Open letter to Canisius community

By the Canisius Adjunct Movement Organizing Committee

 

To Canisius students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, alumnae and alumni:

Here’s a pop quiz– What is the Canisius community’s poorest and weakest (in terms of voice and power, not ability to do pushups) cohort?  Adjunct faculty members.

However, many students aren’t aware of what “adjunct” means, or they don’t understand the difference between the tenure-track and adjunct faculty teaching their classes.

At colleges and universities across the country today, over 70 percent of classes are taught by adjunct or contingent faculty, according to the American Association of University Professors.

At Canisius, there are almost twice as many adjunct professors as “full-time” tenure-track faculty.  

Forty years ago, that ratio was reversed and adjuncts were mostly part-time teachers with other full-time jobs.  However, in 2016, nationally and locally, teaching is a full-time job for the majority of adjuncts.  

In order to earn even a basic living wage, these adjunct professors often have to teach twice as many classes as “full-time” professors while earning one-quarter to one-third of what “full-time” teachers earn. Most frequently, as at Canisius, they receive no benefits and no guarantee of employment even from one semester to the next.

A 2014 study by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce concluded that many adjuncts live “at the edge of poverty.”

Along with faculty colleagues in Western New York, and across the country, the Canisius Adjunct Movement exists to begin the process of fostering more equitable treatment for adjunct faculty members—and to thereby strengthen the College’s educational outcomes and reinforce its Jesuit mission.

Canisius adjuncts understand well the economic and demographic realities of Western New York and of Canisius, as well as the fact that the common response to associations such as ours is fear—fear that fair treatment translates to taking money from other constituencies or higher tuition for students.    

Nevertheless, in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal, one new college faculty union is being created approximately every two weeks across the country.  Colleges are recognizing that more equitable treatment is feasible and more fair–including flagship Jesuit schools such as Georgetown University, among others.

Catholic theologian and Manhattan College Professor of Religious Studies Joseph Fahey told the Huffington Post in 2016:  “This [adjunct treatment] falls into the context of grave sin.”

The good news is that administrations and faculty around the country are coming together to improve adjunct working conditions for mutual benefit; it’s a win-win for both sides.  

The Canisius Adjunct Movement attracted attention in spring 2016 via several articles in The Griffin, by speaking to the Undergraduate Students Association, and by meeting with faculty and staff during summer 2016. They will be continuing activities during this and subsequent semesters.  

Our hope moving forward is that community members will put fear-based counter-arguments, wherever they appear, in perspective and understand that better support for adjunct faculty will reinforce strong educational outcomes and the College’s mission—cura personalis.  That includes adjuncts, too.

Sincerely,

Canisius Adjunct Movement Organizing Committee

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