Monday, April 14, 2014

Bill Lipkin reports on the AFT HigherEd Conference in Baltimore

The weekend of April 11, 2014 saw one of the best AFT Higher Ed Conferences I have ever been to. The theme was 'Reclaiming the Promise of Higher Education' and there was a strong focus on contingent and adjunct faculty issues and solutions.

President Randi Weingarten opened the Conference with one of her rousing speeches. I had to compliment her after the speech for the concentration she put on contingent and adjunct faculty and our situation in the United States. She even took the time to explain the differences between adjunct and contingent positions and the various problems connected with each.

Every session had at least one workshop geared toward adjunct faculty. This was a complete change from previous Higher Ed Conferences which had very little concentration on our issues. In fact, a couple of years ago, many of us did not attend since there were no adjunct oriented workshops on the agenda. I remember a few years ago a collogue counted the number of times that President Weingarten mention 'adjunct' in her opening speech- it was THREE.

Of the 300 plus delegates who attended the conference I would say almost half were contingent or adjunct faculty. Sandra Schroeder, the outgoing chair of the AFT Program and Policy Committee (PPC), made it clear that AFT presently has made the working conditions of adjuncts a prime focus on the national level. Sandra, who I am proud to call my friend and who stared out many years ago as an adjunct, has dedicated most of her adult life to education and unionism. She will be sadly missed as a national AFT leader.

AFT has also hired an Assistant Director for Higher Education, Alyssa Picard, who will be focusing on contingent and adjunct issues mainly. This is a major step for AFT and an indication that they finally realize that the future for their organizing lies with our groups.

It was a great weekend or listening, learning, sharing and schmoozing. It is always a pleasure to see old friends and colleagues and share stories and argue over which road is the best to take. I came away from there with several new ideas for negotiating and media involvement. It was a productive and enjoyable weekend. Kudos to AFT for finally realizing the importance of adjunct faculty. My hope is that they build on this conference and keep on putting our issues out front.

Submitted by Bill Lipkin

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