Contention about adjunct contract a disgrace

By Editorial Board

Columbia’s administrators and its part-time faculty union, P-Fac, which have been at odds for the last two years regarding contract negotiations, have not held formal bargaining sessions since Oct. 28, 2011, according to college officials.

Unfortunately, each side has a different explanation for why the negotiation process is at a standstill and each is blaming the other. This delay in the negotiation process is not only counterproductive for adjunct faculty but also for the rest of Columbia. Regardless of who is at fault for the stagnant negotiation process, this delay is inexcusable and needs to be remedied immediately.

Both sides want to proceed in different manners, and that leaves both sides miles away from one another. While college administrators are waiting for a response from P-Fac to its Dec. 19 contract offer, the union has asked the college to bring back the federal mediator who left under hazy circumstances last December, as reported in this issue of The Chronicle.  The implication is that P-Fac wants to ignore the contract altogether.

The fact is that neither side can agree on most anything including whether their mediator quit or was fired and why the face-to-face meetings ceased in the first place.

The negotiations halted because the union breached the rules for small group meetings, according to Len Strazewski, interim associate provost of Faculty Affairs. But in a Feb. 13 email to Louise Love, interim provost, Diana Vallera, president of P-Fac, faults the college for failing to follow the mediator’s outlined meeting procedures and claims the school subsequently fired him.

Either way, serious miscommunication and disorganization is perpetuating petty arguments regarding past events, and the sooner it stops, the better. P-Fac should get the ball rolling by issuing a counter offer. Although P-Fac’s negative reaction to the college’s proposal may be valid,  it provides the opportunity for a counterproposal that could include job security, increased pay, health insurance and all the other items on P-Fac’s wish list.

Acrimony between adjuncts who account for 70 percent of the teaching faculty and the administration can hardly be beneficial for students. It not only distracts adjuncts from their responsibilities but it needlessly divides the faculty at a time when they all should be pulling together.

The union’s stated wish for the administration to halt prioritization is as unrealistic as the administration’s expectation that the adjuncts can work without a raise in salary.

It’s time for both sides to face the music, sit down and agree on procedure, at the very least. Columbia is reaching a make-or-break point. If there was ever a time for biting the bullet, that time is now.