USG, student group continue conversation on adjunct faculty

Originally published in The Globe February 5, 2014

The Student Solidarity Organization (SSO) continued its support for the unionization of adjunct professors at the University for the second consecutive week.

After presenting its case to the United Student Government (USG) on Jan. 27, the student group returned to discuss its statement of support on Monday after the governing body tabled it for further discussion.

Samatha Lee, senior global cultural studies major and head of the organization, along with junior Ian Horne and adjunct English professor Luke Niebler returned with Robin Sowards, Duquesne University adjunct professor and member of the United Steelworkers. Together the four individuals presented the research of the statement of support and emphasized the importance of USG’s backing.

USG decided to table the statement for a second time in hopes of deciding whether to stand by the current statement or craft its own. It invited the SSO to its Feb. 10 meeting to discuss it in detail further.

President Pro-Tempore Gabriel Dubin said the main issue with the statement is the language being “biased against the University not doing anything assisting students in their education.”

“It’s not fair to the University to say they’ve done nothing to help students,” said Dubin in the JVH Feb. 3. “But at the same time I agree that the unionization issue is very large and very pervasive. We need to seriously consider whether to support the [Student Solidarity Organization].”

The SSO emphasized the importance of USG’s support for both the students and adjuncts, and said the support of the governing body as well as student body would encourage more adjuncts to join the cause.

“We are coming to you as representatives of the student body,” Lee said to USG Feb 3. “This directly effects our education.”

Niebler told USG members that it is their tuition money and it should go to the people that educate them.

“Students have an enormous amount of power,” Sowards said to the governing body Feb. 3. “Faculty is a cost. Students are an asset.”

According to the SSO, more than 70 percent of Point Park faculty are adjunct professors, yet the salary of an adjunct professor at the University is the second lowest among Pittsburgh universities. Adjunct professors are limited to teaching three classes per semester and are paid $3,000 per course.

Niebler said 17 percent of a single student’s tuition is what the adjunct professor is being paid to teach a course.

The SSO also further explained the issues facing adjunct professors aside from pay, explaining that unionization would mean better job security for adjuncts.

“Adjuncts are effectively fired every semester,” said Niebler to USG Feb. 3. “My classes can be canceled two days before they start.”

Sowards said he sees adjunct unionization “mutually beneficial” for the adjunct professors and the University. He said better paid adjuncts are linked to higher graduation and retention rates.

“Retention is a big problem at Point Park,” Niebler said. “Unionization could help that.”

Many members of the Legislative Body are in favor of giving their support, but Dean Michael Gieseke advised members to look for the other side of the story.

“For two weeks now they have heard why it’s important to have the adjuncts unionize,” said Gieske Feb. 3. “Before [USG] makes [its] final decision [it] needs to understand why it may be potentially of a concern to the University.”

Students can read the full statement of support and sign the petition at http://chn.ge/1igTrkx.

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