Kean profs protest as part of statewide demonstration

Photo Courtesy of Erin McGuinness
Kean teachers and staff picketed outside the school on Morris Avenue as part of a
statewide demonstration for a new contract.

UNION, N.J. — Professors, lecturers, professional staff and librarians at Kean University joined instructors from eight other New Jersey public colleges in a statewide demonstration protesting for a new contract Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Kean instructors picketed as part of the state College Council along Morris Avenue at the intersection of Green Lane across from the Barnes & Noble bookstore, seeking attention from the public and state officials in their demand for higher pay, a smaller workload, job security and better pay for adjuncts.

The College Council represents all faculty and staff at the nine colleges and universities that took part in the protest. Also demonstrating were professional staff from Montclair State, New Jersey City, Stockton, Thomas Edison State and William Paterson universities, and The College of New Jersey and Ramapo and Rowan colleges.

Kean faculty members have gone 143 days without a contract, which expired July 1. Contract negotiations are through the Governor’s Office. Currently, Kean has 160 tenured faculty, 35 untenured faculty, 150 non-tenure lecturers who are on one-year contracts, and 1,000 adjuncts. In 2008, Kean had 380 tenured and tenure track faculty, no lecturers and 1,000 adjuncts.

Currently, lecturers are given one-year contracts, are reevaluated every year, and are required to teach 13 classes during the course of a year. However, regular faculty members at Kean teach eight classes per year.

“At our sister institutions, most faculty teach six courses,” said James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers and associate professor of physics at Kean, in a recent interview. “At Rutgers, they teach four per year. At Princeton, they teach two per year. So, our lecturers here teaching 14 courses per year … have an extraordinary amount of work.”

The Kean administration declined to comment to LocalSource about the recent demonstration.
“The State of New Jersey negotiates the contract for Kean University’s faculty and staff, and Kean does not comment on ongoing negotiations,” the Office of University Relations told the LocalSource in a Nov. 20 email.

Castiglione said there is a high turnover rate among faculty, and Kean has struggled to hire new professors because of the university’s working conditions. In addition, faculty members complain about a culture of micromanagement and want more academic freedom, he stated. For example, faculty are expected to document their hours, he said. Faculty are also looking for more job security in order to create a long-term commitment to the institution.

“What you need to have is a continuity in your workforce from year to year so that you have consistency with your programs to maintain quality with your programs to serve the best interests of the students,” Castiglione said during the Nov. 20 protest. “Right now, lecturers are in a position that is negotiated individually at each state college and university. And our demands are to have lecturers included into the master contract so that they can receive fair pay, job security, and respect so that we can maintain lecturer professionalism so that they can do the best job that they can for their students in the classroom.”

Faculty members have had a tense relationship with Kean President Dawood Farahi, who announced in September he would leave his position when his contract expires next year.

Castiglione elaborated as to why having multiyear contracts, tenure and job security are crucial for faculty.

“It’s really about protecting academic integrity and protecting students, and being able to advocate for students,” he said. “And, if you’re afraid of being fired, you can’t go up against the administration, you can’t go up against management, because you’ll be fired and it’s happened here. So, that’s why we’re demanding that lecturers be included in the contracts, that they be given multiyear contracts. They would have more job security.”

English professor Daniel Grover said at the demonstration that lecturers are overloaded.

“They’re teaching more than professors are teaching. They have to teach five classes a semester, plus some class sizes have been increased, so they’re carrying a heavier load. Their job has less security than a high school teacher’s does. High school teachers can get tenure after a couple of years. It took me six years to get tenure.”