Imperfect Attendance

Photo by Julie Gundersen.
Photo by Julie Gundersen.
Photo by Julie Gundersen.

With the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by the Governor’s Office and UUP requiring all campuses in SUNY to implement a Deficit Reduction Leave (DRL) for all UUP represented employees, professors on our campus will be furloughed for two days, with their salaries reduced accordingly.

The presidents of the SUNY campuses are the ones with the power to determine when furlough days can be taken. At SUNY New Paltz, President Donald Christian told the department chairs to be in contact with their faculty to decide the days they will miss.  The days they choose to furlough are ultimately subject to review and approval by the respective deans.

All of this occurs while trying to minimize the impact the furlough days will have on the students.

We at The New Paltz Oracle believe it’s unfair for the faculty and students of the SUNY system to be punished to improve the state’s budget.

While we commend SUNY New Paltz for providing healthcare benefits to adjunct professors — something not offered to most adjuncts nationwide — and for having the highest minimum pay for adjuncts in the SUNY system, we believe adjuncts should be paid the same as tenure-track faculty members and “salaried lecturers.”

The timing of this policy is unfair to the students as well.  Adjunct professors are asked to take their furlough days between Oct. 25 and Dec.19.  This time period is typically when professors assign their last big assignments and start preparing students for final exams.

This time is crucial for students seriously pursuing academics; it’s when students need their professors most. We feel that if this policy has to be instituted, the timing should have been more carefully examined to avoid interference with the bulk of the students work.

Classes that meet twice a week often allow students to miss three classes before it starts to negatively affect their grades. Classes that meet once a week allow for only two absences.  So, with the furlough policy, classes meeting just once a week are meeting just barely above that grade-altering threshold. This loss of instructor time in the semester is a built-in disadvantage.

As students, we chose to pursue a liberal arts education with hands-on, interactive classroom experience. The time spent with our professors is a valuable asset.

That being said, there are adjunct professors who teach three or four classes per semester. Though they essentially share the same workload as full-time professors, they are not paid comparable wages. We feel these professors should be paid consistently with the work they do.

Jason Wrench, the chair of the communication and media department, concluded his letter to the faculty in his department about the UUP Deficit Reduction Leave with this:

“Overall, the goal of this process is to attempt to do the least amount of harm to the educational quality of our students while meeting the basic expectations established by our president, the union, and the governor for the furlough days. Is the situation ideal? Far from it.  I realize that this is less than desirable for all of us, but this can be a great teaching moment for our students as well.”

We agree with Wrench’s outlook on the matter. If we must face this situation, it’s ideal that we maintain our dedication to a high quality, meaningful education. What is being forced on the SUNY system is unfair. However, if it has to happen, this is how campus leaders on the campus should act.

Professors and students need to come together at this time.  Students need to retain as much information and benefit from the limited time they have together. Likewise, professors need to provide students with every opportunity to succeed.