St. Mary's College: Remain Neutral in Adjunct Faculty's Organizing Efforts

Dear Colleague,

Saint Mary’s College of California depends on highly trained, committed, contingent faculty who make up the overwhelming majority of Saint Mary's total faculty. Our official job titles are Lecturer, Adjunct, or Visiting Faculty, but we are all contingent. This means our tenuous employment relies on the changing needs of the University from semester to semester.

Faculty at Saint Mary’s are concerned at the direction the administration is taking in some areas. Addition of or cancellation of teaching appointments at the last minute, lack of transparency in dealings with faculty, inequitable pay, benefits, scheduling, and office space are just a few of the conditions that Saint Mary’s faculty have been unable to effectively address without representation. The faculty needs a voice in our working conditions. It is our desire to do so in a Union collaboratively working with the Administration.[1]

We have been impressed by the gains made by contingent faculty at other private universities through unionization, including American University, Montgomery College and George Washington University.  Forming a Union has allowed them to achieve improved job security, better processes for teaching assignment, fair and transparent evaluations, access to benefits, pay increases, routes to advancement, and a platform for their voices to be heard. In addition, these faculty unions have been able to help the Administration maintain higher standards in the classroom, more consistent teacher training, and a deeper commitment to the missions of their various colleges.[2]

Saint Mary’s declares that the college is distinctive in part because of its commitment to inclusive excellence where "all voices are heard."[3] How can we make this claim when three quarters of the Saint Mary’s faculty do not have a voice in the goals and plans of the institution? We lack agency. Unionization allows us to be models of the mission statement for our students.

We recognize that Saint Mary’s is our place of work, but it is also more than that. It is a community to which we belong. Many of us have been teaching here for over a decade, many are alumni; we are not against Saint Mary’s, we are for it. The mission of the college asks its faculty to “liberate persons to probe deeply the mystery of existence and live authentically in response to the truths they discover.”[4] This is both our motivation and our ongoing effort. This effort is not helped by wondering if, when, and why we might be let go.

Saint Mary’s mission states its commitment to the “freedom of each person,”[5] and so we ask for freedom to organize so that we may finally have this freedom in our academic pursuits — and in our teaching — without fear of undue reprisal. Saint Mary’s is committed to fostering “sensitivity to social and ethical concerns”[6] and we ask that the administration show this sensitivity to the situation of its faculty.

We ask all students, staff, and supporters of Saint Mary’s to join us in this statement to the administration asking for them to remain neutral in the process and to refrain from interfering in the faculty’s attempts to organize.

In addition to organizing at Saint Mary’s College, contingent faculty at other Bay Area colleges are also organizing, including Mills College and San Francisco Art Institute, which voted to form a union with SEIU Local 1021 this spring, and California College of the Arts, which voted to join SEIU 1021 this fall. We all share the goal that the contingent academic labor force in the Bay Area will cease to be a passive and vulnerable majority workforce for the institutions we serve.

Very Best,

Your Colleagues on the Saint Mary’s College Organizing Committee

We, the undersigned, support the right of contingent faculty at Saint Mary’s College of California to form their Union.  We ask that administration remain neutral and not use student tuition funds or other college resources to oppose the unionization effort; and we pledge to speak out against any intimidation or retaliation that may be a result of contingent faculty invoking their right to organize.

2 Ibid

3http://www.stmary August 18, 2014



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