Clinical Faculty at MU Deserve Better

For over eight months, the faculty union at Monmouth University has been negotiating with the university administration over the terms of employment for faculty in our clinical programs in the Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS). Unable to come to a satisfying agreement that recognizes the important contributions of our clinical faculty in the education of our MU students in the SONHS, in January 2022, we moved to working with a federal mediator. After our clinical team of volunteer negotiators work long hours to meet and carefully explain their workload concerns with the administration and mediator, on February 14, the administration indicated they had gone as far as they were willing to go and discontinued mediation.

At this time the clinical faculty are frustrated and concerned over the lack of willingness of the administration to continue to discuss immediate contractual protections for the hard-working faculty in the SONHS. Our requests are reasonable, no more than what is afforded to all other faculty within the University.

The goals of the clinical faculty are simple. We want our clinical and lab courses to be credited using the same rubrics utilized for faculty who teach lab and studio courses in other schools, as outlined by our current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Currently, faculty in the Occupational Therapy (OT) program receive, on average, 1.23 credits less per lab course than non-clinical faculty for the same amount of student contact hours. Faculty in the Physician’s Assistant (PA) program average 1.08 credits less per lab course. Additionally, we are asking for equal workload expectations outside of the classroom. At present, faculty in these two programs complete extensive out-of-the-classroom job duties, required by our programs, which can go well-beyond the service expectations of faculty in other departments and schools, but without being appropriately and fairly compensated. From reviewing all admission applications and interviewing candidates, to weekly exam blocks that occur outside of scheduled classes, we are working more hours than the university formally recognizes, and in ways that faculty in other programs, and our students, may not realize. Finally, the PA faculty wish to retain their 12-month faculty lines.

We seek solutions to these concerns to ensure the success of our graduates. First and foremost we simply ask for recognition of the extensive work we complete to ensure high success of our graduates, who finish with a Masters in PA, Masters or Doctorates in Nursing, or a Doctorate in OT at an entry-level of practice as mandated by our accreditors. This work includes: admissions, accreditation, capstone mentoring (OTD), exam blocks (PA), team teaching (PA), and competency exams (OT). We seek these changes to decrease the risk of faculty burnout from overloaded schedules and large program demands. We have done our part to create and sustain these critical programs during unprecedented pandemic times for two years and counting, including clinical experiences in a time when there are nationwide shortages in the healthcare field. Our excellence in education is provided by industry leaders who have continued to publish, present and attend conferences, obtain grants and more during these highly unusual times. Students in these programs require clinical faculty who are able to guide them through the didactic and clinical portions of the programs, faculty who have areas of expertise unique to these settings and the demands they possess, knowledge that only true practitioners can give. Lastly, the community needs to know that Monmouth University takes seriously the education and well-being of our future healthcare workers.

Monmouth University is well-positioned to financially support the faculty and students in our clinical programs in the SONHS. As President Leahy has shared, and as reported in the local press, Monmouth University has emerged from the initial pandemic period with one of the strongest financial positions in the state, second only to Princeton. As a University, we just spent $1.5 million to change our athletic conference, and have spent millions to build state of the art OT facilities, and the Linda Grunin Simulation Lab. The students in the OTD program bring in $147, 255 each, PA students pay $123,405, and the graduate nursing programs bring in $6 million a year, making them some of the highest grossing programs at the University. The opening of the OTD program, along with other new doctoral programs, has also allowed the University to improve its standing in national college and university ranking systems, which benefits us all. The faculty in the SONHS, 86% of whom are women and include two of the lowest paid departments at the University, overall bring in significant revenue in the training of future healthcare leaders, professionals needed now more than ever as we manage a global pandemic. We are also significant contributors to the growing reputation of Monmouth University as a place that is a top producer of successful, highly sought after healthcare practitioners. The faculty at the front lines of this important work deserve our respect as well as a fair workload.