At a recent meeting of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Professionals, Vijay Nair, president of the AAUP’s Connecticut State University chapter, related a story from early in his career: Nair, who had left New York for a librarian position in a midwestern university, was taken to lunch by his new supervisor and told that “you don’t have any rights here.” It wasn’t long before Nair returned east, to Connecticut, where he enjoyed the benefit of having rights bargained collectively by his AAUP chapter. Other committee members offered similar examples of concerns that academic professionals share with faculty members.
In the early years of the twentieth century, employee unions worked to negotiate, among other significant matters, defined work days (eight hours) and weeks (forty hours, five days) and workplace safety. Now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, the conditions in which academic professionals work make clear that these terms of labor must continue to be negotiated. Two local unions leading this effort are the United University Professions (UUP) of the State University of New York and the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) of the City University of New York, both of which have significant numbers of academic professionals in their respective collective bargaining units.
It is not only academic professionals who are pushed by supervisors and even clients (whether they be students or patients in university medical centers) to work long hours and to be on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Professors also encounter these pressures and demands. Virtually all faculty members have stories of students who expect responses to e-mail messages within a few hours, even when the messages are sent on weekends, in the middle of the night, or on holidays. Yet, for academic professionals, varying categories of compensatory time and overtime clarify some of these workload challenges.
Similarly, it is not only academic professionals who experience workplace intimidation. On campuses around the country, there are some professors who articulate a sense of fear and report censoring themselves out of concern about retaliation. Now that many colleges and universities are looking to reduce programs, these fears are heightened.
The AAUP’s standing committee on academic professionals, chaired by Tom Matthews of SUNY’s College at Geneseo, is bringing these matters to light. Drawing on the expertise of committee members, including John Marino of the UUP and Iris DeLutro of the PSC, the committee is developing an online survey that will be piloted in several universities with significant numbers of nonfaculty professionals in their bargaining units. Through this survey, the AAUP will directly address key workload and workplace issues that confront academic professionals.