Higher Education at the Crossroads in New JerseyPosted: August 28, 2011
Adjunct Professor William Lipkin has been adjuncting in History and Political Science for fifty years (right out of grad school), mainly while working as a controller in private industry. For the past 12 years, he has been a professional adjunct in several colleges and universities in New Jersey. He is the immediate past president of American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ), consisting of 30,000 education workers in NJ, and current Secretary/Treasurer (and co-founder) of United Adjunct Faculty of NJ. Lipkin is also co-chair and treasurer of the Union County College Chapter of UAFNJ and Treasurer of New Faculty Majority and NFM Foundation. He is a dedicated supporter of equity and respect for adjuncts in the United States.
Higher Education at the Crossroads in New Jersey
New Jersey, the former long-time home of the Miss America pageant, now has to deal with a governor who thinks he is Mr. America. In eighteen months Governor Chris Christie has orchestrated legislation that changed the health care and pension program for New Jersey educators and support
staff, forcing all public employees to pay a much larger share for their benefits while getting a lesser coverage plan. All he has done for Higher Ed is change the state from 'The Garden State' to 'The Poop State'.
The major reason that the NJ Pension Fund is on the verge of bankruptcy is that over the past 20 years the state made minimal (or no) contributions of its share into the fund, while we all paid our share from every single paycheck. The Republican governor had been held back by a Democrat legislature for over a year; but deals were cut with Democrat leaders, and they gave the governor the votes he needed to pass this legislation that increases the employees' contributions to health care and pension. This has caused a split in the legislature and between public employee unions and the trades. Earlier this month when the state AFL-CIO refused to endorse any state legislator who supported this bill, for re-election this November, over 100 members of trade unions walked out and blamed the teachers for the split. The governor has also launched an attack on collective bargaining and his supporters have introduced legislation to make NJ a 'right to work' state. There also has been a change in tenure for public institutions of Higher Ed in the state adding at least one year to the process.
As an adjunct in NJ I am part of a large group of long-suffering, exploited, at-will employees in higher education. This is especially apparent in community colleges. In NJ there are 19 community (county) colleges, each of which negotiates pay scales with its employees (union shops) or sets the
scale on their own. Nine of these colleges have recently federated under the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to become the 3,100 member United Adjunct Faculty of NJ (UAFNJ). The per credit pay scale among these colleges ranges from $500.00 to $880.00; no health care is provided, and we all contribute into the state pension plan.
Most of us use our cars as our offices and float between three or four schools to try to make a living. We call ourselves 'roads scholars'. We get very little support at the schools, have little or no role in college governance, and can have a course taken away from us up to the first day of
class. Scheduling is a major problem and many of us turn down classes at one school only to be bumped from a class at another. We are used as an economic expediency by the schools. A big issue we have at present is that some of the colleges are blaming adjunct faculty for the lack of student success mainly due to the circumstances they themselves have created. Pay rates at public four-year colleges and universities are higher but the other problems exist there as well. Private colleges and universities in NJ make their own scale and usually freeze the rate. For example, I have been adjuncting at Seton Hall University for six years and am still making the same $700.00 rate per credit I started with.
College and university presidents in NJ are earning over $200,000 with many perks, and bloated administrations pay several vice presidents, deans and provosts six figure incomes while full time faculty have their salaries frozen and pay more into the benefit systems, adjuncts have to eke out a
living or go on food stamps, and students have to pay continually rising tuition rates. There is truly no equity in higher education in NJ.