Why don’t adjunct faculty – the majority of educators at Northeastern University – have offices?

This is the question the adjunct faculty union has been asking the administration for over a year as we bargain unsuccessfully to change our dismal working conditions on campus.

The university says it’s impractical and that many faculty don’t want or need offices. Oh, really? Just ask the adjuncts who camped outside the Faculty Senate meeting last week, meeting their students in full sight of the president and other employees who presumably don’t have this space problem. Adjuncts worked with students in the lobby of Egan Center for several hours, doing their job while making a statement about their need for parity with other faculty.

The administration’s response to our peaceful and informative protest was to dispatch the police, showing how little they respect faculty and student concerns.  The irony was not lost on adjunct faculty who routinely hold office hours in lobbies and lounges all over campus every day. The difference this time was that somebody noticed.

Every semester, in the absence of a private place to meet with our students, we have to make other plans – we talk in the hall, in the library, in a lounge or café – hardly the privacy our students deserve and are entitled to under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Law.

Most of us have a story like the one I heard from my colleague, who says she had to meet in the hall outside her classroom with an emotional student who told her about personal issues that stood in the way of her doing her work because they had nowhere to go for a private meeting.

Yet, in over a year of bargaining for such basic things as offices, mailboxes, predictable schedules and teaching supplies, we adjuncts have been unable to move the administration.  They cite space limitations and logistical problems. But their bottom line is that our proposals impede the university’s ability to simply do whatever it wants.

Not having an office means that faculty cannot have regular office hours, cannot store educational materials securely and cannot provide a private place for consultation. This is unprofessional and unacceptable.

At his State of the University address on Oct. 28, President Joseph E. Aoun presented a slide on Northeastern’s “character” and “integrity.” Integrity and character included treating employees fairly, paying fair wages and providing decent working conditions. It is time for Northeastern University to walk that walk and get serious about their teachers, their students and the quality of education we offer. President Aoun: let’s get this contract moving!

Adjunct Faculty invite the entire Northeastern Community to join us for a rally at 4 p.m. Nov. 18 on Centennial Common. See you there.

– Anne Fleche is an adjunct professor of Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University

Photos Courtesy Anne Fleche 

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