Washington — Taking a leadership position in an academic association can be a costly proposition for adjunct faculty members, many of whom have to devote long hours to several teaching gigs just to make enough money to get by. If they cannot persuade one of the colleges that employ them to grant them release time for association work, they may have to sacrifice a lot of potential earnings to be a voice for their segment of higher education’s work force.
The American Association of University Professors, which is holding its annual conference here, plans on Saturday to take up a proposed amendment to its constitution that is intended to spare such instructors from paying a stiff financial price for holding one of the group’s national offices.
The measure would authorize the association to give officers who are part-time faculty members direct payments equivalent to whatever they would earn teaching one course per semester.
Rudy H. Fichtenbaum, the AAUP’s president, came up with the proposed amendment as part of a broader effort to get more adjuncts and other non-tenure-track instructors involved in the association. “When you are an adjunct scraping by, you cannot afford to miss one paycheck,” he said Thursday in an interview. The proposed amendment, he said, “makes a political statement about the importance that the AAUP places on trying to ensure that basically anybody can run for an officer position.”
The proposal was lauded as “a really positive step” by Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for contingent faculty members. “Financial obstacles are an impediment to many adjuncts’ ability to get involved in professional or disciplinary organizations,” she said, adding that she hopes that other groups in academe follow the AAUP’s example.
The AAUP’s constitution already allowed it to reimburse colleges for release time granted part-time faculty members to carry out duties as national officers of the association. Under the proposed amendment, such AAUP officers would be eligible for direct payments from the association if the colleges that employ them refuse to grant release time in exchange for AAUP reimbursement.
Currently the AAUP has just one national officer who is a part-time faculty member: Caprice Lawless, the second vice president, who teaches English at Front Range Community College, in Colorado.