Saturday, February 27, 2016

BAD BILL SHB 2615 in Washington State Legislature gets support from WFT and AFT, to Leave 7,000 Faculty in Poverty

News from the Adjunct Trenches:
In Washington State, adjunct faculty are battling a bad bill, one that promises 600 new full-time jobs, without any guarantee that adjunct faculty will get these jobs. The state unions/associations support this bad bill, which only cements the feudal/futile system presently in place. It will open up a hiring fest, and leave the hard-working adjunct faculty out in the cold.
The video of hearing for SHB 2615 is viewable at <>.
"One thing that emerges in crystal clear fashion from the  hearing is that, even though the unsatisfactory working conditions of part-time faculty were mentioned often, there is no consideration to improve the situation of current part-time faculty.  To a proponent of the Vancouver Model, where all faculty are treated equally, it would seem like there’s a blind spot in the minds of my legislators and fellow faculty that prevent them from entertaining the thought of improving the working conditions of adjuncts.
Of note are the comments by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Pollet, which begin at the [32:40:00].  Rep. Pollet claimed that his bill addresses the “part-time” issue and implied that it was a natural extension of the 2005 Best Employment Practices of Part-time Faculty ( <>).  He related his own experience as a part-time instructor at the University of Washington, confessing that for part-time instructors, when classes are finished, part-timers tend to take off, oftentimes to teach elsewhere, and in so doing, depriving students the chance to be mentored or advised.  In response to a question from Senator Bailey, the committee chair, he explained that he’d spoken to several college presidents and administrators about his bill, some of whom remarked that their institutions don’t even have space where a part-time instructor could meet with a student.
Carla Nacarrato-Sinclair [1:50:45] chair of the Washington Education Association Higher Ed council, explained that she’s worked on the part-time issue since the 1990’s, said that the legislature had focused on pay until 2007, but implied that it may have been a mistake, saying "We just need to get back to that to address the faculty mix increasing the members to full-time from part-time.”  

President of AFT Washington, Karen Strickland did not pretend that the bill would benefit part-time faculty, but assured the Senate Higher Ed committee that “There’s no way that we want to get rid of all part-time positions.  We do need a little bit of flexibility and the expertise that part-time faculty can bring.

For me, the testimony of Anna Mary Fitzgerald [1:53:25], a faculty member from South Puget Sound College, was more disappointing than Carla’s or Karen’s.  Anna Mary relates how impoverished adjunct faculty can be in our state, saying, "We have phenomenally well qualified, well education faculty that are receiving food stamps, subsidized housing, free and reduce meals, rent support, because they are below the poverty level, at 150 to 200 percent below the poverty level.  This is an opportunity to move of some of those positions into a place of stability that we, again, are promoting to our students through education.  We would like to see that happen for our faculty.”  But even if some of the impoverished adjuncts are hired into tenured positions, the bill leaves the situation of over 7,000 part-timers just as impoverished as before, and actually makes their professional lives worse—more full-time positions means fewer part-time jobs, especially if the new full-timers are inclined to teach course overloads.  As such, to be outraged by the exploitation of adjuncts but still support this bill brings to mind what Martin Luther King said about the white moderate as being more of an obstacle to progress than a KKK member.

Jack Longmate

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