Emerson’s affiliated faculty demands equitable resources

By Chloe Els, Staff Writer

On Thursday afternoon, Union President of the Affiliated Faculty of Emerson College Barry Marshall met with the union’s new vice president, Randy Harrison, to discuss current issues facing AFEC.

Both Marshall and Harrison are senior affiliated faculty members at Emerson College. Marshall has been a visual and media arts professor at Emerson for over 20 years, and Harrison has taught marketing communications for nearly as long. Despite their lengthy careers at Emerson, both professors joined AFEC to gain greater recognition for affiliated faculty members’ contributions to the college.

AFEC is made up of approximately 300 members of Emerson’s adjunct faculty and represents the interests of the group. An adjunct faculty member is a professor who works part time for an academic institution, often while maintaining their job in the industry.

Since they work part time, adjunct faculty members do not receive the same benefits as full-time faculty members. However, Harrison hopes affiliated faculty will gain recognition.

“We’re practicing out in the field,” he said. “What we bring to the table helps create a rich environment for the students. That’s what I love about what the union’s done to establish the relevance in the administration’s mindset about what we really do and what our contribution to students really is.”

Harrison said he got involved with AFEC to show support for fellow adjunct faculty members.

“It became clear to me that we are the lowest rung on the faculty hierarchy,” he said. “It’s my goal to demonstrate to the administration that we are more than an expense, and that the service we are providing is crucial to [Emerson’s] community.”

Over the past few years, AFEC has focused on bringing more benefits and resources to Emerson’s affiliated faculty. Recent “lunchbucket issues” include eyeglass insurance coverage and transit reimbursement—things guaranteed to full-time faculty, Marshall said.

While AFEC secured reimbursement of Bluebike and MBTA passes for affiliated faculty, it now faces the issue of parking. 

Emerson covers the cost of parking at the school for full-time faculty members but not for affiliated faculty. During the pandemic, parking coverage was extended to affiliated faculty due to COVID-19 concerns on public transportation. However, uncertainty about whether the pandemic is over led to confusion regarding how long this benefit will last. Marshall speculates affiliated faculty will lose their parking rights at the end of the year.

Another major issue for AFEC is the idea of shared governance, which concerns both AFEC and the full-time faculty union.

“Both unions need a mediator for Title IX charges or racial incident reports,” Marshall said. “We made an agreement with the administration to hire an ombudsperson who can address issues case by case, which takes the pressure off of us.”

Harrison sees the ombudsperson as beneficial not only to AFEC but to students at Emerson as well.

“The process needs to be organizationally transparent,” Harrison said. He has seen the negative effects of students’ cases not receiving enough attention and believes having a third party involved will make the process better for everyone involved.

While Harrison is aware that some of the things AFEC seeks cost money, he sees it as an investment in the community. He pointed out the work that goes into planning lessons, creating relevant learning experiences, and teaching classes, saying now is the time for Emerson to reciprocate.

“Affiliated faculty have shown their loyalty to Emerson,” Harrison said. 

The issues AFEC faces may appear distant from student life, but Harrison emphasized the importance of students understanding how AFEC works. 

“Emerson is all about a wide variety of points of view and experiences, and there is such a diverse community on the faculty side, both affiliated and full-time, which benefits everyone,” he said. “Any awareness students can have about this is good so they can understand and support all of their professors.”

Marshall agreed and explained the potential impact of students standing behind AFEC.

“The administration is aware of the influence students could have if they showed their support for the affiliated faculty,” he said. “It could make a difference.”