Letter: Setting the record straight

Marten denBoer, Provost, DePaul University, is pictured in a studio portrait Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)
Marten denBoer, Provost, DePaul University, is pictured in a studio portrait Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)

DePaul’s high regard for diversity of opinion and respectful debate on campus is matched by its insistence on intellectual honesty and truth. This is why I find a recent letter to the editor signed by anonymous members of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Organizing Committee and published by The DePaulia to be so disappointing.

SEIU Organizing Committee mischaracterized the facts of both labor law and DePaul’s new Workplace Environment Committee (WEC), a body recommended by and comprised of DePaul adjunct faculty members. The SEIU Organizing Committee claims that the formation of the WEC is a clear violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which restricts employers from interfering with employees in the exercise of the right to collectively bargain. This statement is wrong. All the work being done by the university in support of our adjunct faculty is entirely legal and ethical.

The committee is also incorrect about the scope of DePaul adjunct faculty members who are eligible to become WEC candidates. By falsely stating that “the candidacy requirements are three years in a row of a full adjunct course load (six courses a year, or two a quarter),” the SEIU Organizing Committee insinuated that the candidate pool is restricted to a relatively small percentage of faculty members who, because of regular assignments, would presumably have a positive relationship with the university.

In fact, any adjunct faculty member who taught at least six courses over the three-year period immediately preceding the academic year of the vote (three courses in the last three years in the College of Law) and, as of the first day of Autumn Quarter, is teaching or is scheduled to teach in the academic year of the vote is eligible to become a candidate.

To disparage the WEC by questioning its independence and the ability of its members to effectively represent their peers and bring about positive change is to insult the members of the Adjunct Task Force who recommended its formation, the dozens of adjunct faculty members who nominated themselves to serve on it, and the hundreds who voted for those candidates. To them, the WEC represents a viable vehicle to address adjunct issues and follows on the heels of a number of improvements recently implemented or in progress, including bonuses, a pay raise, an increase in the course cancellation fee and multi-year contracts.

The SEIU Organizing Committee’s stated objective ensuring a stable and positive work environment in which all faculty are valued and are equally invested in our mission at DePaul University is indeed of paramount importance. The university is doing all it can to further that objective. I urge the committee members to respect the ability and judgement of their peers and honor the measures they have proposed.