The president of the American Federation of Teachers has asked that a higher education bill also include language to increase the number of full time, tenure track faculty at colleges and universities, or provide more job security and equal pay for equal work for their part time and "temporary" faculty (who nonetheless often serve at the same colleges for decades).
Democrats would be smart to do so. In the darkest days of the Bush administration, when everyone else was saluting Bush and rubberstamping every destructive and unconstitutional thing he did, academia was an island of dissent, reason, and sane discourse.
After the House of Representatives recently passed a bill shifting college financial aid away from private banks and more toward grants directly to students, the president of the American Federation of Teachers sent a letter to the House saying that the final version of the bill should inclusion language on the abuse of adjunct faculty:
The lack of attention paid to the loss of full-time tenured faculty positions, and the overwhelming growth of poorly paid part-time faculty, has been taking a toll on higher education for many years. Today, almost three out of four undergraduate instructors are contingent rather than permanent full-time faculty members-contingent faculty members teach a majority of the nation's undergraduate courses. Unless we take steps to reverse course, this trend will greatly impair the ability of our colleges and universities to reach the national goals Congress has set for them.
Specifically, we believe it is essential that programs designed to improve persistence and completion, especially those targeted at community colleges, should include provisions that encourage institutions to strengthen their instructional workforce by creating additional full-time faculty positions or providing more stability and equitable compensation for part-time faculty.
I was grateful to see this campaign, but concerned about the weak language, and added the following note to the post the on the AFT website, and to my letter to our senators:
You should not just ask for language to "encourage" or "permit" this but REQUIRE it, and not just "reduce" unequal pay and compensation but END it.
Too many college administrators not only do not make ending these inequities a priority, but they actively fight against ending them.
We can not depend on them to act responsibly without forceful legislation requiring them to do so.
I also fail to see why the union can't say that schools are economically abusing people who have dedicated their lives to education, including, in many cases, not giving us health insurance, or not giving us enough to cover our families as well, as well as paying us far less than our full-time counterparts per class even though we are required to have the same qualifications.
If we are going to get on the radar, we aren't going to do it by soft-pedaling the problem.
Frankly, there is potentially a very brief window for progressive action in Washington. If Democrats do not pass a strong health insurance reform bill, that window will begin to close and might well be gone after the 2010 election. If they do pass good legislation, there will be momentum that we should ride to get major things done.
We must set our sights higher than glacial, incremental change or we won't get any change at all.
Democrats would be smart to do so. In the darkest days of the Bush administration, when everyone else was saluting Bush and rubberstamping every destructive and unconstitutional thing he did, academia was an island of dissent, reason, and sane discourse. Even now, the right controls the terms of the for-profit media debate. Academics who don't have to scramble just to survive or are constantly worried about losing their jobs at the end of the semester, can do an even better job of teaching our students the critical thinking skills that makes them less vulnerable to the propaganda wiles of the right. As Karl Rove himself said:
"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing"
We should use the AFT link to write to show the AFT that we appreciate the effort, but I would also ask that you compose your own letter to our senators and congressman about H.R. 3221 with stronger language than the campaign.