Dear President Aoun,
We are writing to you today as the Empower Adjuncts Community Coalition, a collection of various student organizations – from the executive cabinet of the Student Government Association (SGA) to environmental advocates and healthcare reform champions – and community members. Despite our groups’ diverse interests, we have all come together to write to you as students who are concerned with the direction your administration is taking in negotiations with the Adjunct Faculty Union.
At present, the working conditions of our adjunct professors are not worthy of a university of Northeastern’s stature. They have been negotiating a contract with the university since September. They are not asking for the moon: only respect, equal pay for equal work and more job security.
Adjunct professors are hired and fired every semester – even when they have worked here for years. An adjunct professor who has worked at Northeastern for 20 years will have been fired, at minimum, 40 times.
This Groundhog Day-inspired firing and hiring process directly harms our education. Informing professors sometimes days before classes start does not give them sufficient time to prepare a syllabus or lesson plan. This system degrades the teacher-student relationship by making it difficult to form the lasting connections that are the cornerstones of a successful academic career. You cannot plan to take a class with your favorite professor if they do not even know if they will be employed a month from the end of finals.
Adjunct professors are paid on average $5,600 a course without benefits, while the average pay for a tenure track assistant professor is $100,305 a year for teaching four courses a year and doing research. So, let’s do some math. One student’s tuition for one four-credit course is $5,316. The median class size is near 20. The tuition those 20 students pay totals $106,320. The average $5,600 that an adjunct can expect to make is a paltry 5 percent of the total tuition paid.
Students pay the same tuition and receive the same credits whether the course is taught by a full-time or adjunct faculty member. Students and the university hold faculty members to the same standards of teaching excellence. Equal work deserves equal pay and adjuncts should be compensated accordingly.
Bargaining sessions have been held only once a month and have not gone well: the administration is stonewalling even simple requests like providing mailboxes to adjuncts. In stark contrast, when Tufts University negotiated with its adjunct faculty union this past year, negotiations were held biweekly. They came to a fair agreement: adjuncts were given a pay raise, are now hired on a yearly basis and provided funds for professional development. Northeastern should use the Tufts model as a blueprint.
In a packed SGA meeting on March 16, SGA unanimously approved a Sense of the Senate resolution demanding that the administration “provide, as defined by the Adjunct Faculty Union, fair compensation, a quality working environment and protection of academic freedom.” This strong legislation exemplifies the powerful support for adjuncts emanating from all corners of Northeastern.
The preamble of that resolution ends “Adjunct’s working conditions are student’s learning conditions.” When the Adjunct Faculty Union is in the bargaining room, it represents not only itself but also the future of our education. The decisions made will affect everyone in the university community.
We’ve reached a fork in the road. Will Northeastern continue to devalue teaching and learning by treating our adjunct professors as easily disposable employees? Or will we take the brighter path, one paved with respect for our professors and for our education?
– The Empower Adjuncts Community Coalition; Progressive Student Alliance; Student Government Association Executive Cabinet; Husky Environmental Action Team; Northeastern University College Democrats; Northeastern University Sexual Health Advocacy, Resources, and Education; Feminist Student Organization; Divest NU; Northeastern University Students for Justice in Palestine; Health Disparities Student Collaborative; Partners In Health Engage; Socialist Alternative Northeastern University; 15 Now Northeastern; Queer Student Union; Northeastern University Real Food Challenge; and Northeastern University Democracy Matters