Student groups at the University of La Verne formed the Coalition for Ethical Reasoning in support of adjunct professors’ decision to unionize.
After learning about the obstacles adjuncts face every semester, members of the coalition say adjunct professors are treated unfairly.
“They feel that they can’t voice their opinions or be heard or even be acknowledged on campus–it’s really hard for me as a student to understand why that they have to deal with that,” Nellie Ruiz, member of the coalition, said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”
Caleb Ulrich, senior religion major, learned about adjuncts’ effort to unionize through clubs like Common Ground, which officially declared its support for unionization.
“We felt it was an issue of inequality and injustice and we wanted to get on board fighting against that,” Ulrich, also a member of the coalition, said.
Ulrich said the benefits adjuncts receive are not up to par with the amount of time and dedication they give to their students.
Candace Vustos, junior psychology major, transferred to the University this semester and said students would benefit from adjunct unionization.
“I think that the teachers would actually be able to focus more and give them (students) more attention,” Vustos said. For example, some professors may give multiple choice tests because they are easier to grade than essay questions, she said.
“They don’t have time to grade 100 essays or more because they have multiple classes in different campuses.”
Because of little pay, many adjuncts teach at other schools as well. “They can’t even afford to live on their own,” Vustos said about the pay adjuncts receive at the University.
On Nov. 12, the coalition presented a letter signed by 11 student groups to the school’s administration, which included President Devorah Lieberman, the Board of Trustees, Chief Human Resources Officer Jody Bomba and Dean of Student Affairs Loretta Rahmani. In it, students asked the University for neutrality and for a speedy election. They have not received a response yet.
“We’re falling a little behind in my point of view because Whittier already has a date in mind,” Ruiz said about the University setting a date for a union election. Along with ULV, adjuncts in Loyola Marymount and Whittier College filed for unionization at the same time.
So far, on Nov. 14, the University decided to include adjuncts teaching in regional campuses in the unionization proposal. As of now, Ruiz and Vustos do not think this is a good idea.
“I think that kind of set backs the date, at least for the adjuncts and professors here,” Ruiz said. “I know we have regional campuses that range from 200 miles away which is kind of like going to a Ralph’s and saying ‘I want to unionize this Ralph’s but we have to unionize all the other Ralph’s at the same time too,’” she said.
In addition to the main campus in La Verne, the University has seven regional campuses in California ranging from Irvine to San Luis Obispo.
By adjuncts sharing their experience as professors to the student community, student leaders hope to inspire more student organizations to join the coalition and support the cause.
Linda Oxford, president of Phi Sigma Sigma, joined the coalition, and also let a union member from SEIU speak to her sorority about the rights adjuncts are fighting for. “They are not getting the respect that they deserve,” Oxford said. “I just wasn’t aware (adjuncts) were so unequal to other professors.”
Oxford said most of the girls in her sorority support the cause and Phi Sigma Sigma’s main mission is to spread information on adjuncts’ working conditions throughout the school.
“I just think people should know it’s not easy for them,” Oxford said.
Mariela Patron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.