CFA on “Specialized Faculty”

The Campus Faculty Association Comments on “Employment Guidelines for Specialized Faculty Holding Non-tenure System Positions” (Provost’s Communication XX)

By: The CFA Non-Tenure-Track Organizing Committee

Recently, a draft for “Employment Guidelines for Specialized Faculty Holding Non-tenure System Positions” was circulated by the Provost’s office.  It was briefly discussed in the Academic Senate and has been sent to all non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty on campus.  NTT faculty were also asked to answer a one-question survey and comment on this draft.

The Campus Faculty Association has been working with NTT faculty to promote unionization and to work toward a binding contract that will cover most full-time NTTs*.  The CFA thinks this Provost’s draft was prompted by the growing success of the CFA’s campaign on campus.  The report addresses many points raised by us, although it falls far short of the kind of contract NTT faculty need and deserve.  The documents represent only a first step addressing some of the long standing inequities NTT faculty have faced on this campus.  The document outlines clearer criteria for faculty titles, suggests promotion ladders (including multi-year contracts under certain conditions), and the inclusion of NTT faculty in professional support and shared governance structures.  Many ideas in this document could serve as a basis for discussion of a contract in the future.

It is significant that the document leaves open some basic points and is vague on many issues:

  • Unlike the other numbered communications issued by the Provost (such as Communication No. 9 on Promotion and Tenure) this one is only a set of suggestions for Departments and Units. The Provost’s office has no plans to make these guidelines binding in any way.
  • The document suggests promotion ladders and indicates that salary raises might be connected to promotions.  But (unlike for tenure-stream faculty), such raises are not required when a NTT faculty member is promoted.  No additional funds are mentioned for Departments that do decide to promote their NTT faculty and want to raise their salary.

While the Provost’s Office has asked NTTs for their opinion via an on-line survey, there is no provision that the faculty as a whole agree to this document.  A general advisory vote of endorsement is expected by the administration from the Academic Senate, but NTTs have only minimal representation in the Senate.

The real value of these “guidelines” is in how they have brought people together across campus to discuss problems faced by NTT faculty. A campus-wide debate is an excellent start.  But in order to see real change, we will need to go beyond discussion and see that the issues of job security, promotion and salary ladders as well as participation in campus governance are addressed in a binding way by the University administration.  Only a union contract can do this because only contract provisions are legally enforceable. We invite NTT colleagues to share their concerns and to work with us on a set of contract guidelines that will bring equitable working conditions to all faculty members on campus.

* Illinois higher education labor law provides for collective bargaining by faculty at the University of Illinois.  It defines as eligible those non-tenure-track faculty who are employed more than .51% of full-time equivalent, and excludes those in the College of Law and College of Veterinary Medicine.