Number 4 – June 4, 2020

A publication for faculty, campus staff, and students by the independent
Rank-and-File Temple (RAFT) Caucus

RAFT is a caucus in the union for Temple faculty, librarians, and academic professionals, TAUP, and it is committed to the practice of democracy and rank-and-file mobilization across our campus. Our goal is to build a stronger union at Temple now, defend our jobs, and fight for better working conditions for all. We want all Temple workers to be rehired next year.

RAFT stands in solidarity with the protesters in the fight against racism and police violence. We stand in solidarity with all workers and the oppressed here and around the world in the struggle against exploitation and injustice.

Support our statement of solidarity with the protesters and our call to defund the police!

Temple has recently declared that the university will open in the fall. The administration took this step without the consent of workers and students. It is completely unclear how the measures put in place (such as social distancing) can be implemented, given that many of the classrooms are small and people have to use elevators to move around. It is also unclear how people can be expected to risk their and their families’s lives by returning to work. We do not want to be forced to go back to campus if it is not safe for everyone.

Please join us to discuss the situation at our next general meeting, and read the report below about our last general meeting. 

Next General Meeting: Friday, 06/12 3:00PM

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The Rank-and-File Caucus at Temple (RAFT) held its first general meeting on May 14. In this Zoom call that included 40+ people, the discussion centered on how to organize higher education workers in the current crisis and beyond. The focus in smaller groups was on the austerity measures that universities such as CUNY, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins have already put in place, on the situation at Temple, and on the fear of adjuncts losing their positions starting in the fall. 

The contributions during the meeting were animated — not surprising given the fact that the university “asked” the union to give up the recently negotiated wage increase as soon as the shelter-in-place measure was in effect. Some adjunct faculty in Temple’s College of Liberal Arts have already had their classes taken away. 

The most pressing issue right now is the looming threat to adjunct jobs. What happens if Temple decides to follow CUNY’s example and terminate all adjuncts before fall enrollments are even complete? What are we going to do? How can we prevent that from happening? It is clear that we need to strategize together, and we need to do that now. We demand: Rehire everybody!

Another central concern was health and safety. As we face the re-opening of the economy and Temple’s plan to return to campus in the fall, we want our employer to prioritize the wellbeing of teachers, staff, and students over more tuition dollars. Nobody should be forced to return to campus unless those working and learning at our school agree that it is safe to do so. No re-opening without the consent of faculty and all fellow workers! Faculty should not feel under pressure to return to conditions they understand as possibly unsafe in order to keep their jobs. Such policies are also ageist and ableist.

If there is a decrease in enrollment, and it is by no means clear that there will be, then now is the time to reduce class sizes permanently. Smaller classes means better education. This is particularly urgent in an online environment but true for all classes. 

At the same time, all faculty, librarians, and staff must be retained. In this time of crisis, it is unconscionable for universities to undertake to fire contingent faculty, the most exploited workforce in higher ed. Faculty who “refuse” to teach an in-person class (out of concern for their health) should have the option to teach online—and be eligible still for unemployment benefits. Paid sick leave for all Temple workers unable to work!

Other major concerns that were raised in the meeting include questions about:

  • Intellectual property: Why are we being asked to record our zoom sessions?
  • Compensation for extra work and extra costs: Why should the costs of the additional labor involved in the transition to online and the “operational costs” incurred through working from home: childcare, electricity, technology, etc. be offloaded on us? 
  • Drift toward all-online teaching: Will classes be permanently moved online? The administration has inquired about which classes could be taught without any face-to-face contact, which suggests that there are plans to drastically increase online-only course offerings after the pandemic, which we do not see as being in the interest of the students.

There were also discussions about RAFT and TAUP. Questions that came up included:

  • How can RAFT wage a better fight than has been the case for adjuncts and NTTs? If the last contract has not effectively wrested any real concessions from the university, how can we increase our strength as a union through and after the crisis? How can we foster an atmosphere in the union that resists the divide-and-conquer strategy of the administration? How can we build solidarity among adjuncts, NTTs, TTs, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates?
  • What can TAUP do better in the way of defending its members against exploitation and attacks from the administration? What can our caucus do, for example, by drawing on the experiences and expertise of other caucuses in other unions, such as the WE Caucus in the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers? 
  • How can we democratize TAUP through rank-and-file organizing? And how will RAFT work with the elected leadership of TAUP to pursue our common goals?

Beyond these immediate and urgent concerns, the RAFT meeting confirmed that Temple faculty want job security for everyone, especially adjuncts, who currently have none. The Ph.D. requirement for full-time positions should be lifted, and adjuncts should be given real consideration in applications for full-time positions. Adjuncts should not be prevented from teaching more than two classes per semester. Workload reduction, shared governance, and transparency with regard to the university’s finances are critically necessary, but we cannot wait for the board or the administration to give them to us; we must organize collectively and demand them.

We want a university that truly cares about the quality of the education it offers, about its students, and about its workers. Temple has received $28 million stimulus money to benefit its students. We feel this time of transition and risk is the time for the university to protect its entire community going forward and to strengthen our ties to one another. 

Join us at our next meeting, and organize with us this summer. We want your ideas and your input. 

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