Contracts disatisfy part-time lecturers

A part-time lecturer accused the University of being unfair toward part-time employees in a YouTube video, which was eventually shared on Twitter by former University football team players, Ray Rice and Khaseem Greene.

His business card reads “Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg,” professor at Yeshiva University and part-time lecturer in the Department of Communication at the University. Rosenberg recently learned he would not be teaching public speaking at the University this summer, a course he has taught for 23 years.

He thinks he lost his job over trivial arguments because his relationships within the department are unsteady.

Karen Novick, associate dean of the Department of Communication, said Rosenberg’s case is a “personnel issue” and did not indicate whether enrollment levels were the exact issue.

“Within the department as a whole I believe enrollments were down a little,” Novick said.

But Rosenberg’s dissatisfaction with the University is shared among part-time lecturers across departments.

“We hear about $1.5 billion to be spent on the merger and the potential of another $10 million if the University decides to leave the Big East, so the funds are there,” said Eleanor LaPointe, a part-time lecturer in the Department of Sociology. “Are we educating students … or are we wheeling and dealing in athletic conferences?”

Because of state budget cuts in 2010, the University suspended plans to negotiate raises for its staff, according to, whose research points out that since 2006 the school has spent almost $1.5 million dollars on its athletic department.

Aside from the lack of funding, part-time lecturers have no job protection, Rosenberg said. Part-time lecturers are not promised more than one semester of work at a time.

“This affects every part-time lecturer on this campus,” Rosenberg said in his YouTube video. “We are nothing. We are trash. We are slave labor. We have no rights.”

LaPointe wrote two letters to The Daily Targum in October and December 2011 describing the problem further.

“The growing ranks of [part-time lecturers] … make notoriously low wages, have little or no health care coverage, are often expected to engage in unpaid work … [and] may not know whether they will have a job next semester and are increasingly treated as replaceable ‘units,’” LaPointe said in her letter.

Regardless of how many students are in a class, part-time lecturers are paid $1,500 per credit hour, or $4,500 for a three-credit course, LaPointe said.

But their contracts have expired, and negotiations are under way for new ones, she said.

Steve Peterson, a part-time lecturer in the Department of Math and chief negotiator for the union representing part-timer lecturers, said the University has denied his requests.

Peterson said part-time lecturers want a longer contract terms, compensation for overseeing independent study and a 3 percent raise, based on their current yearly income from the University.

But the University refused the first two requests and countered the third with a 1 percent raise, based on how much they make in a semester.

“Our contract is very simple, we’ve just been stonewalled for over year now,” Peterson said.  “It’s been very frustrating for us.”

The University is not discussing any issues surrounding the contractual negotiations, said Greg Trevor, senior director of University Media Relations.

“The negotiations are ongoing and continue to be productive,” he said.

LaPointe said the University treats part-time lecturers like “replaceable units.”

The request for part-time lecturers to receive their raises, proposed by the AFT-AAUP branch at the University, would cost the school a fraction of what it spends on the athletic department, LaPointe said.

She said the issue is just as grave for students, many of who will enter the same or equally unreliable careers. Worse still is when part-time lecturers suffer because they oversee independent study.

“It is hard to say no, but if you agree to it, you are donating your time ... time that may be very precious, especially if you are teaching multiple courses on multiple satellite campuses, multiple jobs or even at multiple universities,” LaPointe said via email correspondence.

Rosenberg said he can still make ends meet with his other jobs, but said it is unfortunate that other part-time lecturers might not be as lucky.

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