“Students should be outraged at budget,” says Canisius Adjunct Movement

By Justin Smith

News Editor

On Friday, October 28 at 3:30p.m., a group of eight individuals, most of whom were adjuncts, met in the Old Main Faculty Lounge to discuss the future of the Canisius Adjunct Movement (CAM).  CAM’s most vocal leaders, Professors Kurt Schneiderman and Ed Taylor, were present and helped guide discussion, which consisted largely of planning.  The adjuncts present didn’t set forth any concrete plan of action, but did agree to meet again in three weeks, with hopefully an even larger turnout, and to various ways of promoting the movement.

One adjunct present said she believes these meetings are “a good thing,” as they allow people to hear adjunct’s stories–one of CAM’s priorities.  Another adjunct concurred, saying these meetings represent “a space to connect with other adjuncts.”

The meeting came on the same day as The Griffin’s article concerning VP of Business and Finance Marco Benedetti’s recent claims that the School is operating at a $1.2 million deficit.  The adjuncts were aware of the article but generally undeterred from their goals of higher pay, more benefits, and job security.

At the meeting, CAM also passed around a flyer highlighting various colleges and universities where adjuncts have either collectively organized into a union or secured concrete improvements in working conditions.  The flyer was put together by Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the same Union that the maintenance workers of Canisius teamed up with back in 2013.  In the document, SEIU cited that the College of St. Rose in Albany secured a “24-35% increase in wages” for its adjuncts, as well as “office space for all adjunct faculty,” among other benefits.  Washington University in St. Louis secured a “26% increase in wages” for adjuncts, as well as a “$750 course cancellation compensation.”  Presumably, CAM is looking for similar benefits, although CAM has not asked for much specifically and certainly has refrained from offering any concrete numbers.  CAM does, however, often cite Georgetown University as a model for Canisius to follow, which SEIU listed as one of their “Organizing Victories.”

After the meeting, Schneiderman spoke to The Griffin one-on-one to elaborate on CAM’s reaction to the budget article.  Generally, Schneiderman tried to frame the issue as primarily a student concern.

“Students should be outraged,” said Schneiderman.  He added, “For Canisius to say, ‘whoops, sorry, we don’t have money to pay your educators,’ should be appalling both to the educators and to the students.”

Schneiderman correctly pointed out that, despite VPBF Benedetti’s presentation, Canisius still hasn’t made the budget public and, as a result, no one can be sure exactly how Canisius is spending its money.  The only real numbers VPBF Benedetti revealed were that Canisius brings in $80 million in tuition, has an operating budget of $90 million, and is spending $2 to $3 million on the Capital Budget.  To Schneiderman, when he compared these numbers to his own wages, he could only conclude that Canisius isn’t focusing enough on its educators.  Despite the College’s deficit, Schneiderman still says he believes there’s a “healthy” amount of money coming into the school, so he doesn’t see a problem reconciling CAM’s demands with the apparent deficit.

“The College’s primary priority should be educating students,” said Schneiderman, “and that means paying the educators.”

Schneiderman firmly believes education should be the School’s primary concern and thinks that after seeing the budget, students should be “standing up and squawking” to ensure that a large enough portion of the budget goes to those responsible for educating them.

Schneiderman also took particular issue with the idea that adjuncts at Canisius are paid “at or above the market rate.”  Although Schneiderman didn’t doubt that this was true, his issue lay more with the framing.

“The market rate, if that’s how you’re going to put it, is extremely sad,” said Schneiderman.

Schneiderman elaborated, saying that he does not believe the market rate is a “living wage,” and that paying employees what many adjuncts and media outlets consider less than minimum wage is “nothing to be proud of” and “not something to boast about.”  Schneiderman believes that, as far as market rate is considered, a rising tide will lift all boats, and that if just one institution begins paying adjuncts more, it could have ripple effects on what the accepted market rate is.

“We need to see adjuncts across the region go up,” said Schneiderman, “and Canisius can set the standard for that.  Canisius can increase pay and that would push institutions to do the same, and that’s the kind of positive impact Canisius should be striving to have instead of just saying, ‘we’re the least bad of the bottom-feeders’.”

Finally, Schneiderman addressed the idea of $2-$3 million going to “improvements on the pool at the KAC, Tim Horton’s, and Bagen Hall, as well as minor touch-ups in the Dining Hall.”  He said it was “good” to spend money on these things, but only if it comes after educators have been paid, and he feels that the school currently has its priorities backwards.

CAM plans to meet again on Friday, November 18, at 3:30 p.m., once again in the Old Main Faculty Lounge.  Schneiderman is in favor of a “collectivist approach” and wants to hear as many voices as possible before CAM settles on a plan of action.  

“Our goal is to get enough adjuncts together so that we can agree on something more specific,” said Schneiderman.

Schneiderman says CAM isn’t far enough along to have “an exact agenda to propose,” but hopes that they will be one step closer by the end of the November 18 meeting.  This idea of specifics is significant, as it has served as CAM’s largest stumbling block to date.  Former Griffin Editor and current adjunct Aidan Ryan said he is leery about associating himself with CAM as he didn’t feel they gave him details about their “organizational structure” and “what [they’re] demanding.”  This issue of specifics was also at least one major factor in the student Senate’s decision to not pass on resolution urging administrative neutrality at the end of last year.  However, as CAM points out, it is difficult for them to give specifics when the school refuses to make its budget public.

“I’m just pointing out where I think things aren’t good enough and I hope everybody comes forward in talking  about how they can get better, rather than just complaining that I haven’t supplied them with all the answers,” said Schneiderman.

Schneiderman said he met with VP of Academic Affairs (Peg McCarthy) and was assured that “Canisius adjuncts have the right to organize.”  He said he was promised there would be no “downside” to continued meetings, and he hopes Canisius is “sincere” in its promise.

CAM has a petition, which Schneiderman encourages anyone interested to sign, which calls for Canisius College to  “improve conditions for adjunct professors.”  The petition is available at the following link: http://seiu200united.seiu.org/page/s/faculty-support-canisius-adjunct-professors.

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