One of the most dramatic changes negotiated in the new contract is the introduction of three-year appointments for adjuncts who have taught consistently in a single department. The new provision, among the hardest-fought in the contract, is designed to professionalize the treatment of adjuncts and increase continuity among instructors for students. “This is a shift in CUNY culture,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, “and like any cultural shift it will require adjustment. For the first time in CUNY history, eligible adjuncts will have access to appointments with meaningful job security and students will be able to count on having their adjunct professors on campus for more than a semester.”
Job security for part-time faculty, who teach more than half the courses at CUNY, was identified as a priority by PSC delegates in 2010 when they approved the union’s bargaining agenda for the next round of bargaining. It took until the last night of negotiations, however, to break the University’s resistance to changing the structure of adjunct employment. “Management’s agenda in this round of bargaining was to introduce more positions with zero job security, including for full-time faculty. The union’s was to protect tenure, introduce stability for adjuncts and defend academic quality for students,” Bowen said.
The most profound change introduced by the new provision is that all adjuncts who meet the eligibility requirements must be considered for the longer appointment. Just as full-time faculty eligible for tenure must be considered for tenure if they wish to remain in the department, so adjuncts who qualify must be considered for the longer appointment. To be eligible, an adjunct must have taught at least six contact hours per semester in the same department for at least the 10 most recent consecutive semesters. The three-year appointment will provide the assurance of six contact hours of work per semester (or its equivalent) throughout the three-year period.
THE PROCESS AHEAD
In order to receive the three-year appointment, adjuncts who meet the service requirements must receive a positive recommendation from the department personnel and budget committee (or its equivalent), based on a comprehensive review of the adjunct’s performance and the fiscal and programmatic needs of the department. The first round of reviews will be conducted during Spring 2017, and adjunct faculty with positive recommendations and college approval will begin their appointments starting Fall 2017. A negative recommendation will normally mean that the adjunct may not be appointed to teach in the department after the spring semester, unless there is a recommendation for one year of guidance and then reconsideration.
Colleges will have to keep more careful records of adjuncts’ teaching loads than in the past. Initially, the pilot program will create additional administrative work for departments because of the number of reviews that may be required during Spring 2017. But in the long term, it will relieve departments of the need to reappoint certain adjuncts every semester. There are between 1,200 and 2,000 teaching adjuncts eligible for a three-year appointment University-wide.
The new structure is a pilot program, but adjuncts appointed to three-year appointments any time during the five years of the pilot program will remain on the appointment for the full three years. “The PSC and CUNY have a good track record of making pilot programs permanent,” Bowen said.
The union expects that College Human Resources Offices will inform departments before the start of the Spring semester which teaching adjuncts are eligible for consideration for a three-year appointment. Those eligible for a three-year appointment do not have to apply, but should make sure they are on the list of eligible adjuncts that HR provides the department.
As a one-time transition, long-serving adjuncts who may have had a break in service or taught fewer than six contact hours during a semester in the last five years may be eligible for a two-year appointment, subject to sufficiency of registration and changes in curriculum. Teaching adjuncts who were eligible last spring for a one-year appointment and have taught at least six contact hours in the same department for 14 of the last 18 semesters, excluding summers and including the four most recent semesters, will be eligible for the two-year appointment, for which no performance review by the department is required.
Teaching adjuncts who believe they are eligible for the two-year appointment must submit a Notice of Interest (available on the college website to the college HR Office) by October 17, 2016. They should get a receipt from HR and give a copy of the Notice to their department chair. The college will confirm the adjunct’s eligibility and notify the adjunct of her/his two-year appointment by February 1, 2017. The appointment will end with the Spring 2018 semester. Adjuncts on two-year appointments will receive comprehensive reviews for three-year appointments starting Fall 2018.
Adjuncts considering the appointment, or who have other questions, should contact an adjunct grievance counselor at the PSC Office, 212-354-1252.
“The new system of three-year appointments is complicated and it’s not perfect, but it is the first crack in the wall of radical job insecurity for half of the teaching workforce. And that’s a victory for everyone,” Bowen said.