Adjunct faculty aim for union

Graphic Credit: Kevin O’Keeffe | The Los Angeles Loyolan

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Adjunct faculty aim for union – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

Chiara Sulprizio, a visiting professor at LMU, adopted a baby in March. The adoption had been in the works for quite some time, but the child, Evan, arrived earlier than planned.

“My husband and I had intended to get the baby in summer,” Sulprizio said. “But as is the case with most babies, they come when they want to come.”

Evan arrived in the middle of spring break, when Sulprizio was visiting family in Reno, Nev. Coincidentally, Evan was also in Reno – serendipity Sulprizio said she couldn’t ignore.

She got the call Sunday and picked Evan up on Wednesday. Due to technicalities with the adoption, Sulprizio couldn’t leave Nevada until into the school week, cancelling her class the following Tuesday.

“And that was all the time I took off,” Sulprizio said. “One day. Just one day.”

Ordinarily, someone in Sulprizio’s situation would have colleagues informally cover for her. But Sulprizio is one of three professors in the classics and archaeology department and teaches four classes. Finding a cover for maternity leave is impossible – and as a non-tenure track professor, Sulprizio was confused as to whether she had the right to take time off.

“Admittedly, I did not demand anything,” Sulprizio said about petitioning for leave. “But even if I did, it doesn’t mean I would have gotten it. It’s not that anybody said to me, ‘No, you cannot take a leave.’ But realistically, how would that have worked?”

Sulprizio is in her third year, often the last for visiting professors at LMU. However, unlike other part-time professors, she has four classes, instead of just one or two. She is still a member of contingent faculty – the broader term used to describe those who must reapply for their positions on a semester-by-semester or year-by-year basis. And it is those contingent faculty members who are now considering unionizing.

As of 2012, 51 percent of LMU professors are employed part-time, according to Andrew Dilts, a political science professor on the tenure track. A former adjunct professor at other universities, Dilts has a strong interest in the trend of what he terms “adjunctification” – the shift towards more part-time professors versus full-time – not only at LMU, but nationally.

“In the 1970s, 70 percent of everyone who was teaching at an institute of higher education was on the tenure track,” Dilts said. “In 2011, 30 percent of instructors at institutions of higher education were on the tenure track. So it’s reversed in the course of a 40-year period.”

According to Anna Harrison, a full-time professor in the theological studies department, contingent faculty are ineligible for health care benefits and can’t buy in to a group plan. No part-time faculty are permitted to sit on committees. Additionally, according to Harrison, the academic freedom touted by University President David W. Burcham during his Convocation address this year is put in jeopardy when part-time professors lack the job security of tenure.

Teaching a course at LMU pays approximately $5,000 – limited to two classes a semester, part-time professors make just over $20,000 each academic year at maximum. Many part-time faculty take other jobs, often at other universities, to supplement their income. One such professor is Emily Hallock, a part-time political science professor both at LMU and UCLA. Because she’s teaching in two places, her students are shorted on available time in office hours.

“I simply cannot be here when I’m teaching another class,” Hallock said. “The students lose out if the person that they see and interact with is not a permanent member of the department.”

She’s also unable to devote time to research, something that affects the viability of the “teacher-scholar” model mentioned in LMU’s Strategic Plan. In the Strategic Themes section of the Plan, one of the objectives is to create “an educational environment that fosters lifelong learning for both students and faculty.” Because teachers like Hallock are taking part-time jobs elsewhere, they cannot focus on building the scholar aspect.

As a result, many adjunct faculty members are making strides towards a change. First, they created an online network for the Bellarmine College of Fine Arts (BCLA) adjunct faculty – designed to improve the work environment for adjuncts. Now comes a move towards unionization, thanks both to motivated faculty and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representatives of which have slowly begun building a presence on campus.

For their part, members of the University administration are aware of the efforts, according to Rebecca Chandler, LMU’s vice president for human resources. Because this is LMU’s first brush with potential unionization, the administration has no official position on the topic.

“We do recognize and respect that it is an individual’s legal right to participate in unionization efforts, or equally, to refrain from such activities,” Chandler told the Loyolan via email. “We respect an individual’s right to speak and/or meet with union representatives.”

Similar unionization efforts have occurred at other universities – successfully at schools like Georgetown University and George Washington University with the assistance of SEIU. While there will be obstacles along the path, including different adjunct faculty needs and the lack of a central communication system, professors passionate about the issue are ready for a shift.

“I would like to leave this place in a better state than I found it for people working off the tenure track,” Sulprizio said. “This place can afford … to do a little bit better and a little bit more for its contingent faculty.”

Trying to make a living

“My biggest mistake, had I wanted to pursue a teaching career in academia, seemed to be that I didn’t marry well,” Elizabeth Quiros-Loe said with a laugh. “Which pissed me off.”

Quiros-Loe came to LMU’s theological studies department last year on an externship from getting her graduate degree at Vanderbilt University. She taught one course to get some teaching experience. When it became clear that adjunct work wouldn’t be enough to live on, she moved to her current position as the program administrator at the Bioethics Institute.

“I was planning on continuing teaching, but this position became available,” she said. A much more secure job – year-round versus semester-by-semester, 20 hours per week – Quiros-Loe said she was grateful to be able to go to the dentist and not worry about future employment. While she could have found work elsewhere, LMU is important to her; her parents met in Malone when they were students here, and she said she felt connected to the campus.

“I want to work at one institution, and I want to work at LMU,” she said. “The only reason I’ve been able to teach here was because it’s subsidized by student loans. So the moment I get a Ph.D., I wouldn’t be able to teach here. … I did not want my Ph.D. to be my pink slip.”

The path to a union

Efforts to make working conditions better for part-time professors have been in the works at LMU for some time. Contingent faculty like Sulprizio and Quiros-Loe started the Contingent Faculty Network (CFN) last year with a web page that included resources like a guidebook for contingent faculty that with information on everything from contract renewal to where to park. According to its own website, CFN wasn’t a unionization effort in and of itself; rather, it was a more general effort to support contingent faculty.

“We just wanted to reach out to other people in our situation and not feel so isolated,” Sulprizio said.

The CFN was designed with BCLA professors in mind, and was received well by then-Dean Paul Zeleza’s office. The long-term goal of those who created the network wasn’t a union, but when Zeleza left LMU at the beginning of this year and the CFN went “by the wayside” in the transition, according to Sulprizio, things changed.

Enter SEIU, an organization that has worked in Washington, D.C. and Boston to unionize part-time faculty as part of their Adjunct Action program. They’re now in L.A. and at LMU specifically. How they came to campus isn’t quite clear – according to Jesse Yeh, an organizer for SEIU, they were invited when they spoke to over 200 adjunct faculty on campus. Yet when asked about which professors in particular formally invited SEIU on campus, Yeh hedged.

“I guess ‘formally invited’ wouldn’t be the case,” he said. “It’s that we see there’s a lot of really strong support here … to organize.”

For her part, Quiros-Loe was curious as to why SEIU was the right organization to get involved versus an organization like the American Association of University Professors. The answer: It came down to resources. “SEIU had the ability to make a local campaign and a metro-wide campaign,” she said, the latter half of which was deemed important. “We’re metro workers – we work here, we work there … so having union representation at one place isn’t quite as helpful as having it across the place where we work.”

Additionally, according to Dilts, the tenure track political science professor, SEIU has “a track record of working with existing organizations” on a city level. “They’re one of the few unions that’s seen that what’s happening with higher education has this particular quality in cities that’s different than in rural areas or in suburban areas,” Dilts said.

‘I’m not going to skimp on the students’

So where do students fit into the unionization equation? According to Hallock, the professor who teaches part-time at both LMU and UCLA, students are the most important aspect.

“I think a lot of students don’t realize that the people who are teaching them are being paid basically a tenth of what one student pays for their tuition and everything for the year,” Hallock said. “If I were a student and I was paying $50,000 to go to school, I would wonder why half of the people that were teaching me were making so very little when I was paying so very much.”

For Quiros-Loe, the whole reason for the vicious cycle is because professors care about their students. “We tend to be complicit in our own exploitation,” … she said … “because we love the students. And it’s not their fault. So we do more than what we’re paid for, going above and beyond, and we do this … because we feel committed to our students.”

“I’m not going to skimp on the students, because that would be wrong,” Hallock added. “But the result of this is that I don’t have much time for anything else.”

Deadline: December

The goal is to file for an election by the end of the semester, according to SEIU organizer Cindy Flores, which will allow for a vote to unionize. To file before the end of the semester is important, according to Quiros-Loe, because of the turnover in adjunct faculty – in other words, the part-time professors on staff now aren’t necessarily the same professors that will be on staff come January.

Still, the group seeking to organize faces some obstacles. For one, as Quiros-Loe sees it, there is a deep-seated feeling that being passed over for the opportunity to move onto the tenure track is somehow merit-based. Additionally, when it comes to attempts to organize, according to Dilts, management or administration obstruction can be one of the most difficult obstacles.

“At LMU, I have incredibly high hopes, though, that our administration will understand that this movement is coming as a response to the shared goal of the administration, faculty and students, which is to find a way to increase the quality of our educational program here and support all our members,” Dilts said.

Should a union come to pass, Chandler, LMU’s vice president for human resources, said there would be significant change. “Human resources and the administration will, for the most part, not deal directly with individual part-time faculty members,” Chandler said via email. “Part-time faculty will have the union as their ‘voice’ and exclusive representation.”

Whether or not the vote can be mobilized, for Sulprizio, the issues with part-time faculty at LMU aren’t going away.

“I don’t think this is the worst place to work as a contingent faculty member,” Sulprizio said. “But the time has come to deal with the problem.”

Paula Deen’s Guilt-Free Admission of Using N-Word, Hiring ‘Slave’ Waiters

Originally published on Squid Ink, LA Weekly’s food blog. For original, please refer to: Paula Deen’s Guilt-Free Admission of Using N-Word, Hiring ‘Slave’ Waiters – Squid Ink.

Paula Deen has found the one problem that can’t be solved with butter, y’all. And that problem is her casual racism when planning wedding parties.

As reported first by the National Enquirer (and picked up just about everywhere else), the celebrity chef and patron saint of all things deep-fried gave a deposition in which she is quoted as saying “of course” she has used the N-word (so blasé!). She also reportedly said of racist jokes, “I can’t determine what offends another person.”

But perhaps the most shocking portion of the 2011 Rose Parade Grand Marshal’s three-hour depo was in reference to her brother Bubba Hiers’s wedding — “Bubba” being a nickname for Earl, because in the South, Bubba is a nickname for everything.

At Bubba’s wedding, Deen hired a waitstaff of all middle-aged black men in white suits and black bowties. Deen said she was inspired by a restaurant she had previously visited.

“I mean, it was really impressive,” Deen is quoted as saying. “That restaurant represented a certain era in America…after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War.” After, during and before: Apparently, the “certain era” Deen described is all the time.

Deen said she thought that the servers at the restaurant — clarifying that there were both men and women, lest you think Paula Deen is sexist, goodness no — “were slaves.”

So naturally, Deen chose that image as a catering inspiration point for the wedding of a man who owns a business called Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House.

The deposition — which the Enquirer claims it has video footage of — is for a lawsuit filed in March by Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Deen’s, who is suing Deen and Bubba for sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace.

The lawsuit alleges that Deen wanted the waiters to tap dance as well, as they would at “a true Southern wedding,” but was worried about media scrutiny. Because admitting to casually using the N-word in a deposition is the definition of “discreet.”

Deen’s rep issued a statement to TMZ, saying she “does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable” and “is looking forward to her day in court.”

It is unknown whether Uncle Bubba has given his deposition yet, but considering the brunt of Jackson’s complaint is against him — including routine sexual harassment of her and witnessing the beating of a black employee — for his sake, he might want to read the coverage of his sister’s deposition as a cautionary tale.

Leg wound

Students accuse DPS officer of assault

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan and co-written with Allison Croley. For original, please refer to: Students accuse DPS officer of assault – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Leg wound

via Julian Benfey


A Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer has been accused of assaulting a freshman student. The allegation, which is being brought forward by the student, freshman management major Julian Benfey, and his roommate, freshman theatre arts major Eli Cusick, is currently undergoing “a full and fair and thorough investigation,” according to DPS Chief Hampton Cantrell.

The incident, which according to multiple sources happened at approximately 4:30 a.m. last Friday, was captured on video by Cusick. The Loyolan has viewed the video, which depicts an officer, identified by Benfey and Cusick as DPS Lieutenant Derrick Dodson, tackling Benfey to the ground and restraining him with handcuffs.

Officers responding to what Cantrell called “a drug activity call” knocked on three different doors in Huesman Hall with Resident Director Trammell Jones, the third of which was Benfey and Cusick’s room, number 103. According to Cusick, officers searched the room because a marijuana smell had been detected in Huesman. After being woken up by officers, according to Benfey and Cusick, the two residents complied and left the room. Benfey attempted to take his backpack with him, at which point officers asked to search the bag.

Upon searching the bag, officers found what Benfey and Cusick described as “a gram of [marijuana]” in a pill bottle, allegedly still in the bag after Benfey’s attendance at Coachella Music Festival.

“[We] were saying how this wasn’t allowed, how you can’t just come into someone’s dorm at 4:30 in the morning … and accuse them of doing illegal activities when they’re fast asleep,” Cusick said.

As an officer continued to search the bag and Benfey started shouting at the officers, using profane language, Cusick began recording the event on his phone camera.

According to the video, Benfey requested to take his anti-anxiety medication, which he claimed was in the bag. Officers did not permit Benfey access to his backpack despite this request, according to Benfey. When Benfey attempted to reach for the bag, as depicted in the video, he was strongly guided away by Dodson, to which he responded “Don’t [expletive] touch me,” and shoved Dodson away. According to the video, Dodson responded by tackling Benfey to the ground and handcuffing him. Benfey attempted to stand up, but as depicted in the video, was shoved back onto the ground by Dodson.

Benfey continued to shout at the officers, saying to Dodson, “I pay $55,000 dollars to go here and I’m [expletive] handcuffed outside my [expletive] door right now,” according to the video. After Benfey attempted to stand up again, as depicted in the video, Dodson pinned Benfey into a wall with his hip and held him there for a full minute. At some point during the incident, Benfey claimed, he sustained a minor knee abrasion, as depicted in the image above.

Throughout the altercation, Benfey and Cusick continued to shout at the two officers, as well as at all sleeping residents in Huesman, imploring them to wake up. Cusick was momentarily blocked from filming by an unidentified DPS officer who refused to give his name.

“A [DPS] officer tried to knock my camera out of my hand, saying he was allowed to do so and stop me from filming,” Cusick said, despite Jones’ earlier claim that Cusick could continue filming.

As depicted at approximately the four-minute mark in the video, Dodson released Benfey from holding him against the wall, while keeping him handcuffed. At this point, Jones escorted Benfey down the hall and Cusick stopped filming.

After searching the room for what Cusick recalled as approximately an hour, and allegedly finding no further drugs or paraphernalia beyond the aforementioned marijuana in either Benfey’s bag or the room, the officers reportedly left around 5:30 a.m.

When asked about the policy regarding searching students’ rooms and bags, Cantrell referred the Loyolan to the Residence Life policy that states that rooms can be searched with reason to believe there is a concern about health and safety standards, or if a breach of University policy is suspected.

“Generally, we do conduct searches that are room searches and any reasonable implements – drawers, bags that may be in the room,” Cantrell said. When asked about bags specifically outside of the room, Cantrell said that search procedure “depends on the circumstances.”

Since the time of the incident, Benfey and Cusick have shown the video to a number of campus officials, including, reportedly, Vice President of Student Affairs Lane Bove, Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Hellige and DPS Captain Cristina Martin. Cantrell would only confirm his knowledge of the video, but would not comment on whether he had viewed it. Benfey claimed he met with Bove personally last Tuesday, May 7.

“Honestly, I was in such a psychological state that I couldn’t focus on my exams until I received a direct apology from a qualified representative,” Benfey said. “Although it didn’t reconcile the situation, as you could assume, a direct apology does make a difference after being humiliated.”

Benfey and Cusick claimed that Dodson has been put on administrative leave without pay, but Cantrell refused to confirm either Dodson’s identity or status. Benfey left the University with his father, Dr. Philip Benfey of Duke University, on Wednesday, May 8, after taking his last final exam. Cusick left the University this morning.

Cantrell declined to comment on specifics for this story beyond confirming an ongoing investigation. Requests for comment to Martin and Jones were not returned by publication time.

Commencement speakers announced

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Commencement speakers announced – Los Angeles Loyolan.

This year’s undergraduate Commencement speaker will be biographer and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Goodwin is the author of “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” from which the Oscar-winning film “Lincoln” was adapted. She has written an additional five books, the first being 1977’s “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.” She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for her work “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The American Homefront During World War II.”

Coincidentally, Goodwin appeared in the 1994 documentary miniseries “Baseball,” directed and produced by last year’s undergraduate Commencement speaker, Ken Burns.

Additionally, this year’s graduate Commencement speaker will be Vice President of Propulsion Engineering for SpaceX Tom Mueller. Mueller, an LMU alumnus (M.S. ’92), has previously spoken to University publication LMU Magazine – that interview can be read here.

For more information on both speakers, and to read all our Commencement coverage, pick up our special edition next week.

Cease-and-desist letter protests use of ‘CollegeFest’ trademark

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Cease-and-desist letter protests use of ‘Collegefest’ trademark – Los Angeles Loyolan.

A cease-and-desist letter was sent to LMU’s Office of the President from CollegeFest Promotions LLC on Thursday demanding the University stop using the name “CollegeFest.” Despite the letter, which was also sent to the Loyolan and senior sociology major and ASLMU President Vinnie Caserio, a video post on ASLMU’s Facebook page this weekend referred to the March 24 on-campus event as “CollegeFest.”

The letter, signed by Adam Paget, legal counsel for CollegeFest Promotions, claims the company owns the trademark “COLLEGEFEST” and that the name “has become famous, and consumers recognize this mark as a distinctive indicator of our client’s high-quality services.” Because of this, the letter alleges, LMU’s use of the name CollegeFest is an infringement and violates several laws, including the federal Lanham Act.

CollegeFest Promotions’ letter states that the company, a subsidiary of the larger Mr. Youth LLC, has used the CollegeFest trademark, for years to promote events, including an over-25-year-old Boston-based event called simply CollegeFest. Coincidentally, the 2010 CollegeFest in Boston featured a performance from this year’s LMU CollegeFest headlining act, Chiddy Bang.

Paget demands in the letter the cessation of “any and all use of the COLLEGEFEST name and mark … in any and all materials [and] in all formats,” asking for confirmation of this by next Tuesday, March 19. If LMU does not stop using the name CollegeFest, the letter concludes, “we will have no alternative but to take all steps necessary to preserve and protect our rights without further notice to [the University].”

At approximately 10:55 p.m. Friday evening, ASLMU published a YouTube video titled “LMU CollegeFest 2013” to its Facebook page (see image). The video, posted by an account called “TheASLMU,” was accompanied by a statement annoucing “ASLMU Presents: CollegeFest 2013.” ASLMU’s website, Facebook page and Instagram account all continue to feature the poster for the event, which refers to it as CollegeFest.

A call for comment to the LMU CollegeFest coordinator, senior finance major and ASLMU Director of Performance Events Ashley Thompson, was not returned. Requests for comment to Paget, Caserio and ASLMU Adviser and Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Development Alexandra Froehlich were also not returned.