Boston University is currently negotiating a new contract with adjunct faculty and their representative union, Service Employees International Union Local 509, after their three-year contract initially expired in August, a union representative said.
Rachel McCleery, an Internal Organizer at SEIU Local 509, said the union is looking to amend the existing contract. They want to increase wages, shorten the probationary period and ensure adjunct professors are notified when they aren’t being brought back the following semester, among other things aimed at improving the working conditions for part-time faculty at BU.
One year after voting to join SEIU Local 509 in February 2015, BU adjunct professors and the union signed a three-year contract with the university. McCleery said the university and the union began talks to establish a new contract in July.
The latest round of negotiations took place on Tuesday and are scheduled to continue Nov. 4, McCleery said.
“We were very hopeful that we would make significant progress today based on conversations we had with BU that showed they were more open to movement on some issues than they had been previously,” McCleery said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to resolve things at the next session on Monday. A lot of that will depend on where we can find agreements on the issues that remain outstanding.”
BU is represented at the bargaining table by Juditra Burgess, vice president for Human Resources at BU, as well as several academic officers and HR employees, McCleery said. McCleery and a union colleague are representing the adjuncts in tandem with adjunct professors themselves.
Lilly Havstad, an adjunct professor in the writing program in the College of Arts and Sciences, said adjunct professors are looking to reach agreements with the university regarding job security.
“Right now in the current contract negotiations, we’re really looking to ensure longer, more predictable contracts,” Havstad said. “Our contracts are only semester to semester for most, if not all of us. Job security also means in our current negotiations to shorten the probationary period that new faculty go through.”
Havstad said adjuncts are also hoping to achieve greater pay parity with their full-time counterparts.
“Meaning we’re all paid the same salary for the great teaching that we’re doing in the classroom,” Havstad said, “along with the mentoring and advising of students, and also the work that we do to write letters of recommendation.”
The university and adjunct faculty agreed to two consecutive one-month extensions of the contract, Havstad said, which is set to expire again on Oct. 31.
“We’re really looking for the support of the entire BU community to get out the word to BU and to the administration, that adjuncts and part-time faculty deserve a better contract,” Havstad said. “We are heading into our next contract negotiations on Monday with every intention of bargaining in good faith, and we hope that the administration will meet us there at the table.”
McCleery said she hopes the union and the university will reach an agreement.
“It’s been a somewhat contentious process up until now, but we’re very pleased with the movement that the university was able to make,” McCleery added. “And we’ve made our priorities clear, we hope, and we also hope the university can respond in a spirit of cooperation.”
BU officials declined to comment on ongoing negotiations.
Valeria Ladino, a sophomore in CAS, said the university should try to find the middle ground between their goals and the adjuncts’ goals.
“I think the university should take what [the union is] saying into consideration and see if there’s a way that both sides can be happy,” Ladino said.
Iman Albader, a senior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she thinks the university likely has the means to meet the adjuncts’ demands.
“I feel like the university probably spends a lot of money on unnecessary things,” Albader said. “And they certainly take a lot of money from us students. So as far as ensuring better professors who will more likely take positions that offer greater pay and longer contracts, I’m all for it.”
Cierra Everitt, a graduate student in the Metropolitan College, said that while all teachers deserve fair pay, BU should consider increasing full-time professor salaries as well given that they spend more time in the classroom.
“I mean, personally, I think every teacher deserves more pay, whether they’re full time or not,” Everitt said. “I think the school, if they’re going to up [the] pay for non full-time professors, they would kind of have to do the same for full time professors, just because they do work a lot more than the other ones.”
Roxanne Chang, a senior in CAS, said BU should keep in mind the amount of work adjuncts put into their jobs during the negotiations.
“I think the university should probably reflect on the amount of time that these adjunct professors spend on curating their lesson plans, the time they spend on preparing the students for the courses and just everything that they do for their job,” Chang said. “And then maybe sit down with them and talk about what these professors think that they’re lacking and then make a plan based on that.”