On April 1, an adjunct faculty member was terminated from their position in the English department. The result was an outcry from many adjunct faculty members employed in the Arts and Humanities division and on May 2, a formal grievance was filed against the Arts and Humanities division by the faculty union.
According to Paula Sebastian, an adjunct English professor and adjunct elected representative for the Bellevue College Executive Council, the terminated faculty contacted Douglas Brown, the president of the BC Association of Higher Education. She described a feeling of anxiousness among the adjunct faculty due to lack of information. “During the first couple of days of [spring quarter], word spread like wildfire among adjunct that another adjunct had been fired. The first question is always, ‘How come?’ And no one seemed to know…[the terminated faculty member] had gone to the [faculty] union and said, ‘I’ve been terminated and I don’t know why.’”
Brown explained that adjunct faculty contracts have “protections in the contract for all faculty, particularly protections for due process. Once you’re hired as a faculty member, and for a part-timer, that unfortunately means you’re hired typically from one quarter to the next…[and] then you can’t be yanked out of class or terminated except for cause. That is, you’re not subject to arbitrary or capricious decisions about your continuance in the position. And the contract provides a variety of specific protections.”
Brown said the reason the grievance was filed was because the Arts and Humanities division did not follow the procedures outlined in the adjunct faculty contracts.
“[The faculty member] was not awarded due process,” added Sebastian.
Sebastian said the general reaction among the adjuncts was, “We could be fired without any due process.”
The process for filing a grievance begins within 30 business days of the termination of an employee. Within that time frame, a formal grievance must be filed in writing. In this case, the grievance was filed with the Vice President of Instruction. From then, a “Step One meeting” is arranged between the grievant and those individuals the grievance was filed against. Within 10 days of the Step One meeting, a written response from the Office of Instruction is due to the grievant.
A Step One meeting occurred on May 8.
If the grievance is struck down and the original decision is upheld, the grievants have the option of appealing the decision. If they decide to take this option, a Step Two meeting will occur between the college president and the grievant. If the grievants are unsatisfied with that decision, the final step is to have an arbitration meeting moderated by the American Arbitration Association.
“If it is allowed to go forward, then I think there will continue to be that doubt of how much protection and support and respect adjuncts really have,” said Sebastian. Additionally, Sebastian stated that, “The morale has been at a low ebb this quarter. I’ve never seen it so low. And I really don’t want to see that continue. I’m afraid if it doesn’t get resolved in a favorable way, that morale is going to be difficult to bring back up.”