SFAI Visiting Faculty:
Visiting for Life?
We started this blog to support the Visiting Faculty population at the San Francisco Art Institute while we consider whether or not to unionize for collective bargaining rights. It can also serve as a narrative or methodological model for adjuncts at other schools who are considering unionizing.
At SFAI, “Visiting Faculty” is a euphemism for “adjunct professor”. Visiting Faculty are hired on a short-term, per-semester basis and their employment is considered “at will” (i.e., they can be fired at any time). No opportunities for health insurance or other benefits exist for these employees, and they are roughly 75 to 87 percent of the faculty population at SFAI. Their base pay is $5500 per course, so a Visiting Faculty member working the maximum of four courses per year can expect a yearly salary of $22,000. Visiting Faculty must carry advanced degrees in their field, and are expected to maintain a professional art or writing practice as well. They do not choose their course times and have no voice in official channels such as the SFAI Faculty Senate, despite making up over three-quarters of the teaching population.
To put things in perspective, the average studio apartment in San Francisco now rents for $2370 per month or more, according to the SF Gate. The average price for artists’ studio space in the San Francisco Bay area is about $650 per month.
This has serious consequences for the future of the arts and for education. More and more universities nationwide are relying on under-paid part-time professors for teaching labor. Major news outlets like The Guardian and The New York Times have discussed the problem at length– it has become a national crisis in which promising artists, educators and thinkers everywhere are held back from middle-class life because full-time teaching positions are being replaced by freelance and contingent employment. (College students and parents of college students, take note of what this means: you are paying top dollar for education at elite art schools and other institutions that barely pay their professors enough to live on. Please be critical of where else that money may be going.)
We suspect that collective bargaining may be the only route to addressing this broad cultural problem on a national scale. This blog is therefore pro-union, but maintains a healthy skepticism for bureaucracy in the tradition of SFAI’s artistic community. No union organizers are permitted to contribute to this blog; it is faculty and community only. We are committed not only to helping Visiting Faculty achieve their salary and benefits goals while also maintaining agency in the collective bargaining process.
To read some of the specific grievances that SFAI Visiting Faculty have about their working conditions, click here. To read confrontational, anti-union emails that the SFAI administration has been sending to SFAI faculty’s personal inboxes, click here and here.