Campus Equity Week

Campus Equity Week (called Fair Employment Week in Canada) is designed to draw attention to inequities on campuses across North America. The vast majority of faculty now hold insecure partand full-time non-tenure-track positions, often subject to exploitative employment conditions. And students’ access to a high-quality college education is increasingly uneven.

In 2013, Campus Equity Week was held October 28– November 2. As part of it, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education sponsored the videotaping of a one-act play, For Profit, by Aaron Calafato. The play focuses on the “for-profit” mindset toward higher education, as described by a private university recruiter struggling with student debt himself.

The AAUP is a cosponsor of Campus Equity Week, and many AAUP chapters and affiliates participated in activities. Here, we highlight a few; for more information, see http://www.campusequityweek.org.       

University of Vermont United Academics

United Academics (AAUP/American Federation of Teachers) organized a screening of For Profit. The writer and performer, Aaron Calafato, is a former recruiter for a for-profit college, but he quit after realizing that his job mainly consisted of pressuring poorly prepared students to pursue overly expensive degree programs. Calafato portrays many different characters in the show, including a recruiter, a college president, and several students. After the screening, the chapter hosted a discussion of the film, the issues it raises, and the ways in which for- profit education is harming students, their families, staff, and others.

The event was cosponsored by several other local advocacy groups, showing that Campus Equity Week can be used to bring together different organizations with similar goals.

“The audience, composed almost exclusively of students, was very responsive to the film,” says Yolanda Flores, a United Academics executive council member. “Students welcomed the opportunity to become familiar with student organizations at the University of Vermont and across the Vermont State College system who are fighting the defunding of higher education and the current economic crisis.”United Academics (AAUP/AFT)

California State University

Thousands of students, faculty members, and staff at different California State University campuses explored how issues of contingency, privatization, student debt, massive open online courses, and diversity affect the CSU system and the national arena of higher education.

The California Faculty Association (CFA, an AAUP affiliate) and the New Faculty Majority (this year’s national Campus Equity Week coordinator) spearheaded a variety of activities to highlight specific issues affecting the quality of education. These diverse activities included LGBT wedding receptions at California State Polytechnic University–Pomona and at San Jose State University and forums on financial equity for students (and faculty) facing debt burdens, contingent faculty facing low wages, and tenure-line faculty facing salary compression. At CSU Los Angeles, William Watkins, author of Fighting the Assault on Public Education, was part of a panel discussion with members of the CFA, Students for Quality Education, and the Inglewood Teachers Union. CSU San Marcos held “meet-and-greet” activities to show support for the diverse populations of faculty, staff, and students on campus. San Diego State University had a facilitated discussion about how the university addresses diversity and equity. CSU Monterey Bay held a town-hall assembly on the status and future of shared governance on campus.

A common discussion among several CSU campuses focused on the abuse of low-paid contingent faculty positions and how it affects the quality of education for students. Several campuses showed For Profit; panel discussions followed the film, at which faculty, staff, and students shared their experiences with college debt and how the “forprofit” mindset has affected higher education.California Faculty Association

The University of Mary Washington AAUP Chapter

The University of Mary Washington is a public liberal arts institution in Virginia at which the overuse of contingent faculty is well below the national average of 75 percent. During Campus Equity Week, the UMW chapter of the AAUP screened and discussed For Profit, the filmed version of the one-man play by Aaron Calafato. The event began with pizza and a review of recent AAUP reports on contingent faculty appointments nationally. The discussion focused on the overuse of such appointments, exploitation of contingent faculty, rising levels of student debt, diminished access to quality higher education, and the rise of online education. The for-profit college industry generally contributes to and exacerbates each of these problems. Faculty were concerned as well about the application of the thirty-hour rule to adjuncts. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers must offer health care to employees who work thirty hours a week or more; in response, Virginia colleges have been capping the number of courses that adjuncts can teach, thereby slashing their pay and leaving them still without healthcare. University of Mary Washington AAUP chapter

Connecticut State University AAUP Chapters

All four CSU-AAUP chapters held events to mark Campus Equity Week. Drawing on the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education report Who Is Professor “Staff,” and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes?, the theme was “Who Is Professor ‘Staff’?” Chapters at Central Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Southern Connecticut State University, and Western Connecticut State University each organized tables with information on contingency issues, copies of the report, and Campus Equity Week lanyards and buttons to hand out to faculty, staff, and students.

Each chapter held unique events as well. CCSU hosted several showings of For Profit and used photos to demonstrate the similarities and differences between tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty; ECSU displayed part-time faculty publications in the library and recognized faculty with a presentation honoring part-time faculty; SCSU screened Barbara Wolf’s documentary film Degrees of Shame; and WCSU displayed posters, in addition to screening Degrees of Shame and L. D. Janakos’s documentary Teachers on Wheels. Faculty reported receiving the following comments from students in response to the information they disseminated: “I didn’t know that half my professors are part time.” “What can I do? Can we start a petition?” “One frustration that I have is that my part-time teachers are not as accessible as full-time professors.”—Connecticut State University AAUP chapters

Fairfield University AAUP chapter

Fairfield University’s AAUP chapter, the Faculty Welfare Committee/ AAUP, sponsored a panel presentation followed by a discussion to observe Campus Equity Week. Building on successful demonstrations and other chapter events last year on the theme “We Are One Fairfield,” the panel was called “Imagining One Fairfield.” Panelists included history professor Liz Hohl and economics professor Kathryn Nantz, members of a task force on part-time faculty that presented a report to the faculty senate earlier this fall. The panel discussed recommendations in the report that were approved by faculty and are being undertaken: the drafting of a long-term mission statement for the optimal employment and deployment of non-tenuretrack faculty, to be included in a relevant governance document, and the formation of a faculty handbook committee on non-tenure-track faculty employment, roles, and conditions. The wide-ranging discussion focused on the goal of uniting all professors at the university and treating all faculty with respect, and it highlighted the challenges facing part-time faculty. Much of the discussion centered on a running theme in the task force’s report: “security + voice + respect = equity.”Fairfield University AAUP chapter

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