[Vision2020] Adjunct faculty at UI conduct 'grade-in' to protest treatment

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Thu Feb 26 03:00:35 PST 2015

Courtesy of today's (February 26, 2015) Lewiston Tribune.


Adjunct faculty at UI conduct 'grade-in' to protest treatment
MOSCOW - After 10 years of teaching English courses at the University of Idaho, Jeff Jones has no health care coverage and must count on being re-hired each semester.
Arguing that such employment terms are unfair and bad for education, Jones was joined by more than two dozen fellow temporary lecturers, tenured faculty members and students in a protest Wednesday at the university.
Jones helped organize the "grade-in," during which instructors occupied the rotunda at the Idaho Commons to grade papers, as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day. The grass-roots event was designed to help bring to light what Jones calls "academia's dirty little secret."
At many universities, including UI, he said, upward of 50 percent of classes are taught by "contingent" faculty members who have little job security and often no benefits.
"We're fighting to raise awareness, to start the conversation," Jones said. "To get, ultimately, the job security and benefits that will improve the quality of education at the University of Idaho."
Fellow organizer Kelly Roberts, in her second year as a temporary lecturer at the school, said joining the protest took courage but that it was time to speak out.
"We've been kind of the secret of universities for a long time," Roberts said. "We have been hesitant to out ourselves."
Frustrations, such as being denied the option to contribute toward a retirement plan, fueled Roberts' decision to get involved.
"Many of us are facing some of the same issues," she said.
Citing a study published last year by a committee formed to address issues within UI's English Department, Jones said 52 percent of students who took a general education course in 2013 were taught by contingent faculty.
Students waited in line Wednesday outside the rotunda between classes to sign a statement of support for the temporary lecturers, resulting in 144 signatures by day's end.
The gathering in the commons was followed by a march to College of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Dean Andrew Kersten's office in the nearby Administration Building. Event organizers were unable to get an appointment with Kersten Wednesday, but Jones is optimistic about working with UI administrators on the issue.
"We're going to meet with (Kersten) next week at his open office hour," Jones said. "We're sure that he'll receive us."
Kersten did not return a phone call or emails Wednesday from the Tribune.
Because change will likely come from beyond the university level, Jones said, his hope is that faculty members and administrators will be allies going forward, "so they can advocate for us, advocate with us."
"Ultimately, we're speaking to the state," he said.
Author Kim Barnes has been a professor at UI since 2000, but she too was an adjunct instructor in the 1980s. Barnes and her husband, poet and UI professor Robert Wrigley, graded papers in the rotunda Wednesday in solidarity with Jones and his colleagues.
Barnes said she sympathizes with those whose employment hinges on being offered a new contract every semester.
"They can't really plan their lives, because there's so little job security," she said.
Expecting consistently high-quality teaching from employees in such a precarious position doesn't make sense, Wrigley said. And the roles temporary lecturers play, he said, are not insignificant.
"They teach courses absolutely central to student success," he said.
Brenna Schaake, a junior studying public relations, said she hopes the event will spur changes for her instructors.
"With the talk of raising tuition, we want to know what the money is going to," Schaake said. "It should go to teachers before we add another building we probably could wait on."


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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