At our February 27 negotiation session, the Lesley administration attempted to defend and explain its proposal on compensation. But explaining the inexplicable and defending the indefensible is not possible.
The administration proposal is to increase adjunct per course (or per hour and/or student) compensation by only 1-2% per year more than the percentage increases applied to core faculty salaries – for each of the next three years. This incremental approach cannot and does not work. After all, a few percent times ‘next to nothing’ still equals ‘next to nothing’.
It doesn’t matter if an adjunct teaches one or seven courses per year, the value placed on teaching each course should generally be equal. But a simple example highlights the inadequacy of the administration’s proposal: by 2018, an adjunct faculty member with an advanced degree, who teaches courses per year, would still earn less than $19,000 per year.
By comparison, the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four is approximately $23,850. We can assume that no one in the administration would accept the same poverty pay for themselves, let alone for teaching nearly a full-time load.
On a per-course basis, it means that in every class that an adjunct teaches, one student’s tuition is paying for the faculty member and the rest goes to Lesley. We are not suggesting that there aren’t other important expenses for the university, but there is no doubt a greater portion of students’ tuition should be devoted to the core purpose of the university – teaching and learning – before Lesley takes its cut.
The Lesley administration claims its contract proposal is dictated by its budget. But budgets are statements of values and priorities – and this administration makes clear choices each fiscal year.
In the last six years, for example, Lesley nearly doubled the salary of the University President – which is now equal to teaching more than 150 courses per year. This move occurred, in part, during the Great Recession – a time when university budgets were under incredible strain. So it is clear that ‘budget necessity’ and ‘budget constraints’ are subjective terms for this administration.
In short, if the core mission of Lesley University remains the education of students, then the university needs to change its approach to adjunct and faculty compensation.
The Lesley administration is functioning in a crisis mode when it comes to its faculty and the university budget. There is no strategic plan, no vision.
When a sense of crisis drives budget choices, the core mission of an institution is often lost in the shuffle as everything and everyone is reduced to budget lines. It leads further down the rabbit hole of crisis, as devalued teaching leads to devalued student learning. It is time that Lesley administrators value teaching and those that teach.
It is time for administrators to establish priorities and choices that reflect our university’s core mission. And it is time for us all to agree that Lesley’s adjunct faculty will accept nothing less.
It is important that every adjunct faculty member participate in our effort to win a fair contract at Lesley – one that offers more stable employment and greater respect for our role in the education of our students. Here are a few ways to get involved:
Questions? Need additional information? Contact union representative Ian Adelman at 508.314.4417.
The Lesley Adjunct Faculty Union Bargaining Committee