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Non-Contingent but Not Tenure-Track

Ruth Scodel

          At my (large, public, research) institution, the non-tenure-track faculty unionized a little over ten years ago.  In their first contract negotiation, they won an agreement in 2004 under which all lecturers (the standard title here for non-ladder teaching faculty) who had been teaching for a certain period, usually on one-year renewable contracts, obtained a high level of job security.  Although they work on fixed-term contracts, in practice a lecturer who is successful in a major review, after eight consecutive terms, has a presumption of renewal.  As a result, the university has a cohort of permanent lecturers.  They do most teaching of basic composition and most language teaching in the large language programs.  About a third are full-time, teaching three courses each semester.  Lecturers receive benefits depending on the employment fraction; the latest contract improved their position considerably by having this fraction distributed over the academic year, so that a lecturer who is 100% in one term and 66.5% in the other is above the 80% required for full benefits.

          The system has winners and losers.  The main losers are new PhD’s in one-year positions.  There are no longer visiting assistant professors; an entry-level one-year job now requires a 3/3 course load (tenure-track faculty are 2/2) and a salary that is about 60% of that of a tenure-track hire. The winners are the long-term, full-time lecturers, whose main remaining grievance is salary.  They can apply for very modest amounts of research funding; since they are evaluated only on teaching, the college does not allow departments to use their main research funds to support them.  The early contracts had such strict recall provisions (that is, rules giving priority for lecturer jobs to those who had had them before) that it was very difficult to make actual contingent hires, since even a one-year job involved some commitment.  There were comical problems:  the union insisted that anyone teaching at the university who was not visiting from another institution be hired as a lecturer; it has now been established that emeriti can be visiting professors, for example.

          Given the rise of right-to-work legislation, unionization does not seem a likely solution for the difficulties of contingent faculty nationally.  It is rumored that one-third of the lecturers here are unwilling members of the union.  Still, it may be valuable for colleagues elsewhere to look carefully at the experience here, particularly at how the contracts have changed as both the union and the administration have learned what works and what does not, and at how particular provisions can help some and harm others.  This paper will present some of the most salient developments, and will also offer a personal perspective on what it is like to run a two-tiered department.

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Contingent Labor in Classics: The New Faculty Majority?

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