The reasons for any group of workers to unionize are extensive. Generally unionization is most timely when employment is so contingent that it threatens the quality of life and cohesion of the working institution. Here is a brief list of concerns that have come up for SFAI Visiting Faculty in the last few years that are driving some of us toward unionization.
President Charles Desmerais has had virtually no communication with Visiting Faculty since his hire in 2012, except for the flurry of emails and invitations to “private meetings” began a few weeks ago.
Fewer Visiting Faculty Positions
In Spring of 2013, during a Faculty and Staff meeting, Visiting Faculty were informed that the number of visiting positions would have to be reduced because of the five tenure-track positions opening at SFAI in the next four years.
In the proposal discussed in Spring/Summer 2013, to be included in the strategic plan for the university, Visiting Faculty would only be allowed to teach for a maximum length of two years. (Keep in mind that over 60 percent of the school consists of Visiting Faculty, meaning that the new strategic plan would mandate a 60 percent faculty turnover every two years.)
In Spring 2014, it was decided that Visiting Faculty would only be hired to teach four courses per year maximum.
As of Fall 2013-2014, Visiting Faculty are no longer informed of Faculty senate meetings and agendas, even when the agenda involves discussing the future of visiting faculty. The agendas are only circulated to tenured and tenure-track faculty, who comprise less than 30 percent of the teaching population.
Subjects to Subterfuge
In April of 2014, after SEIU filed to request a union election, SFAI administration began contacting Visiting Faculty through their personal email accounts, inviting them to meet in small groups to discuss unionization. Many faculty are uncomfortable with this aggressive interference through private emails, and are not on board with these divide-and-conquer meeting tactics, which undermine transparency and collegiality.
– The administration has been holding small meetings with Visiting Faculty members, instead of a more collegial, open, community meeting.
–In May 2014, administration began sending email messages that openly encouraged divisions, fears and suspicion about the union and amongst Visiting Faculty. (You can read these emails here and here.)