To the Editor:
"Adjuncts Build Strength in Numbers" (The Chronicle, November 5) provides a welcome description of the large and growing phenomenon by which universities save lots of bucks by hiring part-timers. While there are pluses (increased connections between academia and communities), the downsides for students, full-time faculty members, and other elements of the institution are more weighty.
One very potent way to improve things is unionization (barely mentioned in the article, which does report a few instances where adjunct associations have been formed, with minor victories and little power).
At George Washington University, where I hold an adjunct position in the sociology department, we formed a union two years ago (Service Employees International Union Local 500) that now represents all 1,150 of the institution's part-timers. We negotiated a contract (just renewed) that gave us, for the first time, job security, benefits, a hike in the measly pre-unionization pay ($3,200 per course, on average)—and respect.
The unionization movement is just taking off. In the Washington area alone, Montgomery College now has a contract, and American University and the University of the District of Columbia are in the process of getting contracts. It's a hugely important move for higher education. I hope Chronicle readers will take the initiative.
Director of Research
Poverty & Race Research Action Council