Today, we’d like to tell a story that starts in Spring 2014. This is when all the 5/5 chatter began (and maybe it’s always been going on behind the scenes, but this is when it was presented to us as a proposal). We will tell this story through an explanation of three meetings with our department chair.
Meeting in Spring 2014 (present, only Instructor representative)
This meeting began with the chair expressing his concern for the Faculty Associates’ (adjunct instructors’) situation in the department. Due to the way our university decided to respond to the Affordable Care Act, FAs that had once taught up to 5 classes a semester on a consistent basis (although these were semester-to-semester contracts), were now limited to 2 courses a semester. We felt horrible about this situation because many of us had been FAs before. From this introduction, the chair mentioned his plan to convert some of these FAs into full-time, benefits Instructors. We agreed that this would be a good thing. However, our chair articulated that sending these new lines up the chain to the provost would raise red flags because the university was beginning to define the Instructor rank at a 100% teaching load. So, the chair suggested that he change our jobs from 4/4 (80% teaching, 20% service) to 5/5, (100% teaching) WITH a possible 6,300 pay raise. The response was mixed because while some people welcomed the pay increase (ASU doesn’t give cost of living raises, and the Instructor rank started off at 28K in 1995, and has since then “grew” to 30K/32K–with a terminal degree), others weren’t interested in trading in service for teaching. As we expressed our concerns, the chair told us he would send the new lines up the ladder as unchanged (4/4–80% teaching, 20% service). It seems as though he was successful because, for Fall 2014, we added 20 new Instructors, and all of our jobs remained unchanged.
Meeting, September 29, 2014 (open invitation to all instructors)
We asked our chair to keep conversations open about our job and its improvement. Our chair met with us, and discussed the following:
- Positive things from last academic year.
- Converting FAs to Instructors (holding line at 4/4) as a win.
- Everyone eligible received merit raises (2-3%).
- Travel money – restored $500.
- Next goal in chair’s eyes. He wants to use the merit pool to raise the rate current Instructors are paid and raise the level at which new instructors would get hired. He told us he really wanted to avoid inversion (i.e. hiring new people at higher rates than people received that have been here for longer). What kind of increase? He doesn’t have a clue, but he’s hopeful to get a 3% minimum–but 5% would be great. A 5% “raise” (chair has discretion to give raises) would allow the chair to fix salary compression issues.
- We also discussed working conditions in offices and workloads of second language writing teachers.
Coming out of this meeting, we were very hopeful and positive about the future of our jobs and our pay.
Meeting, Dec 17, 2014 (open invitation to all instructors)
After receiving an email from the chair that 5/5 was back on the table, he called a meeting for December 17th with all of the Instructors. He explained to us that funding the FA to Instructor conversion was supposed to come out of the state budget. However, five weeks ago, our chair was instructed by the university to offload those hires from the state budget to the local, department budget. At this point he paused to remind us how dire the situation was for FAs, hoping that we would remain sympathetic for the FAs and continue to feel “good” about the FA-to-Instructor conversions. He offered that, for the first year of his tenure as chair, the FA situation was his “deepest and darkest concern.” Returning to the current situation, he explained, because the FA conversion was to come from our local funds, we are now facing a $660,000+ budget deficit–the exact amount of the conversion. Again, he reminded us, “There’s probably no better use of our local monies than actually trying to improve people’s conditions of employment here.” Furthermore, we were reminded that the conversion also helped stabilize the workforce in the Writing Programs which, because of rapidly increasing enrollment, is always understaffed.
However, after all of these “good” arguments for the conversion of FA’s to Instructors, we learned that the solution to the deficit (that this conversion caused) is to increase Instructor teaching load to 5/5 WITHOUT a pay increase. While many Instructors voiced their opinions on this from personal and professional standpoints, we believe that the moral issue here is also relevant. The bottom line is that the department overspent by having converted the most exploited population to Instructors, and then, in turn, asked the second most exploited population to take the hit for this. We are being asked to “take one for the team” because of the department’s “charitable” overspending, a team that at this point has yet to voice support for us.