More than 1,000 adjunct faculty members have received three-year appointments this May in the biggest step forward for adjunct job security in CUNY history. Adjuncts on three-year appointments are guaranteed assignments and income, and cannot be dismissed without just cause. Each appointment involves a comprehensive review by the adjunct’s department.
Cory Evans has been teaching philosophy and communications studies in an adjunct position at Baruch College for nearly seven years, but never with any real job security. As of May 15, he knew that he would have a secure appointment for the next three years.
“It’s a great thing,” said Evans. “Teaching is wonderful, but one of the things that can weigh on folks is [job] uncertainty, so knowing that you’re going to be teaching for three years is a big deal. It makes you more involved with your department and with your students, and I think it helps adjuncts feel like they’re part of the academic life of that department.”
“I appreciate that the three-year appointments have given us a chance to offer some small measure of stability to both the professors and our writing program, where most will teach,” said Lee Papa, the chair of the English department at the College of Staten Island. “We want our adjuncts to feel more a part of the department and I’m glad for anything we can offer to that end.”
“The preliminary reports from the colleges indicate that more than 1,000 adjuncts have received a three-year appointment – a start on real job security for adjuncts at last,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “The union wanted longer appointments and broader eligibility criteria, but the results from this first year of the five-year pilot program indicate the value long-serving adjuncts bring to their departments.”
May 15 was the deadline for CUNY colleges to notify adjuncts eligible for three-year appointments, and the vast majority of adjuncts who were eligible for multiyear appointments received them.
The introduction of three-year appointments for adjuncts who have taught consistently in a single department is one of the most significant changes negotiated in the contract ratified last year. The provision, among the hardest fought in the contract, is designed to professionalize the treatment of adjuncts and increase continuity among instructors for students
“It’s great for them,” Brooklyn College PSC adjunct liaison Yasmin Gruss said of the more than 40 adjuncts at her campus who received multiyear appointments. “It went smoothly in terms of that group; it was a manageable group to monitor.” At a campus with far more eligible adjuncts, the process was equally smooth. PSC adjunct counselor Marcia Newfield noted, “More than 200 long-serving adjuncts at Borough of Manhattan Community College were eligible for three-year appointments, and it appears there were very few problems.”
Katie Albany, the City Tech PSC adjunct liaison, said, “People were very happy because, having gone through the procedure, the review process and coming out with a favorable outcome, they think now they’ve been acknowledged. They feel like what they’ve done so far is the right way to teach. There’s a sense of accomplishment with those people.”
Pamela Stemberg, the PSC adjunct liaison at City College, noted that many long-serving adjuncts at her campus opted for the one-time, two-year appointments, because the three-year appointment process required a review from department personnel and budget committees. “That was perceived by members as a new level of difficulty,” she said.
But most adjuncts who were considered for a multiyear appointment received one, Stemberg noted. “One of the adjuncts was really happy; she never had that kind of stability,” she said. “It’s a big deal for people who have had no stability.”
Bowen added, “I am especially appreciative of the conceptual and logistical work the new appointments involved for department chairs and personnel committees. They took on a whole new structure and, for the most part, handled it beautifully. The new appointments represent a vote of confidence by one member in another.”
The appointment process was not without its problems, however, and the union’s contract enforcement department is investigating reports of members being improperly denied appointments or receiving inaccurate appointments or letters of appointment.
“In a department at Medgar Evers College and another at College of Staten Island, adjuncts who were eligible for and should have been considered for three-year appointments were not and received, instead, one-year appointments, which are no longer applicable to such adjuncts under the new contract,” said Stan Wine, a PSC adjunct grievance counselor. “We assume these problems are the result of confusion in the departments, but they must be investigated and corrected.” He added, “There are some adjuncts in most colleges who have been offered one-year appointments ‘with guidance,’ which is permitted under the new contract. They will be eligible for reconsideration next year.”
At Clarion’s press time, the union’s contract enforcement department was responding aggressively to these and other concerns brought by adjunct members. Union staff and grievance counselors are working one-on-one with members and informing departments and human resource offices of obvious misinterpretations of the contract language for the pilot program. The union’s actions on these concerns come on the heels of two other grievances filed earlier this year regarding the eligibility of certain long-serving adjuncts for multiyear appointments.
A STRUCTURAL CHANGE
“One grievance concerns CUNY’s assertion that adjuncts who teach only one jumbo course (for six credits) are not eligible for consideration for a multiyear appointment,” said Wine. “The other grievance concerns adjuncts who teach in so-called ‘programs’ – SEEK, College Now, Lehman’s Freshman-Year Initiative and many others. CUNY is asserting that these adjuncts do not teach in a department, as required by the contract language, but rather are in a program, even though they are appointed and evaluated by a department.”
Bowen said, “This is the first year of an initiative that represents a major structural change at CUNY, so it was not unexpected that there would be some confusion and some errors in execution. But it’s critical that we get the first year right. The union will continue to fight to ensure that all eligible adjuncts receive fair consideration. Next year there will be another cohort of eligible adjuncts, and I expect it to go more smoothly. The results so far are major: more than 1,000 people with job security. That is a victory that took the force of the whole union to win and that benefits us all.”