St. Thomas president issues plan for adjunct faculty

  • Article by: BEENA RAGHAVENDRAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 30, 2014 - 10:26 PM

Administration tries to address concerns of part-time professors.

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University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan announced a plan to address adjunct professors’ concerns about health care and other issues.

Photo: File photo by GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com,

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University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan released a plan Wednesday to address the concerns of adjunct faculty members after their failed union vote.

The plan includes a potential increase in salaries in the 2015-16 budget, possible improved benefits and money for adjunct faculty development. It also kick-starts a task force to initiate the plan, and a faculty council will be elected in the fall to serve as an advisory body to identify adjunct needs.

The plan was released after the National Labor Relations Board certified the election results Tuesday.

But the plan lacks specifics and only lists vague efforts that will start in the future, said Lucy Saliger, an English adjunct professor at St. Thomas who supported the union vote that failed July 21 in a 136-84 result.

“We were all expecting them to come out with something a little bit more dazzling than this,” she said.

Plans in Sullivan’s e-mail to adjuncts includes “reviewing potential increases to adjunct faculty salaries each year” and “develop[ing] proposed alternatives for adjunct faculty to participate in our benefit programs.”

It states that examining health care benefits for adjunct faculty will be a priority in the benefit program analysis led by associate vice president Michelle Thom. Details of the plan — such as the amount of salary increase — will be worked out over time and further discussions, said university spokesman Doug Hennes.

A raise of $200 per course for College of Arts and Sciences adjunct faculty goes into effect in September, Hennes said.

Sullivan became president last year. When she became aware of the issues, she led discussions with adjunct faculty in the spring, Hennes said. “I think it really demonstrates her desire and the university’s desire to work with adjunct faculty to find solutions to their concerns,” he said.

Adjuncts’ wants

The plan doesn’t guarantee job security, which is a concern for many adjuncts, Saliger said. Saliger is a first-year adjunct but knows of some at St. Thomas who are nearing retirement age and don’t have pension.

Administrators will examine options of job security depending on the adjunct’s role, Hennes said. It’s mentioned in the plan in a clause to work to “establish consistent timelines for issuing adjunct faculty contracts.”

Kim Sovell, a business adjunct at St. Thomas, opposed the union because she wanted time to work with the administration first.

“It’s a start to form a task force so we can start discussing what the legitimate issues are,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful step forward.”

Sovell said she wants a broader description of benefits, and hopes to see a survey conducted to outline adjuncts’ desires.

On July 4 before the union vote, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Terry Langan wrote an e-mail to adjunct faculty urging them to vote no. He said he’d reviewed Sullivan’s plan and adjuncts could vote no with his assurance that the plan was exactly what he’d envisioned in his push to work with the administration.

Saliger said the plan isn’t much after such a hefty promise — and adjuncts can turn right around and organize another union election in the fall.

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