Part-time faculty members at Kalamazoo Valley Community College have voted overwhelmingly to form a union in what leaders of the effort call a response to excessive pressures and demands imposed on adjuncts by the Michigan college's administration last fall.
The part-time instructors voted, 162 to 38, last week to form a new collective-bargaining unit affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. They expect to hold elections for their new union's officers next month.
"I have been here 16 years, and this would never have entered my mind until last fall," said Catherine E. Barnard, a psychology instructor who was among the 11 part-time faculty members who led the unionization drive.
Ms. Barnard said the college's administration initially angered part-time faculty members by delaying distribution of a September 15 paycheck until October 1, with the result that "we had people who had to borrow from retirement funds in order to pay bills."
The administration, she said, then further aggravated part-time faculty members by announcing several policies the instructors found objectionable. Those included: a "no work, no pay" policy under which part-time faculty members would not be compensated for sick days or work missed due to family emergencies, a new evaluation system that penalized them if their students dropped their classes or they generally gave their students lower grades than administrators wanted given, requirements that part-time instructors attend training seminars without being compensated for their time, and new contract language stating that excessive student complaints about their teaching could cause part-time faculty members to lose their jobs.
Part-time faculty members, Ms. Barnard said, felt they had no choice but to form a union to get the administration to do "what is right."
Sandra Bohnet, the college's vice president for human resources, said several of the policies that part-time faculty members rebelled against have long been on the books. For example, she said, part-time instructors' contracts have always based compensation on the number of students they teach and have never provided for them to be paid for work missed due to illness or family emergencies. Nevertheless, the college's administration did nothing to oppose the part-timers' unionization drive.
"I certainly believe that our part-time faculty have the right to organize, Ms. Bohnet said, "so I don't have any problems at all" with the union vote.