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University At Buffalo Adjuncts & United University Professions Representatives Rally For Fair Pay, A ‘Voice’ At Work, Equal Treatment & Respect As UB Administration Admits Their “Concerns They Raise Are Real”

UB Officials Release Response to Adjunct Rally, Say The University “Has Spent A Lot Of Time Thinking” & That UB Is “Actually Working On A Great Deal.”

Published Sunday, May 8, 2016
by Kaitlyn Lionti/Time Warner Cable News
University At Buffalo Adjuncts & United University Professions Representatives Rally For Fair Pay, A ‘Voice’ At Work, Equal Treatment & Respect As UB Administration Admits Their “Concerns They Raise Are Real”

(AMHERST, NEW YORK) – Full-Time Faculty and University at Buffalo Adjuncts rallied late last week on the university’s suburban campus to protest unfair University Labor Policies, which they say depend on temporary or contingent labor.  Adjunct Professors also said they’re not paid a living wage, have no job security and receive little or no benefits for the classes they teach.

Convening in the Buffalo Center United University Professions (UUP) Office, the Adjuncts marched across campus on Thursday (May 5th) before holding a news conference where they announced they were among the poorest Workers in the United States, making an average of less than $3,000 a course at UB.

"We ‘want’ fair pay and benefits, protection and job security, a ‘voice’ at work, inclusion, equal treatment and respect," UB Adjunct Faculty Member Sigrid Fertig said. 

As an organizer of the Buffalo Adjunct Movement, Fertig says none of them set out to be a Full-Time Adjunct, but colleges and universities are relying on them more and more: "Adjunct Faculty are ‘not the exception anymore, but the rule.’  Without adjuncts, the higher education system ‘could not exist in its current form.’  In 2013, an American Association of University Professors report found that Contingent Faculty and Graduate Students are responsible for seventy-six-percent of university teaching.  Higher education is an ‘incredibly valuable thing’ and ‘we cannot value higher education’ when we pay Adjunct Teachers - who do some of the ‘most valuable work; in this university - poverty level wages."

Many Adjuncts teach multiple courses at several campuses to Make Ends Meet, and Fertig says while those at UB who are teaching at least two courses qualify for health benefits, they're always at risk of losing them if a course is canceled. 

But those at the rally say Adjuncts aren't the only Instructors facing challenges.

Martha McCluskey, a Tenured Faculty Member at UB, said: "As a Teaching Assistant, I got ‘zero’ paid maternity leave.  I had to take the ‘entire fall semester off’ in order to have this baby and ‘I got nothing.’  Faculty ‘have to be treated as professionals.’  They ‘have to have’ independence.  That ‘means’ job security, that ‘means’ a living wage, that ‘means’ the ability to ‘be more than cheap labor’ to the university."

UB released a response to the rally, with a statement from UB Provost Charles Zukoski: "The concerns they are raising are real. We spend a lot of time thinking about them and how to mitigate them and we're actually working on that a great deal.”

The university says in the Fall of 2015, the average pay across disciplines for Adjunct Faculty was about $6,500 per semester, and adds that its compensation is similar to and sometimes more than pay at other universities across the country. 

UB says there will be new opportunities for longer-term employment at the undergraduate level in the Fall, when the university hires more instructors to teach in its new general education curriculum.

Representatives of the Buffalo Adjunct Movement say a Full‐Time Adjunct works more than 40 hours a week, but is not paid for most of those hours.  Adjuncts are paid by the course - at UB an average of only $2,700 per course, they said.  If an Adjunct teaches six courses per year, they will bring home less than $20,000 a year.  

In order to make ends meet, many Adjuncts have to teach 10 or more courses at several campuses, Buffalo Adjunct Movement representatives said.  In comparison, the average course load for Full‐Time Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty is four courses per year.  UB Adjuncts teaching at least two courses per semester qualify for health benefits under their current contract, but without adequate job security, they run the risk of losing the benefits if a course is canceled, representatives said.

Yet, universities have increased dependency on Contingent Faculty and Graduate Students.

According to the American Association of University Professors, Contingent Faculty and Graduate Students are responsible for 76% of university teaching.

This unfair Labor situation negatively impacts the underpaid Instructors and their families, but also negatively affects university students, said Buffalo Adjunct Movement representatives, who add that a “system that depends on ‘exploitative’ Labor Practices is ‘unsustainable, unethical and must be changed.’”

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