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PART-TIME FACULTY LAMENT LITTLE TIME, PAY

Pete Howard teaches six classes at the University at Buffalo and Jamestown Community College, while playing saxophone in a blues band on the side.

For teaching 400 students English composition and the history of the blues, Howard says, he'll make $26,000 this year. He said it's a grueling class load.

"I always teach well, but I don't always respond to the writings of my students as I would like to," said Howard, 46.

Faculty at Western New York campuses say part-time instructors teach full-time class loads for less pay and poorer benefits than their full-time colleagues.

Union chapters at colleges across the country have named this Campus Equity Week to bring attention to what they claim is the abuse of part-time faculty.

Part-time teachers are part of a "vast underclass," said Jean Dickson, grievance chairwoman of UB's United University Professions.

About three dozen students and staff attended a rally at UB on Tuesday that featured union songs, a theatrical troupe and speeches from part-time workers.

Thursday, the union chapter at Buffalo State College will hold its own protest of low wages and benefits for part-time faculty.

"These are hard-working academics who are paid a fraction of the wages others are paid for teaching the same class," said M. Stephen Pendleton, president of the UUP chapter at Buffalo State. "It's just not right and not fair to students or faculty."

Nationwide, Pendleton said, 43 percent of college faculty are part time, with less than 20 percent receiving benefits.

At Buffalo State, where instructors who teach at least two classes receive benefits, the number of part-time faculty in the past 10 years jumped from 21.3 percent to 34 percent, the union said.

Citing State University of New York statistics, the UB chapter of UUP said the proportion of part-time faculty at the school rose from 23 percent in 1991 to 37 percent in 2001.

But UB Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi said the university's data show the percentage of part-time faculty, not including the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, fell from 33 percent in 1991 to 26 percent in 2000.

Many of the part-time faculty who teach at UB are professionals who have another full-time job, Capaldi said.

They bring their "valuable, real-world" experiences into the classroom while moonlighting at the university, she said.

But part-timers and union leaders at UB and Buffalo State paint a different picture.

Candace Lombart, who teaches two English composition classes at UB, said she used Erie County's Home Energy Assistance Program last winter because she couldn't pay her heating bill. She earns $2,500 per class.

Part-time faculty aren't able to serve students as well as full-time faculty, who have office hours and can provide internships and independent study work to students, said Aaron Lercher, who teaches two courses at UB and Daemen College.

As a part-time teacher with little job security, Lercher said, "I'm just an interchangeable part."

Faculty at UB and Buffalo State say instructors and students would be better served if schools paid full-time wages to instructors carrying a full-time workload.

Often, part-time faculty don't even have time to meet with students after class because they have to leave for their next class, which may be at another campus, said Laurence J. Shine, an adjunct professor at Buffalo State.

Shine, who earns $2,200 per class, tends bar at Amherst's Shannon Pub to make ends meet.

He also is interim president of the fledgling local chapter of the Committee on Contingent Academic Labor, and is an organizer of the Buffalo State rally, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the Student Union Quad.

"There is a sense of outrage among part-timers over this kind of pay and treatment," Shine said. "Many of us find it very immoral."

UUP members will pass out bags of peanuts during the Buffalo State-based protest Thursday, along with fliers saying, "What do elephants and part-time faculty have in common? They both work for peanuts!" Pendleton intends to wear his academic robes and an elephant mask.

There also will be a 12:30 p.m. showing of the film "Degrees of Shame" in Room 230 of Upton Hall on the Elmwood Avenue campus. The movie's subtitle is, "Part-Time Faculty: Migrant Workers of the Information Economy."

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com
and kbrady@buffnews.com

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