‘Widespread violation’ of Kean policy

Adjunct teachers union alleges 'widespread violation of the Kean policy on harassment'

File PhotoThe Kean University adjunct teacher's union president went before the board of trustees recently and accused the school of violating its anti-bullying and harassment policy toward teachers.
File Photo
The Kean University adjunct teacher’s union president went before the board of trustees recently and accused the school of violating its anti-bullying and harassment policy toward teachers.

UNION — After 210 Kean University adjunct professors heard their work hours and pay would be cut Dec. 17, the union president claimed over the weekend this move was just another example of administration bullying tactics.

The adjunct union claimed last week the university violated their contract with the union because they were never notified of the impending changes in writing or designated an official to consult with concerning the abrupt change in policy, which takes effect Dec. 17.

Many of those who received notice that their teaching hours would be cut were notified in March that they would be instructing a certain number of hours, contingent upon adequate enrollment. Subsequently, these adjunct professors turned down teaching opportunities at other universities and colleges because they thought they would be employed for a certain number of hours at Kean.

The union, which fully intends to file a grievance, was shocked that hundreds of the Kean Adjunct Teachers will be on the unemployment line before Christmas. But, surprisingly, the state university intends to hire replacements for the classes they taught.

Kean, which has 1,200 non-tenured Local 6024 professors and 344 full-time resident-tenured members of the Kean Federation of Teachers, began increasing the number of adjunct professors ten years ago. This is the first year, though, the university decided to change policy on the number of credit hours certain adjunct professors can carry.

(See related story: ‘Nothing really has changed at Kean’)

The new policy will not allow adjunct faculty to teach more than six credits, when previously most adjunct professors were able to teach 10 credit hours without a problem.

Kean University AFT President Kathleen Henderson, who has taught at the university for 18 years as an adjunct professor, said last week that all communications have broken down with administration over this issue.

Saturday, despite having to juggle several classes in order to speak to the board, Henderson stepped to the podium and told members exactly how she felt about what transpired at the university since the decision was made.

“I am the face of the adjunct faculty member who has been teaching at Kean for 18 years. In 2009 I achieved one of the highest honors Kean can award, that of being voted by students, my peers and administrators as an Outstanding Teaching Professor,” said the AFT president.

However, Henderson was not about to let any of the three minutes allotted to speakers be wasted without telling the board exactly how she felt about the situation.

“I must report to you a widespread violation of the Kean policy on harassment, intimidation and bullying,” she said, going on to read multiple examples of bullying tactics cited by the Workplace Bullying Institute.

Henderson flatly told the board that intimidation, undermining, constantly changing work expectations, withholding necessary information and even giving wrong information, were all signs of bullying.

For instance, Henderson said each time an administrator was replaced or brought in, “there is a manic and compulsive desire to re-assess everything again, thus changing the mission outcome and learning objectives.”

“There is no solid foundation or stability to build on,” she added.

The adjunct union president also mentioned that “giving employees, or in our case the local union, the silent treatment by not responding to emails in over a year and a half,” is not shared governance.

“Those are only a few examples of the bullying and intimidation that goes on under the guise of managerial prerogative and academic judgement here at Kean,” she said, adding union members want to know who supervises administration so “they can, without fear of losing their jobs, report these abuses and constant misuse of managerial prerogative and academic judgement at Kean.”

Kean Executive Vice President Philip Connelly, who Henderson had communicated with via email about the current situation, responded to the AFT union criticisms at the board meeting. He told the board that no faculty has the right to pick their courses, and administration did not violate any adjunct rights but rather did what was right for students.

Connelly also said that although he received a firestorm of emails about the issue, the administration makes decisions and that is its right.

Finally, he told the board he is “the chief negotiator.”

This fired up one professor to suggest that the 210 adjunct professors were reaping University President Dawood Farahi’s “payback” for the AFT president publicly siding with the Kean Federation of Teachers against him last spring during the board meetings that focused on his falsifying academic resumes and publications.

The board of trustees did not comment on the issue or propose any solution to the ongoing turmoil surrounding the cutting of the 210 adjunct professors’ credit hours.

Meanwhile, Henderson sent an email to the board secretary, requesting several documents, including the statement made by Connelly at the meeting.

She also said that the “newly enacted policy of no overloads to be permitted by any full-time employees of Kean” should apply to all university employees, including Connelly and not just professional staff.