NEWARK…NJIT adjunct faculty, who voted to form a union in May, rallied for a fair first contract on campus Wednesday, calling for better pay, recognition of their critical roles in the campus community and opportunities for professional development and career advancement.
Susan Bristol, a NJ native, attended University of Virginia’s architecture program before NJIT’s was accredited and wanted to bring some of the excellence from that program and her professional experience back to New Jersey as an adjunct faculty member. Bristol said, “We are calling for NJIT management to bargain a fair contract that recognizes the contributions of highly-skilled, experienced adjunct faculty and addresses what has become a toxic culture of over-reliance on severely under-compensated professionals to teach and perform many vital campus functions.”
Despite her part-time status as an adjunct faculty member, Bristol has created new curriculum & original courses, participated in national accreditation, recruited high school students, made calls to admitted students, delivered public lectures at other universities, taken students on field trips to important architectural sites, and arranged meetings with prominent architects to enrich students’ experience. “I love teaching NJIT students, but what are the institutional ethics of asking the lowest-paid faculty to perform so many uncompensated professional functions on top of their teaching responsibilities?”
Jeff Reaves believes that NJIT could do a better job of creating bridges to full-time employment for adjuncts by integrating campus functions and research or other professional responsibilities between semesters. Enrollment is strong at NJIT because students are attracted to the new technologies such as developing applications and adjunct faculty members offer significant real-world professional and corporate background to the student experience.
After graduating from NJIT with dual masters’ degrees in Information Systems and Environmental Sciences, Reaves spent years implementing technology systems with a specialty in legal systems before discovering his aptitude for teaching while training to roll out the systems. “NJIT has the resources to compensate adjunct faculty fairly and create additional professional opportunities for full-time employment and accompanying benefits such as health insurance,” he said.
Bristol and Reaves were among the 300-plus adjunct faculty members who voted to form a union in May, affiliating with Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers.
More than 10,000 adjunct faculty members at Rutgers and all of New Jersey’s public four-year institutions and 10 community colleges are members of AFT New Jersey bargaining units. Donna M. Chiera, AFT New Jersey President, attended Wednesday’s rally to support the call for a fair contract. “We support better opportunities and fair compensation for adjunct faculty,” said Chiera. “As a premier research institution, we know NJIT can do better in its treatment of adjunct faculty.”
Montclair State University Adjunct Professor of Education Robert Noonan is President of the Montclair Adjuncts local, representing more than 1,200 adjunct faculty. Noonan addressed the rally, “You teach 42 percent of the classes at NJIT. We teach 50 percent of the classes at Montclair. If higher education is going to have credibility, we have to bring adjuncts into the fold, pay a decent wage and have equity with other teaching faculty.”