Wednesday, December 13, 2017

USF adjuncts to rally as new survey reveals poverty among Florida professors

On the heels of a new survey underscoring hunger and poverty among Florida professors, adjunct professors at the University of South Florida will rally next week as part of their push to unionize.

The adjunct professors and their supporters, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, plan to gather in front of USF's Marshall Student Center on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 11 a.m.

Adjuncts are part-time professors who work from semester to semester without benefits or job security, generally for a few thousand dollars per course. Universities have come to rely on them for their flexibility and affordability. Many adjuncts teach just one or two classes on the side of a full-time job, or in retirement. But a growing contingent of adjuncts, faced with the dismal academic job market or the prospect of leaving their profession, cobble together a living with these low-paid classes.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

On Tuesday, a report called "Life on the Edge of the Blackboard" was released. Compiled by the Service Employees International Union, it's based on survey responses from nearly 800 adjunct faculty members across Florida.

The findings underscored the oft-cited struggles of adjuncts. More than 43 percent of respondents said they had experienced at least three major signs of poverty, such as taking a payday loan, facing eviction or having utilities cut off.

A quarter said they've skipped meals, relied on food stamps, or visited a food bank or soup kitchen. Others said they slept in cars or forwent doctor's visits.

Of course, the survey was voluntary, so the findings reflect the experiences of a certain population. Nine out of 10 respondents said they teach part-time. Less than 7 percent said they earned more than $60,000 teaching last year. About half said they made between $10,000 and $30,000.

Adjuncts count on each one of their courses for income, but they often have little notice when one falls through. About 46 percent said their employer had canceled a course with less than a month's notice.

USF remains fiercely opposed to a union. Officials have said the school prefers to work with adjuncts directly, rather than through a third party, and that a one-size-fits-all union isn't in adjuncts' best interest. Officials have also said that a union would likely increase costs and reduce flexibility.

The adjuncts pushing for a union have said they would bargain for higher wages, more stable contracts and benefits such as health insurance. For many of them, the story of Robert Ryan has acted as a catalyzing force. Ryan was an adjunct who taught English courses at USF for 20 years and died of cancer this summer without employer-sponsored health insurance.

"I've seen higher education devalued further and further throughout my time as an instructor," Jarad Fennel said in an SEIU news release. Fennel teaches as an adjunct at USF and the University of Tampa.

"It's frustrating that administrators know that so many of us are struggling, but they choose to keep squeezing us and fighting our efforts to organize," he said. I wish that instead they'd fight alongside us in Tallahassee to properly fund higher education."

The release also quoted Muhammad Rehan, an adjunct professor and father of two.

"Everyone assumes that because I'm a professor, I make a decent living, but after working at Broward College for five years, I still make less than $30,000 a year," he said. "I've gone without healthcare. I've maxed out my credit card. I've skipped meals and lived off cheap food. This is no way for anyone to live."

In the survey, Rehan said that he has to avoid cold foods or drinks because, without dental coverage, he can't afford to replace a crown that came off a tooth nine months ago.

SEIU points to higher education spending cuts as fuel for the reliance on adjuncts. Since 2008, the state has reduced higher education spending by nearly 20 percent. Colleges have raised tuition in response, and administrative costs have swelled, but adjunct pay has remained fairly level.

Comments
Florida superintendents come out against proposal to do away with electing superintendents

Florida superintendents come out against proposal to do away with electing superintendents

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, or FADSS, released a statement Wednesday that it does not support a statewide proposal that would do away with the election of school superintendents.The statement comes the day before ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Appeals court upholds ruling against Florida education funding challenge

Appeals court upholds ruling against Florida education funding challenge

Florida's First District Court of Appeal has agreed with the trial court against a group of parents who complained the state had violated its constitutional role to fund an "an efficient, safe, secure and uniform high-quality education."The...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pasco students using school choice might not have to reapply after rezoning

Pasco students using school choice might not have to reapply after rezoning

Pasco County students attending schools outside their neighborhoods through choice will not have to submit new applications to remain after the School Board redraws boundaries for several west-side high schools, if the board approves.Superintendent K...
Updated: 3 hours ago
What’s in a name? A Pasco school considers its options

What’s in a name? A Pasco school considers its options

After more than 30 years in operation, Ridgewood High School in New Port Richey is crafting a new identity.But community leaders want to keep a bit of history for the place they still call the "Pride of Pasco," as it transitions from a trad...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida education news: Testing, board pay, school zones and more

Florida education news: Testing, board pay, school zones and more

TESTING: Superintendents asked, and the Florida Department of Education delivered. Sort of. After Hurricane Irma interrupted schooling for a week or more, districts sought a delay in spring 2018 state testing. They got  an extended assessme...
Updated: 9 hours ago
School board pay question will return to Constitution Revision Commission

School board pay question will return to Constitution Revision Commission

Erika Donalds barely saved her proposal to end Florida school board members' salaries when it came before the Constitution Revision Commission education committee in November.Headed for defeat, Donalds moved to postpone action rather than cast what w...
Published: 12/12/17
How much money do Florida’s private college presidents take home?

How much money do Florida’s private college presidents take home?

Despite widespread frustration with the outsize costs of college, pay packages for private college presidents have continued to climb at a rapid clip, according to annual numbers compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.In 2015...
Published: 12/12/17
Canterbury head of school’s contract renewed for one year

Canterbury head of school’s contract renewed for one year

It's official: Mac Hall, the head of school for Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, is sticking around for the 2018-19 school year.The decision was announced Friday after Hall's contested 13-year tenure led to the turnover of the school's...
Published: 12/12/17
Spring testing window extended because of fall hurricanes

Spring testing window extended because of fall hurricanes

A busy 2017 hurricane season kept hundreds of thousands of Florida students out of school for days, if not weeks, this past fall.First came closures in anticipation of Irma. Then came the extended time off to allow schools time to clean up, and staff...
Published: 12/12/17
Florida education news: Water pipes, gender rights, textbook choices and more

Florida education news: Water pipes, gender rights, textbook choices and more

IN THE WATER: A Pinellas County middle school continues to hand out water bottles to students as it clears its pipes of copper and iron. Officials say the levels are now safe, but want to keep up the effort as a precaution.GUNS ON CAMPUS: Two La...
Published: 12/12/17