Oct. 30, 2015

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UUP chapters spotlight adjuncts during Campus Equity Week

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UUP chapters around the state marked Campus Equity Week, Oct. 26-30, with forums, petition drives and outreach aimed at strengthening and supporting the lowest-paid members of the University’s teaching ranks.

Members participating in the events said they took heart from the fact that the plight of adjuncts is gaining national attention. Major media outlets are writing about it, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just tweeted about it and there is a growing sense that the problem is too large and too embarrassing for higher education to ignore any longer.

“People are beginning to talk about this in a wider forum,” said Bill Simons, UUP Oneonta chapter president, as he and nearly a dozen members – both part-time and full-time – sought signatures from students for a petition asking the campus administration to double adjunct pay, to $5,000 a course. “I think it’s becoming a much more visible issue.

Other UUP chapters held CEW events, including Albany, Cortland, Fredonia, New Paltz, Oswego and Plattsburgh.

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Adjunct work conditions and pay are expected to have a strong role in negotiations, and UAlbany adjunct members aired their concerns about what’s important to them in that process at a forum during the week.

Fielding questions were Chapter President and Negotiations Team member Bret Benjamin; chapter Officer for Contingents Rebekah Tolley – who is also a member of the statewide Contingent Employment Committee and the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee; and member Holly McKenna, who co-chairs the chapter Contingent Concerns Committee with Tolley.

At the forum, Benjamin noted that the union made gains for adjuncts in the last contract and that UUP will continue to press for more in negotiations for the upcoming contract with the state.

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McKenna and Tolley also staffed a table during the week at the UAlbany Campus Center. In the photo above, Tolley, an artist who teaches at UAlbany and Oneonta, prints a silk-screened adjunct slogan onto T-shirts that reads, “Our Work Conditions are Student Learning Conditions.”

In Oswego, a message for the week is that adjuncts gain strength when their numbers band together under the union banner, said Charlie Itzin, the Oswego Chapter's Contingent Officer and a member of the statewide UUP Contingent Employment Committee.

“We’ve been meeting and we continue to grow,” Itzin said. “We’ve really been trying to get out and get people to sign up for the union. That’s one of our big goals, is to get all adjuncts signed up. I think this is the year for adjuncts.”

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