Students, faculty rally in support of a contract for part-time faculty

Part-time lecturer Andy Klatt greets protesters at 200 Boston Ave. on Sept. 29. Klatt announced a walk-out on Oct. 11 if a new collective bargaining agreement with Tufts is not reached. (Eddie Samuels for the The Tufts Daily)

This morning, Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) led a march of around 25 students from the Res Quad to 200 Boston Ave., where negotiations are taking place between administrators and part-time lecturers to renew their collective bargaining agreement.

Once outside the building, part-time lecturers on the bargaining committee took a break from the meeting to join and address the rally. Lecturer Andy Klatt announced that, if an agreement is not reached soon, the lecturers’ union has scheduled a walkout for Oct. 11.

Klatt, a lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and member of the faculty’s bargaining committee, says this is due to the university’s unwillingness to compromise.

“We’ve been trying to negotiate a second union contract since March 3, but the university has been and continues to be recalcitrant,” Klatt said as he addressed the rally. “Despite the importance of part-time faculty’s relationship with students, and despite the part-time faculty occupying the front lines of the university’s educational mission, the institution is determined not to see us as key components as instructional staff, but as part-time help.”

The students chanted, “We want education, not a corporation” and “Raise that per-course pay, exploitation’s not okay” as they approached 200 Boston Ave. Lindsay Sanders, a senior and member of TLC, spoke about why the rally was organized.

“Our adjunct faculty work really hard, just as hard as full-time faculty, sometimes harder in some cases, and the university doesn’t recognize that in the wages that they give them, the benefits, the respect or the job security,” Sanders said. “They’ve been negotiating for a really long time, since March, and the university really hasn’t budged on really basic issues.”

Tufts became the first university in the Boston area to sign a union contract with part-time adjunct faculty in 2014, a year after faculty voted to organize with Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Tufts’ initial unionization was seen as a model for other universities, and brought lecturers increased pay and more job security. Organizers and faculty, however, say that recent negotiations have reached a deadlock.

TLC member Zoe Schoen said that the university feels as though it has already done enough for the adjunct faculty members by signing the first union contract three years ago.

“It’s really deadlocked around this issue of pay-per-course,” Schoen, a junior, said. “Part of it is because the contract that adjuncts and the university settled on was their first union contract. It was kind of ground-breaking, but also there’s a lot more work to be done. . . A lot of the language the administration used in this round of negotiations has pointed to the sense that they feel like they did their job three years ago and now things are good.”

Schoen explained that pay equity is a major feature of the current negotiations. The 2014 collective bargaining agreement guarantees new part-time lecturers $7,300 per course. Full-time assistant professors in the School of Arts and Sciences, by comparison, earned a mean salary of $82,584 last year, according to the Tufts Fact Book.

Klatt expressed a similar sentiment while speaking to the crowd.

“There’s a view of the university that we should be content — more than content — because three years ago we won a decent contract for the first time ever and rose out of the debased conditions under which we previously labored,” Klatt said. “In their view, we should accept having been pushed backward for 30 years and be happy with crumbs. In their view, we should be happy to tread water after winning our first contract. We don’t share their view, and we know that you do not share their view. We have just begun to climb out of the hole in which they pushed us, and we are not about to stop now.”

Elizabeth Leavell, a part-time faculty member in the English department, also addressed the crowd about particulars of the meeting.

“At one point in our negotiations … when Carol [Wilkinson, a lecturer in the English department] was speaking about the time it takes to meet individually with students one-on-one to work on their papers, one of the administration people said, ‘Well, don’t meet with them so often,’” Leavell said.

Patrick Collins, the executive director of public relations, remains confident that an agreement will be reached between the union and the administration.

“Our part-time faculty make many important contributions to our educational mission, which we respect and appreciate,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “Negotiations with the SEIU are ongoing and have been characterized by a spirit of professionalism and cooperation. We are committed to continuing to bargain in good faith and remain hopeful that we will soon reach agreement with the SEIU.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect transcription of a quote from Andy Klatt. The Daily regrets the error.