AAUP of South Carolina Celebrates Campus Equity Week with new “AAUP Challenge” Designation
Activities on multiple campuses across the state, bringing awareness to low pay for education in SC
The last week of October, Campus Equity Week, brings faculty, students, and communities on campuses together to discuss the precarious nature of academic work and the effects of this precarity on the entire educational system throughout the state. South Carolina chapters of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have decided to contribute to the effort by calling attention to campuses that are struggling with the issue and recognizing important attempts to address it.
Schools in South Carolina with active AAUP chapters were ranked in three categories—% increase in non-tenured/tenure-track faculty between 2002 and 2016; % of faculty who are non-tenured/tenure-track in 2016; and % increase in in-state tuition from 2002-2016. Those scores were then averaged to identify the AAUP Challenge institution that saw the highest gain in tuition but the greatest loss of full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty (click here for full table).
This year’s AAUP Challenge campus is USC Upstate, followed by College of Charleston and Clemson University. USC Upstate and the College of Charleston, perhaps not coincidentally, lost public funding because of assaults on academic freedom by the South Carolina legislature, with the defunding of summer reading programs in 2014 because of the inclusion of Fun Home, a memoir that features same-sex relationships and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of essays about being gay in South Carolina.
In addition to naming an AAUP Challenge campus, the SC AAUP is also awarding a One Faculty Champion award to an administrator or group whose actions have benefited contingent faculty or furthered the causes of academic freedom, and/or shared institutional governance. This year’s award goes to the 2017-18 members of the USC Aiken Faculty Welfare Committee, who conducted an extensive survey of “adjunct” faculty at USC Aiken leading to the development of significant new resources to support adjunct teaching and a commitment from the university to monitor and report the numbers and course loads of adjunct faculty on campus.
Contingent appointments now account for over 70 percent of all instructional staff appointments in American higher education. This issue rose to new prominence when Margaret Mary Vojtkio, an adjunct at Duquesne, died in 2013. Duquesne University campus police pulled her from campus because she had been sleeping in her university office. Uninsured medical bills from chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer and low pay meant she was unable to heat her home. She had been forced to continue working until the age of 83 on a nearly full-time basis, with compensation of only several thousand dollars per course, without benefits or insurance.
The term “contingent faculty” encompasses part- and full-time non-tenure-track faculty, including graduate employees. The growth in faculty contingency comes alongside the privatization of higher education and its negative implications for students (who usually go into worse debt, take programs of questionable value, and fail to complete their education).
A large number of faculty in so-called “part-time” positions actually teach the equivalent of a full-time course load, often commuting between institutions and preparing courses on a difficult timetable, with less time for interaction with students.
Since faculty classified as part-time are typically paid by the course, without benefits, access for many college teachers to affordable healthcare and retirement security is withheld.
Academic freedom is in serious jeopardy when a majority of faculty lack basic due process protections.
All faculty should have access to the protections of academic freedom and tenure, a fair return on their work, due process protections, and inclusion in institutional governance. Campus chapters often play to the theme of Halloween week, by explaining how “truly frightening” the precarity and disinvestment in higher education is.
Mark Blackwell, President of the AAUP-SC, said, “There’s no tradeoff here. Campuses with strong AAUP chapters, like Furman University, have fewer underpaid adjuncts. ‘Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,’ meaning that providing faculty with fair pay, a voice in governance, and intellectual freedom in exchange for their labor will insure the highest quality of education. Conversely, administrations that maintain low wages, limited shared governance, and diminished academic freedom increasingly impair the learning experience for faculty and students.”
USC Columbia and Clemson ranked near the middle and bottom of the group, which stands out given size and athletic revenues. The football coach at Clemson, for example, makes almost $7.5 million, over 400 times more than an adjunct teacher, who will barely afford to feed or clothe their family this year.
Schools included in the ranking were the institutions with active AAUP members on the faculty. Those not participating in the survey are frequently in worse shape, as they give faculty lower support, do not allow university professors to participate in decision-making, or bar faculty from expressing opinions on these or other concerning matters.
The goal is to improve higher education throughout the state by raising awareness to the general public, to the state legislature, as well as to the leadership of all colleges and universities.
For further information about AAUP's National Equity Week Events see https://www.aaup.org/media-release/campus-equity-week-action#.W9nES5NKiHs