty often without university support. With this understanding of each other’s work, faculty can stand together for quality working conditions within the CSU.

Green: We need to convert long-term lecturers into tenure-line faculty. If someone has been good enough to teach in a department in our college and on our campus for 20 years, that person is clearly worthy of equal pay and working conditions and permanent status. Imagine who these colleagues would have been if we had supported them properly and equally for the 20 years they have been on cam-pus. How much better would our campus be? What might graduation and student success rates look like? 

 Q: So now, in 2016, how can tenure-line and lecturer faculty cooperate to achieve our goals?

Bryan: Most of us, I believe, alr common ground in higher education and the mission of the CSU for our students, our communities and the state of California. Shared governance, equal pay and benefits, academic freedom for all faculty and student-to-faculty ratios that benefit students, these are the things all faculty o into bargaining for a successor contract. 

Green: I’d say, fight side by side as one. 

Bryan: We have to care enough to say we will stand united, and then, we cannot be divided! 

Commands