The fight for fair treatment of adjunct professors has found its next battleground: USF Tampa. On Wednesday Sept. 6, the event, “Taking Back Labor Day: Tampa Adjuncts Fight Back” will begin at 11:30 a.m.
The event is co-hosted by USF Graduate Assistants United and Faculty Forward-Florida. It will include a march from the library to the Marshall Student Center around 12:20 p.m.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is bringing together college and university faculty across the nation to progress the efforts for pay and benefit equality within the workplace.
In April, USF adjunct faculty filed a request to unionize, but has met resistance from the university.
Rebecca Skelton, a former adjunct professor in the USF System, has been an educator for twenty years and knows the struggles that come with a lack of benefits.
“Adjunct professors are limited to the number of classes that they can teach,” Skelton said. “I can only teach two courses per semester, because if it is more than that, the university has to start paying you and giving you benefits.
The struggle for just treatment of adjunct professors is an issue that expands beyond the campuses of the USF System.
“We voted to be in a union, and the university is delaying our actual vote,” Skelton said. “They have to allow us to vote and they have brought in outside lawyers to drag the process out.”
Skelton said she believes the reason for the delay in the approval process is, “just because they can.”
Further reasoning has been provided from the university for the delay. Skelton said the university claims to not have sufficient funds to support the movement at this time, but dollars are expended in a number of other areas and adjuncts should not fall to the bottom of the priority list.
“If we were a factory, our product is knowledge,” Skelton said. “There is no reason to pass on any expense on things that go into creating that knowledge, preserving that knowledge and passing along that knowledge.”
Dwayne Smith, the Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, responded to the filing of the request to unionize in a letter on June 26. The letter was addressed to adjunct USF instructors for the spring semester of 2017.
“The University is opposed to the unionization effort and will do everything legally permitted to make the case that a union is not in your best interest nor in the interest of any of the separately-accredited institutions in the USF System,” Smith said in the letter. “Our preference has always been, and continues to be, that we remain able to communicate directly with you rather than through an outside third party.”
This bout for nondiscriminatory treatment does not mean the problem is only with USF and also does not mean adjuncts have distaste for university as a whole.
“We could probably give up one of our teaching jobs, and would be able to put more of a focus and be better at what we do,” Skelton said. “We are usually having to teach at two or three schools, and other part-time jobs as well, and that keeps us from focusing on doing our jobs as well as we would like.”