By Nancy McCann
Although USF St. Petersburg relies heavily on adjunct professors, the university system says they are just temporary employees who fill “unexpected holes” in the teaching schedule and therefore are not entitled to form a union.
In a 37-page document submitted to the Public Employees Relations Commission on Oct. 27, the USF administration doubles down on its opposition to adjuncts’ campaign to hold a union election.
On Oct. 11, a state hearing officer recommended that PERC approve a union election for adjunct faculty in the USF system “as soon as is practicable.”
The hearing officer rejected the university system’s reliance on a case involving mosquito spray truck drivers and temporary manual labor to support its arguments, writing that it differed significantly from adjuncts’ employment conditions.
In its Oct. 27 response, the USF system accuses the hearing officer of “a troubling bias,” presents 17 exceptions to her conclusions, requests further oral arguments, and asserts that the adjuncts’ petition for a union election “should be dismissed.”
Attorneys for the university describe adjuncts as “temporary” employees with “no continued expectation of employment” who are “appointed to their positions for the specific purpose of filling unexpected ‘holes’ in the teaching schedule.”
Adjuncts who launched the union campaign in January under the name Faculty Forward disagree with the university’s characterization of their jobs as ephemeral.
About half the faculty members at USFSP in 2016 were adjuncts. They taught 39 percent of all undergraduate student credit hours and 68 percent of all undergraduate course sections in 2015, according to numbers submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Adjuncts taught 25 percent of the courses and credit hours in USFSP’s graduate programs in 2015.
Although their employment is not guaranteed, adjuncts from the three campuses in the USF system – Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee – say they want their significant and often continuing roles rewarded with better pay and improved working conditions.
On average, USFSP adjuncts earned around $8,180 per year by teaching about 25 to 30 percent of a full-time load, according to a 2015 university report. The average annual salary for full-time USFSP faculty was $79,496.
The PERC board has 90 days from Oct. 27 to decide whether the adjuncts can proceed with a union election.
To read the administration’s response to a state hearing officer, click here.
To read the hearing officer’s recommendation, Click here.