Adjunct faculty union begins negotiations with administration

Point Park University’s adjunct faculty will sit down with school administrators to begin negotiations regarding adjunct teaching conditions

by Andrew W. Henderson

On Nov. 7, official negotiations will begin between Point Park University administration and the newly unionized adjunct professors.  How long these negotiations will last depends mainly on how far apart the two groups’ positions turn out to be.

Rebecca Taksel, an adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Sciences and leader in the unionization effort, said in her West Penn classroom on Thursday that there is no way to know what all will be brought to the table until the negotiations are actually underway. However, topics of discussion will include compensation, job security and contracts, office space and benefits for the adjunct teachers.

She says that for her, the bottom line is simple.

“Are we, the adjunct faculty, treated in such a way that we can do our job how we want to – to serve our students?” Taksel said.

Taksel has taught French and English at Point Park University for almost 20 years, but she still feels passionate about these negotiations and the change she hopes they will bring.

“I love it here,” Taksel said, “but the situation is untenable and it must change”.

Point Park’s adjunct faculty voted to unionize last semester in an election held by mail-in ballot.

Justin Karter, a graduate assistant for Point Park’s Honors Program and member of the Student Solidarity Organization (SSO), which was instrumental in the bid for unionization last semester, said that it is important for current Point Park students to support the adjunct professors as they go into these negotiations.

“It is our conviction that improved conditions for adjunct professors is essential to ensuring the quality of education for Point Park students,” Karter said in a written statement, sent on Oct. 29 in a response to a request for information about the negotiations.

Hana Valle, junior psychology and global cultural studies major and member of the SSO agreed.  She said that adjuncts would be able to better serve their students if they did not have to split their time between several universities in order to make a living.  She hopes that students will support their adjunct professors during this process.

“It’s important for people to understand the difficulties of being an adjunct,” Valle said on Friday.

Valle and the SSO were instrumental in the campaign for adjunct unionization last semester.

The word ‘adjunct’ refers to something that is added on to something else, usually in a superficial or non-essential way.  Taksel disagrees with this term.

“We aren’t adjunct,” Taksel said, referring to herself and her contemporaries.  “We aren’t stuck to the side of the ship.  We are in the ship.”

She says she does all of the same things that the full-time faculty does.

“I am a full member of this academic community,” Taksel said.

Point Park’s adjunct faculty voted to unionize under the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers on June 25 in a 172-79 vote.

At that time, the University issued a written statement saying that they would honor the results of the elections.

This decision started the process that led to the negotiations beginning next week.  That same statement said that the University is looking forward to working with the adjuncts in order to better fulfill the school’s mission of educating their students.

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Published by The Globe Newspaper at Point Park University on November 4, 2014

http://www.pointparkglobe.com/news/view.php/853417/Adjunct-faculty-union-begins-negotiation

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