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As Bentley adjuncts push to unionize, school approves wage increase

Posted by Your Town  June 7, 2013 11:03 AM

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As adjunct faculty at Bentley University push forward with their plans to unionize, the administration has approved a substantial pay raise for part-time professors -- a move that school officials say was independent of the adjunct's campaign for better wages and benefits.

The university wrote in a statement that earlier this semester, Bentley’s Academic Affairs Administration approved a wage increase, from $4,575 to $5,000 per course, or a 9.29 percent increase, for its undergraduate adjunct faculty. Graduate adjuncts will now make $5,250 instead of $5,050 per class, a 3.55 percent increase.

The new wages will take effect July 1, according to the university.

According to the university’s statement,a task force formed in 2010 recommended that adjunct pay be reviewed every two years.

But Bentley adjunct Jack Dempsey said although the increase seems significant -- a 38.9 percent increase for the overall salary -- over the past ten years, adjunct pay has only increased 3.3 percent per year. The faculty learned of the raise at the end of May, he said.

“It is an awesome raise, but it is still less than minimum wage” when factoring in the number of hours an adjunct works, Dempsey said.

Dempsey said that 60 adjuncts out of 180 have voted in favor of an election to decide whether to unionize the Bentley part-time faculty. The election will be held in late September, he said.

The hope, Dempsey said, is for adjunct faculty to make half of a full-time assistant professor. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average full-time professor makes $55,000. Dempsey said an adjunct who teaches four courses a year should be making half of that salary.

“I don’t know how to argue for less than equality,” he said. “We are going to be asking for equal pay for equal work.”

Bentley adjuncts have partnered with the Service Employees International Union, an organization that has unionized more than 15,000 adjunct professors from across the country. Dempsey said that Bentley is part of a broader trend: the SEIU is now working with adjuncts from several Boston-area schools to advocate for better wages and working conditions.

According to the SEIU, in 2011, part-time faculty held 50 percent of teaching jobs at colleges, up from 34 percent in 1987 and 22 percent in 1970. Among private, non-profit schools in the Boston-area, 66.8 percent of faculty are non-tenure track and 42 percent are part-time.

In a letter sent this week from the adjunct faculty to Bentley administrators, the professors wrote that the goal of the union is to increase the value and reputation of the school.

“We are dedicated members of the Bentley community and we are proud to be part of a business school that does so much to keep ethics and social responsibility at the fore of its curriculum,” the letter said. “But values and leadership will suffer when one segment of the faculty is asked to support them on a wholly unequal and unlivable basis.”

Bentley said in the statement that the school values its part-time professors. For example, the arts and sciences adjuncts and business adjuncts are paid at the same rate, which the university says is unusual. Typically, business adjuncts are paid more than their arts and sciences counterparts.

The statement also said that “currently Bentley is one of the few universities where adjuncts have representation on the Faculty Senate. This reflects the University’s view that our adjuncts are an integral part of the Bentley.”

But Dempsey said that the university needs to treat its adjuncts better, by increasing part-time faculty salaries to the liveable wage.

“We’re just realizing if we don’t stand up for ourselves and our value, nobody will,” he said.


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