Herkimer College Adjunct Faculty Fight for Class Assignments

2018_08_02 herkimer adjunnts deliver recognition demand letter
Herkimer, NY  – A group of Herkimer County Community College (HCCC) Adjunct Professors in SEIU local 200United, as well as supporters from the community and another local union, the IWW, delivered a demand letter to administrators at the college today for adjunct professors to receive fall class assignments.
For the last few years adjunct professors have been working hard to form their union on campus. They won their union election in November of last year. But the college administration has worked hard to impede unionization efforts over the years, most recently appealing the union election results on two occasions with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Rather than waiting for PERB to let them know when they can start bargaining for their first union contract, the organizing committee of the union at HCCC decided to “start acting like a union” – as committee members often say – by organizing collective actions at work around specific issues.
The most pressing issue is over class appointments. Normally, many adjunct professors will be given class appointments for the fall semester as early as April. It is now August and the overwhelming majority of adjunct faculty have yet to receive any appointments. When faculty are given classes weeks or, at times, days before the semester starts, professors race against the clock in a struggle to effectively prepare for the semester.
This situation makes working conditions more difficult for adjunct professors and can also have a negative impact on the experience of students. The issue of late class assignments is endemic in higher education, but members of the Herkimer Adjunct Faculty Union / SEIU Local 200United hope to put an end to this practice. This summer however has been worse than other summers. Many believe it has much to do with lower enrollment, the planned closure of programs, and the overall dismal financial situation the college is in. Many adjunct professors are hoping for the best but see this mounting crisis as one caused by the administration.
Adjunct professors and their supporters delivered the demand letter to Associate Deans Robin Voetterl-Riecker and William McDonald. As they exited the building, one adjunct professor was stopped by Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Nicholas Laino and decided to give him the demand letter as well (their letter is below).
Adjunct faculty are hoping the administration makes the right decision, for the sake of both the faculty and the students, and assigns classes. If they do not hear a response by August 9, adjunct professors are planning to take further action.

August 2, 2018

To:  William McDonald, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs; Robin Voetterl-Reicker, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

On behalf of Herkimer College’s over 90 active adjuncts (active within the last two years) we are writing to communicate to you regarding our concern for the college’s apparent disregard for the quality of education offered to students.  This disregard has taken shape in the lack of informing adjuncts in a timely manner that could allow for proper planning in class preparation.  It has been apparent since the publication of the Fall 2018 Schedule that adjuncts would be needed to fill many of the classes due to the proposed schedule and the current full-time teaching requirements.  It is also understood that many classes must be offered and taught to fulfill the requirements for proper collegiate accreditation.

As adjuncts, we have always endeavored to provide the highest quality standards to our students at Herkimer College.  To maintain those standards, it is necessary to remain current within each of our professions and to revise courses accordingly.  To do that, it is necessary to have more notice than a few days to put a course together that can offer those high standards. It is disingenuous to adjunct faculty and to the students we teach, to not offer teaching assignments more than 4 weeks before the semester begins, especially since Herkimer College has signaled to students in the Fall 2018 schedule that certain classes will be offered.
To that end, we request:

  1. That the proper authorities of Herkimer College inform adjunct members by 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on August 9, 2018, whether our services will be required for the Fall Semester.
  2. That the assignments be communicated to individuals via Herkimer College email with the proposed times and number of classes.
  3. If these requests are not met we will be forced to take further action.

We expect a response by the time noted above.

Herkimer College Adjuncts

SEIU Local 200United

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