United University Professions (UUP) union members presented President Donald Christian with a petition demanding higher wages and better working conditions for part-time faculty on Tuesday.
Peter Brown, the campus UUP chapter president, said members collected over 2,000 signatures for their “Petition for Educational Quality, Fairness and Equity.” Drafted by the executive committee of the union, the petition was circulated during the chapter’s observance of national Campus Equity Week at the end of October.
Union members said the aim of Campus Equity Week, an event that began more than a 10 years ago and is celebrated every other year, was to focus on the “plight” of part-time adjuncts and full-time contingent faculty. According to a press release, more than two-thirds of all American teachers in higher education are part-timers.
Brown said that although the 300 SUNY New Paltz adjuncts and contingent faculty teach over a third of all the courses at the college, he feels they are seen as expendable.
“I think the college’s position is that they would like to pay the adjuncts as little as absolutely possible and make them as invisible as possible,” he said. “These are people who’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of knowledge. I think it’s outrageous that adjuncts are paid less than the people who clean the rooms at night.”
A UUP press release states an adjunct teaching “the typical load of four courses a year” earns approximately $12,000 annually. It also said adjuncts typically teach two courses per semester, with contracts covering one semester or one year.
Brown said that a lack of job security is just as unsettling as low adjunct pay to union members. The union president said part-timers can be terminated without cause at the college.
Christian said he will need time to review all seven points of the petition and deliver a formal answer to the union’s demands and requests.
“I’d rather wait and respond after I’ve gotten a chance to really look at it,” he said.
UUP members will be gathering for a a part time labor management meeting in coming weeks, at which all of the items on the petition will be addressed. Members have decided to wait for college officials to respond before taking any other action.
While Brown said he hopes the president will be receptive to their efforts, he said he is not overly optimistic.
“In meetings in the past when we’ve asked for higher wages and more job security, the response has always been negative,” he said. “I think the fact that we have over 2,000 signatures on this petition speak volumes about the strong support we have from the faculty, students and the college community.”