A union contract gives Tufts adjuncts ‘unheard-of’ rights

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Credit: G. Grullón

A new union contract grants adjunct faculty members at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, the rights to receive prompt notification of full-time openings in their departments, to be considered for the jobs, and to interview for those jobs. If they don’t get the position, they have the right to find out why from their dean or chair. Inside Higher Ed rightly terms these guarantees “unheard-of at most institutions.”

As we have previously noted, being routinely passed over for full-time, permanent posts in the departments that employ them has long ranked among adjuncts’ major complaints. It is, of course, too soon to tell how many will succeed in making the jump from part-time status to the tenure track at Tufts, but now, at least, institutions will owe them an explanation.

Instead of being hired semester-to-semester, as has long been customary at Tufts and elsewhere, adjuncts will now generally get contracts lasting at least a year.

These are not the only improvements that the contract, which goes into effect 1 January, will bring to the working lives of the Tufts adjuncts, who voted to join the Service Employees International Union, which is running a nationwide organizing campaign called Adjunct Action, in September 2013. More than 95% of approximately 200 Tufts adjuncts voted to ratify the pact, the first between the union and the university.

Instead of being hired semester-to-semester, as has long been customary at Tufts and elsewhere, adjuncts will now generally get contracts lasting at least a year. Those with more than 4 years at Tufts will get 2-year contracts, and those with more than 8 years at Tufts will get contracts covering 3 years.

When courses are cancelled, the university will pay a minimum of $750, and those with 3-year contracts will receive the full course fee. Pay per course will also rise over the contract’s 3 years, from the $6000 currently paid to adjuncts with less than 4 years of service to $7300. A $25,000 fund established by the university will provide up to $500 a year for professional development to improve teaching.

Even before the new contract, adjuncts teaching three or more courses in an academic year could receive benefits, including health and retirement coverage and tuition reimbursement. The union will receive 1.5% of each adjunct’s pay in dues, according to The Boston Globe.

The new contract makes the Tufts adjuncts perhaps the best situated in the nation. But even with more rights, more security, and better pay, the gap in status, income, and opportunity that separates Tufts adjuncts from tenured faculty remains large.

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