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Appointments, Reappointments, and Seniority

Job security is perhaps the most difficult and complex of all issues in the P-fac contract, and for part-time faculty generally.  The bad news: we are contingent faculty; that is, our jobs are contingent upon the College’s need and desire for our services from semester to semester. (The Spanish word for us is “Precariosos,” or “precarious  faculty.”)  Illinois, like most states in the U.S.A., is also an “at will” state—employers can fire employees whenever and for whatever reasons they wish (including no reason at all), except insofar as a collectively bargained contract limits them from doing so.

Fortunately, P-fac does have some contract protections related to job security. “Some” is admittedly the operative word. Seniority, instructional continuity, and academic year appointments are discussed on this page.  Remediation, Discipline, and Termination are on another page.

A seniority system applies to all P-fac Bargaining Unit members in terms of salary. Article IX defines six ascending categories of cumulative credit hours taught and course fees to be paid.  The lowest category is Unit Membership to 21 hours; the highest is 140-plus hours.  Summer classes do count toward seniority, even though they do not count towards the maximum 18 hour workload.

Most seniority rights other than salary apply only to faculty who have accumulated 51 credit hours or more.

Bargaining Unit members in the lowest seniority category have one contractual disadvantage that disappears once they have 22 hours or more: they can be “bumped” by senior adjunct faculty under some circumstances.  All of us, of course, can be “bumped” by fulltime faculty.  But the contract allows (VII,1) a part-timer with 51 hours or more to bump either a first-semester part-timer or one with fewer than 22 hours if the senior person’s teaching load for the semester would be reduced to one or zero classes. For example, if a newer faculty member had two sections of Class XYZ and a senior faculty member who had also been assigned two sections lost one due to low enrollment or takeover by a fulltimer, the senior person would be entitled to “bump” the junior faculty member from one section.

“Instructional continuity” (VII,2) provisions require department chairs to notify faculty with 51 or more hours if a class is dropped, or fails to make its enrollment minimum, and to find a replacement class for the faculty member(A,B).  It also requires chairs to notify faculty with seniority when content of a class will be “altered significantly” and to make “a reasonable effort” to find a new class for the faculty member if he or she is deemed unqualified to teach the new version (C).

Applying these contract protections to real-life situations is not always straightforward.  While the contract states, “…it is strongly recommended that these procedures be followed in the case of all part-time faculty” (including those with fewer than 51 hours), it also includes caveats that department chairs and coordinators sometimes use to deny replacement classes or “bumping” rights to faculty who do have the contractually requisite seniority.  If a newer faculty member has “special skills, knowledge, or certification,” or has been assigned a section designated for a particular “mode of delivery, venue, or special audiences,” he or she may be protected from being bumped.  Furthermore, the last sentence of the “instructional continuity” section states, “The final decision of who teaches each course is the sole prerogative of the department Chairperson.”

Recently, some chairs and other administrators have argued that the contract does not require them to assign anyone two (or more) classes regardless of seniority. P-fac argues that the provisions of Article VII are predicated on the long-standing, college-wide practice of assigning experienced faculty two classes as the “norm.”

Therefore, “past practices” is a term union members should know when it comes to course assignment and reassignment.  Many senior faculty have been assigned two or even three classes for many semesters and years in a row.  If the faculty member suddenly is cut back to one or none, there is a good argument for the department chair to continue to assign the faculty member the “usual” number of classes.  Far more situations regarding course assignment are resolved informally than through formal grievances, so it is definitely worth the effort to discuss any problems with the chair and/or coordinator, with a P-fac representative present.

Academic Year Appointments (VII,5)
The current contract includes a provision for one-year appointments (renewable for a second year).  Applicants must have taught at least 51 credit hours at Columbia, demonstrate a history of effective teaching, and be appointed by their department chair.  An application form is (online? LINK).  Only a few such appointments have been made, but faculty are allowed to initiate the process with their chairs.

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