December 10, 2016

Webster announces new adjunct projects

Webster University released a list of items the university hopes will improve adjunct faculty’s quality of life.

The report, released nearly eight months after Webster adjuncts filed for unionization, listed five improvements Webster hopes will make good on a commitment the university made to adjuncts last spring. 

President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster made several commitments in a letter to adjuncts through five topics including: parking, professional development, private work/storage areas, focus groups and an informative website. The letter also praised Webster adjuncts as an important part of the university.

“Last spring, we made a commitment to you that we would look closely at the adjunct experience at Webster University and explore opportunities for enhancements,” the letter read.

Webster’s commitment came in the wake of an adjunct push for unionization in January. The administration “firmly opposed” unionization and adjuncts eventually voted against organizing a union 268 to 212.

Webster School of Communications adjunct Terri Reilly said while the improvements are a start, there is still work to do. Reilly is also a member of the Webster University Adjunct Organizing Committee.

“One of my frustrations had always been that adjuncts couldn’t get the time of day from administration,” Reilly said. Adjuncts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, are any faculty members, lecturers or instructers who are not full-time.

Administration met with adjunct faculty throughout past semesters to search for ways to improve the adjunct experience at Webster.

“We convened several meetings over the course of the summer. During these sessions, our primary objective was to listen and better understand what we are doing well and where improvements can be made. These meetings were extremely informative and provided direction as we moved forward,” a Webster press release read.

Reilly said while administration meeting with adjuncts is a step in the right direction,  the meetings have been by invite only and not an open forum. She said she believes there is a fear that getting adjuncts together in a room on a wide scale will lead to further organization.

“So far there’s not been an open session to get all of the adjuncts together,” Reilly said. “I do believe that there is a fear of gathering adjuncts together in one place. Therefore, the situation is still being scripted.”

Reilly, who teaches three classes a semester, works full-time and serves on the faculty senate and multicultural committee, said nothing has been done about the wage problem. She said as an adjunct, she has reached the ceiling of pay at Webster.

“I’ve reached my seniority level here. I am capped at $3,500 a class and it’s been that way for quite some time,” Reilly said. “That’s it. That’s all I could ever make [here]. There’s been no discussion of increasing that.”

Reilly said since the university is in tough financial times, adjunct faculty will probably not get a raise, but she questioned why the university would spend money on a consulting firm to run focus groups with adjuncts.

In an April 8 article in The Journal, adjunct professor Paul Moriarty said he did not have to teach at other universities for 10 years like other adjuncts. Moriarty said he would teach four courses in the spring and fall semesters, in addition to two summer courses to make ends meet.

“Which is barely enough to get by on. If I don’t wind up getting 10 classes, then it’s not enough,” Moriarty said.

Focus groups with adjuncts were also a part of the improvements. The groups will be run through a national consulting firm, Towers Watson, that works in risk management and employee benefit consulting.

Reilly said the focus groups and their transparency is of specific concern. She said there were many unanswered questions when it came to the process of the groups.

“I believe adjuncts will be able to speak freely, but I don’t know how transparent that process will be,” Reilly said.

The letter states adjunct faculty will be selected randomly by Towers Watson in an effort to identify steps to support adjuncts at Webster.

Other improvements made by administration included easing parking rules and prices, enriching adjunct development, a website for policies and information and a private adjunct faculty area in Sverdrup.

Parking – The university allow adjuncts to pay for BLUE parking permit with an automated payroll deduction of $7.65 per paycheck. If no paycheck is received, a deduction will not occur. The university’s letter to adjuncts said the new model will not make adjuncts pay more for parking privileges, and most will pay less.

Development – The Faculty Development Center is working to make more opportunities for adjunct development available to employees. This will allow some St. Louis-based full-time and part-time faculty to attend regional teaching conferences.

Information – Adjunct website providing straightforward information about Webster, its policies and procedures, employee benefits and teaching topics.

Work space/storage –  A private adjunct room will be located in Sverdrup room 208. It will include desks, printers, lockable storages, a breakout table and private offices that can be used when needed.

Further improvements for adjuncts will be announced soon, a post on Webster’s website said.

Reilly said, while the university has a long way to go, it is good to see the administration taking steps in the right direction.

“I think it’s positive that the administration is taking a more proactive approach,” Reilly said. “Finally.”

Share this post

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail