Letter To The Editor

To the Editor:

As Seattle University students, we are concerned with the continuing topics of discussion regarding contingent faculty on campus. As students, we offer a perspective different from those previously expressed, and therefore appreciate the opportunity to join this conversation. Underlying the opinions and actions of each of us, as students, is an awareness that we have all been deeply and positively affected by contingent faculty. We have been fortunate to attend classes with the hardworking and dedicated professors who are the fabric of our institution, which is dedicated to educating the whole person and advocating social justice for a more just and humane world.

In order to contribute to facilitating a more open dialogue, we would like to present a few insights for all of us at Seattle University to consider:

• Academic Assembly (AcA) and the AAUP have both written petitions advocating that the administration take a neutral stance concerning the contingent faculty’s efforts to unionize.

• The presence of a union of contingent faculty members does not inherently impede the presence of or function of the AcA or AAUP. A union is instead another potential way in which the contingent faculty can be heard and will be respected.

• Identifying a union as third-party ignores the fact that a union is comprised of faculty members, and does not operate in lieu of or separate from faculty members. Those individuals who join a union make up a union.

• A common problem contingent faculty members face is their lack of voice within the university. With over 56 percent of faculty at Seattle U (as of Fall 2011) being contingent faculty, their inability to easily access faculty meetings ignores a valuable and essential connection between the administration and the student body. The decision of some faculty to support unionization has been largely influenced by a lack of shared governance or transparency regarding faculty contracts.

• The results of “The Impact of Unionization on University Performance: a Cross-sectional Time Series Analysis,” a scholarly article coming out of Kent State University in August 2013, noted that there is no correlation between unionization and an increase in university costs associated with education and core expenses.

• The administration at Georgetown University, another Jesuit institution to which we are often compared, recognized the indispensible role that contingent faculty play within their community and maintained neutrality on the question of unionization. The actions of all involved parties in this instance illustrates that a union need not be adversarial unless it is made to be so.

• In addition, a well-established and respected collective within the Catholic community, the Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, have provided a statement of support for adjunct professors at Seattle University in their efforts to seek a democratic, electoral process.

• Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that Seattle University adjuncts and contingent faculty members may vote to form a union. Seattle University’s administration has since appealed the ruling of the NLRB in its entirety while also urging faculty to vote against the formation of a union.

We are grateful and honored to attend a reputable university dedicated to engaging in dialogue concerning all matters of social justice and to formulating leaders for a more just and humane world. We urge our Jesuit sense of justice to apply not only to the culture and ideas Seattle University engages, but also to Seattle University itself. We look forward to continuing to support contingent faculty and all members of our community at Seattle University.

Sincerely,

Alex Hughes
English Literature with Departmental Honors, 2014

Dakota Barnes
Political Science and Spanish Language, 2015

Allison Thompson
International Studies and French Language, 2016

Calvin Garrett
Sociology, University Honors Program, 2016

Meghan Kennedy
Marine and Conservation Biology and Theology and Religious Studies, 2015

Alex Romeo
Institute of Public Service, Masters Public Administration, 2015

The Members of Student Coalition for Faculty Rights

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  • Dr. David Shoultz

    I am glad to see student voices represented in this dialogue and appreciate the timely letter to the editor. As an adjunct faculty member in the Albers School of Business & Economics I greatly appreciate the evolving dialogue that is ongoing on the Seattle University campus. I strongly believe that dialogue (not unionization) is the only way forward.

    As an adjunct professor, having SEIU (or any union) representing adjunct faculty would be detrimental to my role, work, and compensation at Seattle University. As I do not support the unionization attempt and would not join SEIU (or any union) represeting faculty, I would be penalized by still having to pay a “service fee” in lieu of union dues. Thus my compensation would reduced. As I do not support the union and would not want them claiming to speak for me in any manner, my ability to freely and productively interact with members of the Seattle University administration would be significantly restricted.

    For these and many other reasons, I just voted no last night and mailed my ballot back this morning. I urge all adjunct faculty to vote no. No to unionization. No to SEIU.

    David Shoultz, PhD, MBA
    Adjunct Professor, Albers School of Business & Economics