Monthly Archives: September 2003

Status Quo, Part 1

Status is one's employment level. Certain rights and/or protections whether implied or actual are associated with one's status.

The discussions about visiting status have been illuminating and expansive, and often referenced other issues such as: FT: PT ratios, peer review, evaluation, promotions and/or changes in status. It is clear that all of these considerations are inextricably linked to one another, and are all imbedded in notions of advancement. Pratt's faculty get very little recognition, and very little reward for their contributions. We function within an employment structure that is bereft of standards, fraught with inconsistencies and virtually broken. We work within a climate where administrative improvisation passes for practice and administrative boilerplate passes for policy. Advancement and change of status are one and the same.

I am presently trying to ascertain just how many faculty members have been dismissed for lack of competence? How many current instructors are teaching courses they are ill equipped for? How many faculty members are not giving 100%? How many faculty members have been unduly promoted and/or granted status change without qualification? Any academic "problems" seem to be administrative, not faculty based. If there is any incompetence within the faculty ranks, then shame on the Administration for tolerating this. They have had all of the means necessary to initiate and properly administer fair and equitable practices of employment, including evaluation and review — practices that would reward academic excellence and dignify those who the Administration claims are a priority; those of us who teach. These means are at their disposal, yet they have chosen not to exercise or implement them. Why? The answer is simple, they don't have to. We the faculty, have been too busy, and too distracted to notice that the tables have been turned. We are now left holding the bag. We must take the initiative and seize this moment — not necessarily to clean up the mess the Administration has created — but to create for ourselves, a more equitable and fair work environment. If not the faculty, who?

We cannot separate out nor afford to separate out, each issue from the whole myriad of issues that comprise the conditions of our employment.

The following remarks were originally triggered by the visiting status discussions. They are now intended to broaden the conversation to include all strata of faculty at Pratt: visiting, adjunct, adjunct w/CCE, full-time, full-time tenured. What do each of these status' mean? How does one attain a change in status? What protections, and/or benefits if any, are granted with status change?

Pratt Institute has become a feudal system, a system based on class; of the ever-growing underclass pitted against one another in subtle and insidious ways. As awareness grows amongst the faculty ranks, I sense that more and more faculty members are less inclined to take this bait. Educating ourselves about the conditions of our employment is the single most effective way in which to create the momentum that, if harnessed properly, can initiate real and meaningful change. Change that will benefit the faculty and reform current practices that are divisive and destructive.

There are certain realities about the hiring, firing, evaluation and promotion of the faculty at Pratt we should all hasten to remember when determining from where we've come, where we are presently, and where we are headed.

Reality #1: Pratt Institute has a Faculty Union, as well as a collective bargaining agreement that does grant protections to the faculty. However, the contract is not worth the paper it is printed on or certainly the principles it is predicated on if we and the Administration do not mutually agree to recognize each other, deal, and act in GOOD FAITH. Without vigilance, the Faculty Union will continue to be short changed, and left reeling from one lost pursuit after another. Contract matters and language are moot by design and open to interpretation. Without vigilance and determination, one side's interpretation sets precedent and establishes practice. Consensus and compromise are only possible if reasonable actions prevail. How do we in good faith and by way of fair practice, achieve consensus and compromise? For one, by recognizing when the Administration engages in practices of obfuscation, stonewall and delay and by not tolerating them. If the Administration chooses to subvert protocol, it must be challenged forthright and with strength — faculty strength in numbers, and in shared convictions. The strength of a robust membership cannot be overstated. Creating and maintaining a united Faculty Union presence is by far the most important tool the faculty has for implementing change.

Reality #2: Good faith, and fair practices are becoming negligible and practically nonexistent. The Administration has been very successful in shaping the debate, in establishing precedent, and in overriding faculty initiatives. The faculty needs to change this dynamic, through the force of its convictions — convictions that are predicated on fairness, equity and good faith practice. The Administration has been vigilant, strong and effective in denying the bare minimums to its faculty. They have done this with their eyes wide open and a clear vision of what is possible. They have overrun us because we have been weak, because we haven't been paying attention, and because they could. There is a pattern here, a history of behavior that is habitual and ultimately destructive to the Institute as a whole. One need only note the recent Middle States report to see that institutionally and administratively, Pratt is seriously challenged. When its all said and done, there is no system of checks and balances if the Faculty Union is divided, distracted and disaffected. We have an opportunity NOW to take the initiative.

Reality #3: There are no, or few guarantees enumerated in the contract. This applies to hiring, firing, evaluation and promotion. In a word, we all serve at the pleasure of our chairs. This statement is not to ascribe any ill intent on the part of these chairpersons, it is to point out and emphasize the tremendous discretionary powers instilled in this administrative level of closest contact to the faculty. No one determines your hiring, firing, workload, evaluation for promotion and/or chances for advancement more than your chair. You serve at the pleasure of your chair, as they serve at the pleasure of the Administration.
The Administration has been very crafty in defining and redefining "faculty" when it serves their interests, i.e., FT: PT faculty ratios. When you add some twenty-two chairpersons to the full-time faculty ranks you most assuredly slant the number of full-time faculty in the Administration's favor. The Administration likes to include chairs and other administrative personal (including even deans) when determining allocated spending for faculty, all under the rubric of "teaching." By including faculty chair salaries for example, which are significantly higher than full-time Professors at the same rank and with similar years served, it most definitely inflates this overall number in the Administration's favor. Yet, the Administration knows full well that chairs are administrators, and explicitly excluded from the CBA. You cannot bring forth a grievance towards one who is within the bargaining unit.
A chairperson serves at the pleasure of the Dean who serves at the pleasure of the Provost who serves at the pleasure of the President who serves at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees. This is the administrative chain of command.

(continued, The Status Quo, Part 2)

Status Quo, Part 2

Reality #4: There is no coherent or clearly established policy or practice for hiring, firing, evaluating and/or promoting faculty. The Pratt faculty functions within a vacuum of assumption, a void where administrative prerogatives clash with and override, faculty Union initiatives. Chairpersons can hire faculty as visitors without consulting anyone. There is no reason why one cannot be hired as an adjunct other than the fact that the chair now has to check with the Dean. Why? Because implicit in this hiring is the notion that a greater commitment is being made by the department and by instructors themselves. This commitment is manifest in a greater workload. Are Adjuncts guaranteed a greater workload? No, they are not, so why then would you grant a status change if there was not implicit in that action an understanding that one is now "part of the family," proven, and for all intents and purposes, perfectly capable to teach a full-time workload? As stated in Article XXII, sec:22.2a, "prior to the completion of ten semesters of service, faculty members in this category [adjunct] shall make a decision as to whether or not they wish a full-time position." Therein lies or belies the distinction between one class of part-timer and another. It is my view (and I'm perfectly aware that many people I respect vehemently disagree), that not making every reasonable effort to grant adjuncts their requisite workload (up to 75% if so desired) — is to needlessly act in bad faith. The underloading of adjuncts is understood when enrollment is down. The overloading of visitors is permissible when enrollment is up. A practice of hiring more and more visitors when adjuncts are not being granted sufficient workloads is divisive and bad for the morale of ALL part-timers.

The visiting status should either be eliminated altogether, replaced and/or absorbed into a two tier adjunct status, or redefined for what it truly is, an entry level, probationary status. There should be a maximum time period for being a visitor, perhaps "up to three years." If a department wants to limit this time period to one or two years, they would be free to do so. The onus for properly evaluating the visitor should rest squarely with the chairperson. If they cannot properly evaluate a faculty member within three years, they will never be able to. Visitors should be thoroughly briefed about the conditions of their employment, what is required of them and given clear criteria for evaluation. Once the visitor has successfully satisfied the established time of evaluation, he/she shall be granted a change in status and have all of the requisite "rights" and "protections" granted Adjuncts. Visitors should not teach more than fifty percent of the workload for their departments. There are currently no protections in the contract for visiting — a reason that it be used sparingly.

There has been little discussion about the adjunct status other than to say that it is a problematic status in that adjuncts are "harder to get rid of." As noted in Article XXII, adjuncts are to be evaluated every semester. Other than requiring two years of poor evaluations prior to dismissal, there are no other protections in the contract. Benefits include tuition remission — your workload determining the proration of tuition, and being permitted to buy into one of Pratt's group health plans — 100% of the costs borne by the adjunct. There was a time when an adjunct after ten semesters of service would be granted a CCE. This is no longer the case. Teaching up to seventy-five percent of a FT workload and being led to believe that one was on the full-time track, seemed to be the rational for seeking adjunct status in the first place. Now claiming 75% of a workload is seen as a "right" or "guarantee," and therefore a threat to the "vitality" of departments and the freedom of chairs to distribute courses and hire as they see fit.

Full time positions are filled only after a full-time "line" is approved by the Provost and Dean, a national search is announced, an Institute wide committee formed, and the department chair chooses a candidate from a list of three recommendations made by the committee. In the name of DIVERSITY, this is the current practice. National or Institute-wide searches function completely outside of the contract. One cannot file a grievance based on what they might feel was arbitrary and capricious behavior. Truth be told, there is nothing that prevents the Administration from going directly to the department chairs and allowing them to fill an approved full-time position. The days of granting Adjuncts with CCE ("Full-timers in waiting") the next full-time position are over. I don't believe that it is just a coincidence, that as CCE was gutted, the misuse of visiting status became endemic and pervasive.

However, the one area the faculty does have a say in regarding the promotion and advancement of the faculty is in what is referred to as the P.A.R.T. process (actually ARPT: Appointment, Reappointment, Promotions and Tenure). Article XXVI of the CBA spells out the five tier process. The first tier is peer review, …"input at the point of closest contact with the faculty members individually affected." Unfortunately, what many departmental peer committees do not realize is that they are actually engendered with real freedom to …"set up such procedures as they deem appropriate to effectuate the foregoing." In other words, Peer Committees need not simply replicate procedures that come from the Dean's office, the Academic Senate's Faculty Handbook, or the Provost's Office. This seems to be a missed opportunity for the faculty — to act independently of the Administration in effectuating guidelines and criteria that would best compliment their departments from a strictly faculty point of view.

Reality #5: The Board of Trustees is the final arbiter in all matters concerning appointments, reappointments, promotion and/or status change and tenure. This is cited in Article XVI, 16.1 and 16.3, "Final determination is by the expressed approval of the Board of Trustees. Review and determination shall also take into account enrollment trends, distribution and budgetary considerations" (Did they leave anything out?) If you believe that anyone can act in solitary-independent of one's immediate superior, I have a job for you. It's teaching a fifteen week college level course for less than $2,500.

We have a choice, we can accept the status quo or we can start the arduous task now, of reshaping our roles at Pratt and taking back OUR issues of employment. We have abrogated our responsibilities for far too long to ourselves and to our faculty brethren, and in so doing made the Administration's job easier and our plight worse.
We are all categorized by status, like it or not; our rights or so-called rights based on our level of employment. I'm not advocating class warfare, only class consciousness.

Kye Carbone,
Adjunct Associate