Elon University committed to a three-year contract on Oct. 6 that establishes increases in pay, additional job security and access to professional development funds for unionized adjunct, part-time, limited term and visiting Elon faculty members.

According to adjunct instructor Susan Ladd, the contract covers roughly 160 adjunct faculty members within the bargaining unit, which also includes some retired faculty and accompanists in the music department.

The agreement is through Service Employees International Union Workers United Southern Region and applies to faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences and the Business, Communications and Education Schools.

The union does not represent full-time faculty, such as tenured and tenure-track professors, continuing track and lecturing-track faculty, employees with faculty rank and employees who teach only online, administrators, managers and supervisors.

Ladd said while the union didn’t get everything they asked for, they managed to achieve a lot of the goals they had initially set out to meet with the union’s formation.

“The problems of adjuncts at Elon are the same as the problems of adjuncts at any college,” Ladd said. “Chief among those are lower pay and lack of job security.”

Faculty in the bargaining unit will receive a 3% or 4% increase in pay, depending on their category of appointment and the number of semester credit hours they teach. Ladd also said, as per the contract, the university will be more transparent with how it determines payment in the future.

For music faculty in particular, those who offer private lessons will receive a 6.5% increase per semester credit hour, as well as a 4% increase for university accompanists — who may also be faculty — and for recitals.

In the event of a course cancellation, faculty are now also entitled to either alternative work with no effect on compensation or payment of 15% within two weeks of the beginning of each semester.

Adjunct faculty will also have access to a professional development fund, which provides $11,000 per year to be allocated for “Support of Teaching,” which can include aspects such as attending conferences and applying for grants.

Owen Covington, university spokesman, said the university will not offer any additional comments about the contract process and agreement, but he did send an initial statement to Elon News Network.

"Throughout the process of discussions and negotiations about union representation for Elon's limited term, visiting and adjunct faculty members, Elon has kept at the forefront our longstanding focus on providing our students with the best possible educational experience and learning environment,” Covington wrote. “With the conclusion of the process and the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement, we look forward, as always, to the contributions of these faculty, and all of our faculty and staff, as we continue to enhance our position as a national leader in teaching excellence and innovation.” 

Union representative and adjunct music instructor Jim Roberts was not available for comment.

Ladd — who is a member of the union as well as a member of the union’s bargaining committee — said that while the move to unionize adjunct faculty first started in 2018, the union didn’t officially form until spring 2019. 

Between this time and spring 2021, when bargaining first officially began, Ladd said the university had challenged the formation of the union, with multiple legal contentions preceding labor negotiations.

Despite this, Ladd said she is very pleased with how the bargaining process went once the union was legitimized and negotiations began.

“Both the union members and the representatives of the administration bargained in good faith. It was a very collegial process. It was not contentious,” Ladd said. “Once we finally sat down the two sides and started talking, that the process came together pretty well.”

Overall, Ladd said she was glad both the union and the university could agree on an initial contract to better support adjunct faculty.

“I think I've been treated extremely well in the comm school — treated with respect and treated certainly fairly, and made to feel very at home here. I love Elon. I love teaching here,” Ladd said. “But again, like I said, the problems that adjuncts have here are universal to just being an adjunct, and that really needs to change.”