Adjuncts attempt to adjust

Bargaining remains intense for a new agreement for adjuncts after eight months of bargaining.

Audra Grigus, Reporter

Since July of 2018, adjunct professors and the Hamline administration have been negotiating terms of a new agreement for adjunct professors and their employment at the university. In the Spring 2019 semester alone, there are a reported 64 adjuncts hired to teach at the undergraduate level.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the group that helped organize the Hamline adjunct union in 2014, and has continued to aid in the current negotiations. The adjuncts and administration have their own sets of goals; varying from whether or not adjuncts should have to reinterview each semester, to when adjuncts lose access to all of their Hamline affiliated accounts and privileges.

Another part of what the adjuncts are trying to achieve is to gain back that $800 they lost to inflation and then some.

“From 2005 to 2014, or 2015, what bought four-thousand dollars in 2005 was now worth three-thousand-two-hundred dollars. I had lost eight-hundred dollars value purchasing power,” David Weiss, a Religion department adjunct professor said.

The administration has remained pretty stern on not increasing their wages thus far.

“There’s a number of reasons we bring an adjunct faculty, and they’re important members of the community, obviously they do good work for us,” John Matachek, the Provost at Hamline University said. “But you know, it’s an individual teaching responsibility.”

Most faculty have proven to support adjuncts in their bargaining process.

“Full-time faculty, at least the ones that I have had contact with, have always been very welcoming. They appreciate the knowledge that I have and the skills that I have,” said Marcia Regan, adjunct Anthropology professor. “I don’t ever get the feeling that I’m only an adjunct with them.”

Mark Berkson, Religion professor and Chair of the Department of Religion, has been a strong advocate and voice for adjuncts.

“Sometimes I don’t even know if students are aware of who’s adjunct and who’s full time,”  Berkson said. “It affects everyone. Since every department practically relies on adjunct faculty, what affects them affects all of us. They are our colleagues and our friends and we want the best for them.”

For many adjuncts, their job is not solely about what takes place in the classroom, they have extended themselves as a resource outside of the classroom.

“For myself, my investments with students, when I go with them to Academic Advising, or when I take them to Counseling and Health Services, or even when I call Patti Klein, I don’t do it for Hamline. I do it for the students,” said Shannon Scott, a Creative Writing adjunct professor. “Sometimes it just feels like me and some of these students on a desert island.”

There are also adjunct professors that wish that they could do more.

“There is this refusal to let us do independent studies with undergrads or summer collaborative research,” said Devon Harrison, an adjunct professor whose name has been changed for the sake of anonymity. “And this is a really big problem because there are a number of adjuncts on campus that are the only specialists in this field and their students, who want more than anything to explore this further, and they are simply not allowed to do it.”

Tensions have been high as both sides keep rejecting the other’s offers in this bargaining process.

“[The administration] wasn’t looking for a lot of change,” Matachek said. “The bargaining agreement has twenty-six different articles… so [adjunct faculty] had nine articles that they wanted to modify.”

Negotiating has now gotten to a point where a mediator is involved and after an incident with a Hamline attorney, both parties now make their offers from separate rooms.

“Hamline’s high paid attorney started yelling at us,” Harrison said. “Yelling, pointing, looking at each of us in the eye and actually shouting at us. During this time, at no point did the administrators on the other side of the table ask her to simmer down. Those are our colleagues, those are our bosses, those are the people we work for, and we are underpaid, underappreciated adjuncts.”

When it comes to the relationship that adjuncts have with full-time faculty, it does not reflect that of which adjuncts have with the administration at the moment.

“When it comes down to it, the administration and the adjuncts should all want the same thing, which is the best possible education for students,” Scott said.

One subject up for negotiation is whether or not adjuncts should have to re-interview for their job from semester to semester.

“We need to find the best candidate that we can for that open position to best serve the needs of the students,” Matachek said.

Adjuncts have their own quarrels with this statement.

“There’s not the same familiar faces that are teaching your classes,” Harrison said. “It just becomes this weird kind of cycling door of professors and not people.”

Administration and adjunct faculty both would like to see an agreement made soon, and a fair bargain be achieved.

“I would like the administration to recognize those relationships that we form, especially those of us who’ve been long term regular adjuncts, and how we help students in their post-Hamline years,” Regan said.

The administration has voiced that is what they want as well.

“I hope that we’re able to come to an agreement that both sides think is fair; the university’s interests are met, the adjuncts interests are met and ultimately through all of those things, the needs of the students are met,” Matachek said.

Another bargaining session will be taking place this March.

“Idealistically, I would like to feel like we’re actually a part of the community, that we can be seen by the administration, that we can be seen on paper, the same way that students see us,” Harrison said. “We’re scholars and artists.”