We pay a lot of tuition only for our professors to not be paid enough.
by Joshua Rosen
Staff Professor Liason
Over fifty percent of Fordham University’s faculty population is contingent faculty. A contingent faculty member refers to someone who has either a full or part time position that is non-tenure. At Fordham, these community members are currently being exploited. They have no job security, no worker benefits, and are paid criminally low wages. While tenured faculty have job security and representation through the Faculty Senate, contingent faculty have no such form of organized voice. Due to this underrepresentation, many of Fordham’s contingent faculty have been fighting for something similar to the Faculty Senate. In hopes of gaining this representation many have joined the group Fordham Faculty United. For the past two years Fordham Faculty United (FFU) has been transparent with Fordham in their attempts towards worker rights. One such example is an open forum that recently occurred at the Rose Hill campus. The purpose of the forum was to achieve compromise between school and faculty; both contingent and tenured faculty attended the discussion. Even student representation was present. The only piece of the puzzle missing was a university presence, as Fordham administration completely ignored the invitation.
Fordham administration has either been dismissive or completely ignored all efforts made by their contingent faculty. Fordham University representation can be quoted via email claiming their contingent faculty wages are “industry standard.” This corporate language is constantly being used to disregard half of its faculty’s needs. For this reason, FFU has recently turned away from seeking a compromise to filing a form to unionize with the National Labors Relation Board (NLRB). This filing hoped to give FFU the organized voice they so desperately need. However, Fordham’s response was quick. Before filing to the NLRB, contingent faculty requested to meet with Father McShane, but this meeting never even occurred! In fact, Father McShane’s response was, “I do not wish to interfere with your deliberations.” What would happen after FFU’s filing could not have interfered more with their two years of deliberations.
In an attempt to continue contingent faculty’s unacceptable working conditions, Fordham University filed an objection shortly after the FFU’s attempt to form a union. FFU was not expecting this challenge after Father McShane’s email. It’s obvious that Fordham has been doing its research. Aspects of their objection have clearly been drawn from similar cases. In a statement from Fordham, it is clear that they fully oppose any organized contingent voice. The objection attempts to claim religious freedom. This would justify and prevent any contingent faculty voice and continue the exploitive relationship between Fordham and its non-tenured faculty. It places a clear distinction between contingent faculty and tenured faculty.
Fordham administration’s goal is to tie the FFU up in litigation, putting contingent faculty in a standstill and preventing any progress towards their goals. Fordham has achieved this by creating an objection that is filled with lies and inconsistencies. More specifically, an objection that is in direct contradiction with Fordham’s claims to support social justice initiatives and in direct conflict with Catholic social teachings regarding worker rights. In my opinion, Fordham’s actions are not only unjust but show an evident disconnect between administration and a majority of our faculty members. Remember, this is a group of faculty members that are essential and necessary for everyday instruction and operation around its campuses.
More than anything else, the FFU would like Fordham to come forward with their own offer; one that supports and structures contingent faculty and does not involve the NLRB. This is unfortunately not in Fordham’s interest. So, rather than playing by Fordham’s rules, the FFU has decided to pull their filing from the NLRB because they have no desire to fight in this war through endless litigation and now wish to pursue their goals through public campaigning. The FFU believes this to be the best and most beneficial step for all of its members. Going forward, they wish to keep this issue in front of Fordham and draw attention to the problems they see and are facing. The FFU has taken away Fordham’s ability to send the conflict away to the NLRB. This means that the NLRB is no longer playing a key role in the future of contingent faculty affairs. Rather, the Fordham and NYC community have taken on this role.