Almost 40 people were present during ASPLU’s Senate meeting tonight. The meeting was open to everyone and both students and faculty members, including the Provost, were present.
The reason for the great participation of students at the Senate meeting was due to the current issue of contingent faculty unionization which has been buzzing on campus lately.
The contingent faculty at PLU is an unprotected class of employees. They have no job security, are paid a fraction of what their tenured and tenure-track colleagues earn, have reduced access to professional activities and are barred by the faculty by-laws from participating on standard committees. Those who have part-time appointments (the vast majority) have no vote in the faculty assembly.
Michael Ng, a contingent faculty member and a lecturer of Classics, as well as Provost Starkovich, spoke during the Senate meeting and had a brief Q&A after their 5-minute speeches.
Ng said that the resolution was about the privilege to be able to voice one’s opinion and to be able to care for PLU’s faculty. Words such as passion and participation were used, and doing one’s best was not the way to go, but rather what was right and ethical.
Ng also referenced Aristotle with liberty and justice and that the right to speak up, make decisions and be represented should be held high in this issue.
Provost Starkovich said that PLU hires the best to do the best on campus. He shared with the Senate and the others present that he had been a contingent faculty member himself from 1992 to 1997. During that time, Starkovich made himself absolutely indispensable, but not dependent upon the department in which he was working.
When asked the question of what ramifications there were for a block on the contingent faculty’s right to vote on a unionization, the Provost held his tongue. For a total of seven seconds, there was total silence from Starkovich.
He gave an example, but could not come up with a tangible scenario of what would happen, or any justifications for the block. Provost Starkovich also said that he could not get involved with this issue due to conflict of interest as the Provost of PLU.
Through the speeches, Starkovich responded to some questions. When defending the PLU administration’s block of the contingent faculty’s attempt to vote on a unionization, Starkovich said, “They [the contingent faculty members] are replacing someone who’s ill…but they’re coming back.” Starkovich then proceeded to pat Ng on the back and smile.
Some of the senators felt that Provost Starkovich was belittling Ng with his comments, and the pat along with Stakovich’s manner was something that some senators reacted to.
“That was uncomfortable. When he [Provost Starkovich] patted him [Professor Ng] on the back, it seemed fake. It just got uncomfortable, like he [Provost Starkovich] was trying to comfort him [Professor Ng], but it seemed fake,” Senator Ro said.
“It is not a community of interest in this. A person teaching six courses a day does not have the same community of interest as a person who teaches two courses a day,” Starkovich said, before getting cut off by ASPLU President Aaron Steelquist for going over his 5 minutes.
Many numbers were thrown out during the meeting. It became known that the contingent faculty makes up roughly 48 percent of the entire PLU faculty.
During the Senate meeting, it became evident that the ASPLU senators agreed with the resolution and the contingent faculty’s right to vote, but that the language had to be modified as it was pro-union – something the senators did not think was feasible to support at this point. The lack of student opinion on the issue of the contingent faculty was also a factor for modifying the resolution’s original language.
The ASPLU Senate got caught up in the resolution, forgetting that the issue was whether or not ASPLU will support the contingent faculty’s right to vote on a unionization.
There was a notion of time pressure present throughout the meeting as there are barely two weeks left of this year’s regulation session for ASPLU and its Senate meetings. Senators felt there was too much information given out all at the same time and that in all of this, student feedback was lacking.
However, the Senate did move to vote on temporarily dismissing Robert’s Rules of Order – a parliamentary procedure used during the ASPLU Senate meetings – in order to have the senators be able to express themselves without formalities.
The 10-minute dismissal was approved by ASPLU President Steelquist, and was used to modify the resolution’s language in certain sections to eliminate the original pro-union message.
After almost 2 hours, Resolution 20: Student Resolution in Support of the Right of the PLU Contingent Faculty to Vote on Unionization, was passed with 11 yea, 0 nay, and 1 abstain.
The reporter, Lina Aas-Helseth, also serves as an ASPLU Senator.