Building on a major win
“My body chemistry changed when I got a three-year appointment,” one adjunct commented in a recent meeting on the contract. Discussion about the new 2017-23 contract, ratified in November, focused on adjunct pay, but previous contracts have made headway against contingency, the other main structural problem with the adjunct labor system. The biggest fight in negotiations for the previous PSC contract, covering 2010-16, was for increased job security for long-serving adjunct faculty. The union won a pilot program creating secure three-year appointments for adjunct faculty who meet the eligibility requirements and are recommended after a comprehensive review.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
The program has been even more successful than union negotiators anticipated, thanks to the strong records of adjunct faculty and the support of department chairs. More than 2,500 adjunct faculty are currently on three-year appointments that guarantee at least six contact hours of teaching or the equivalent number of non-teaching adjunct hours.
The union bargaining team was determined to build on that success in the most recent round of negotiations. They won agreement to extend the pilot program for another three years, through the end of the 2023-24 academic year. The gain means that thousands of long-serving adjuncts who had not yet qualified for consideration under the previous contract will now have an opportunity to receive a three-year appointment. Meanwhile, adjuncts who began a three-year appointment in the Fall 2017 semester will be up for consideration during Spring 2020 for a second three-year appointment starting Fall 2020.
“Those adjuncts who are completing their third year of the appointment should be sure that at least one teaching observation has been conducted during their appointment, and that it is in their personnel file,” said Renée Lasher, the PSC’s director of contract administration.
Under the program, adjuncts on three-year appointments are automatically considered for a subsequent three-year appointment, subject to a comprehensive review of the adjunct’s performance, as well as the fiscal and programmatic needs of the department. To receive another three-year appointment, adjuncts must receive a positive recommendation from their department personnel and budget committee and the college president.
“That means any additional positive commentary or achievements should be documented in the personnel file as well,” Lasher continued.
When the program was first negotiated, the union pushed hard for the “look-back period,” the years of service required before being considered for the appointment, to allow flexibility for adjuncts who had experienced interruptions of a semester or more in their past service. CUNY management would not agree to the initial program on these terms. In the renewal of the pilot program, however, management agreed to an expansion of eligibility.
Starting with the Fall 2019 semester, the look-back period has been extended to 12 semesters to cover circumstances when an adjunct was assigned to teach six contact hours but was not able to do so because of illness or losing a course, resulting in a lack of continuity of service. According to the new contractual language, an adjunct who has taught six contact hours per semester for 10 of the 12 most recent consecutive semesters will be eligible for consideration for a three-year appointment, “provided that the adjunct was initially assigned to teach at least six contact hours in the semester(s) resulting in the lack of continuity and that the adjunct lost no more than one course owing to insufficient enrollment or reassignment of the course to another faculty member and/or that the adjunct lost one or more courses owing to medical reasons in the semester(s) at issue.”
The expansion of eligibility is not all the union wanted, but it addresses two of the major reasons adjuncts lose continuity, and it should open the program to many adjuncts who had previously been ineligible.
Adjuncts with six or more contact hours in a single department in 10 of the last 10 semesters will continue to be automatically considered for a three-year appointment. But long-serving adjuncts who were not considered previously because of one of the circumstances described above must take action with the college and provide documentation to ensure that they receive consideration. Teaching adjuncts who believe the circumstances described in the eligibility expansion apply to them must self-identify to the colleges human resources office and their department chair no later than the end of the second week of the spring semester. The college will determine if the adjunct meets the eligibility criteria for consideration and will notify the adjunct.