March 22, 2016
By Rich Bodee
The wave of unionization for part-time instructors has caught up to several Chicagoland colleges and universities – but not Dominican.
Last month, part-time instructors – better-known as adjuncts — at the University of Chicago and Loyola University formed adjunct professors’ unions, and adjuncts at other Chicago-area schools are following suit. At DePaul University adjuncts have begun the process of organizing, as well as Dominican’s River Forest neighbor, Concordia University of Chicago.
Reasons for adjuncts to unionize are as follows: they want more transparency in the hiring process, which would ultimately lead to better contracts with a salary increase, benefits, and better working conditions.
Union supporters say not only would adjuncts benefit, but also students would benefit in the form of a better educational institution that serves the needs of the collective group.
“I’m confident it would be a win for education at Dominican,” said Jacob Lesniewski, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at Dominican. “As the Chicago Teacher’s Union says: our teaching conditions are our students learning conditions. The better we take care of those who instruct Dominican students, the better we can support them in delivering a high quality education.”
Despite the spread of unionization at other colleges and universities, Dominican adjuncts are not following their contemporaries in organizing and unifying.
“I am not aware of any efforts to unionize at this time,” said Roberta McMahon, director of human resources at Dominican, and a former adjunct professor in the Brennan School of Business.
“I taught for a few semesters between 2003 and 2004, and then a few years later I taught online classes for a few semesters,” said McMahon.
Part-timers are numerous at Dominican. This past fall there were 295 adjunct professors teaching at Dominican as opposed to 167 full-time professors, according to Dominican’s Office of Institutional Research. If you do the math that means almost 64 percent of professors at Dominican are considered to be adjuncts.
If adjuncts at Dominican were to organize, they would most likely be represented by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, who is “the union most aggressively organizing adjuncts in the Chicago area,” according to Lesniewski.