Four adjunct professors from Santa Fe College gathered Tuesday night at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church to voice their concerns about unlivable wages and unfair treatment. The meeting, sponsored by the Alachua County Labor Coalition, was part of an effort by the professors to unionize and advocate for higher wages and better working conditions.
Professors Kate Murray, Nicole Nesberg, Kim Feigenbaum and Glynn Hayes represented disgruntled professors by voicing their frustration with the treatment of adjuncts.
The four professors, alongside dozens of other Santa Fe College (SFC) professors, filed for official union recognition from the Public Employees Relations Commission in Tallahassee. As of Tuesday night, they had not yet heard back from the commission.
The ACLC is working with Service Employees International Union, SEIU, which has started a campaign called Faculty Forward to help form unions at more than 60 college campuses in the country.
In addition to SFC in Florida, St. Petersburg College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College are filing to unionize with help from SEIU.
If successful, SEIU would represent more than half of all adjunct professors in Florida’s colleges.
For the 2018-2019 school year, SFC raised the salary of full-time workers to $12 an hour while part-time employees and adjunct professors received no raise. Those at the meeting discussed the next steps they can take toward gaining fairer pay and better conditions.
Santa Fe College pays adjuncts about $2,000 per class per semester. Adjuncts cannot work more than 30 hours a week, limiting the number of classes they can teach. Many adjuncts teach at multiple universities online to supplement their income.
Adjunct professors often have many of the same qualifications as full-time professors, including master’s degrees and doctorates. Adjunct professors also account for over half of SFC’s faculty and often teach the same classes. Full-time professors have college-related responsibilities outside of the classroom like research and service requirements, while adjuncts largely stick to teaching individual classes.
Glenn Hayes, an adjunct SFC professor in the department of natural sciences, works for five universities, teaching up to 15 classes a semester. He said he joined the union efforts when he realized that his department only transitioned one adjunct professor to full-time in the 10 years he has been there.
Full-time professors receive health, dental care and vision care in addition to paid vacation time and family leave. Adjunct professors don’t receive insurance or paid leave of any kind.
The union campaign was impacted by Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser’s recent announcement that he intends to retire February 1, 2020. Adjunct professors say the remaining months of Sasser’s term and the selection of the next president will affect their course of action.
Leila Frye, SFC director of Human Resources, has permission to speak on behalf of President Sasser about salary disputes and unions. She said the college is more focused on increasing funding through the legislature than addressing the union.
“Regardless of whatever that [union] effort is of those adjuncts,” Frye said, “this is an inclusive community, and there are already mechanisms in place for people to share what’s important to them.”
Hayes said he hopes Sasser emphasizes to the next president the importance of better conditions for adjuncts.
“I hope he or she knows that it’s not an us versus them mentality,” he said. “We’re all on the same page. We all want to make school better and invest in students better, but we (administration and adjuncts) aren’t ending up on the same page.”
Murray said she wants an adjunct professor or a member of the Alachua County Labor Coalition to be on the search committee for Sasser’s replacement. She hopes the next president provides improved treatment and better compensation for adjuncts.
“If you respect our experience and credentials as instructors enough to have us teach classes,” Murray said, “you should respect us as much as you respect the people that you pay an actual living wage to.”