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Editorial | Working for adjuncts an important goal

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 09:02

Tufts adjunct faculty voted in September to join the Service Employees International Union, the United States’ largest labor union, as part of its Adjunct Action campaign to collectively bargain for part-time professors at universities across the country. The adjunct faculty’s union representatives are in the process of negotiating with the university for higher wages and a better benefits package, a cause that should be supported by both students and the university.

About 37 percent of Tufts professors are part-time faculty, according to the American Association of University Professors. While that is midrange for Boston-area universities, it means that a significant number of professors at Tufts likely teach at multiple universities, sharing office space with other part-time faculty and rotating between schools throughout the week.

Tufts currently pays its part-time faculty approximately $6,000 per course and offers professors who teach at least three courses per academic year (what the university considers half-time) the option to participate in the university’s Health and Wellness medical program, offering the same health insurance contribution to its part-time faculty that it does to its full-time faculty. In addition, the university pays its part-time faculty over the course of the full calendar year, allowing for year-round health care coverage. Both the pay and benefits Tufts offers its adjunct faculty easily surpasses most of those offered to part-time faculty at other Boston-area universities.

Tufts’ adjunct faculty took the admirable and courageous step of joining the SEIU in September, joining fellow part-time faculty at Georgetown University, American University and George Washington University. Tuition and admission standards go up every year at Tufts, but adjunct faculty remain underpaid and overworked. It’s time for Tufts’ income and prestige to match the support it shows those leading their classrooms, and doing the educating Tufts that has built its reputation upon.

Dan Katz-Zeigler, a member of the Tufts Labor Coalition, raises an important point in his editorial in today’s Daily about the heavy use and low pay of part-time faculty at Tufts. The less the university does to support its professors, tenured or otherwise, through a living wage and health benefits, the more it impairs its own ability to collaborate in the intellectual learning environment Tufts says it wants. If Tufts is indeed a teaching university, it should demonstrate that commitment financially to the 37 percent of its professors who are adjunct faculty. 

While Tufts does an admirable job of paying its part-time educators competitively, it should do it all it can in negotiations with the adjunct faculty’s union representatives to support its own goal of creating a world-class teaching institution. Through better pay, benefits and working conditions that encourage part-time educators to engage intellectually with their students both in and out of the classroom, Tufts can foster a better learning environment.

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