Academic Freedom for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty: A Union Makes a Difference

Who decides what academic freedom means for non-tenure-track faculty?  What options do non-tenure-track faculty have when they are evaluated on criteria other than their job performance?

According to the Statutes of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees:

The commitment of the University of Illinois to the most fundamental principles of academic freedom, equality of opportunity, and human dignity requires that decisions involving students and employees be based on merit and be free from invidious discrimination in all its forms.

According to Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy (News-Gazette, May 9, 2014)*:

“If this was an issue of academic freedom, we would stand up for it. This [non-tenure track faculty member] is an hourly employee who doesn’t have tenure. It’s completely different.”

According to the contract recently negotiated between UIC-United Faculty and the University of Illinois:

  • non-tenure-track faculty have firm contractual backing for academic freedom.
  • non-tenure-track have the right to binding arbitration when the university fails to follow proper procedures in dealing with academic freedom violations
  • multi-year contracts provide protection against the whims of administrators.

At our campus, non-tenure-track faculty are guaranteed none of those protections.   Non-tenure-track faculty teach a large and growing proportion of undergraduate courses at UIUC, yet have few of the employment protections that are extended to tenure-stream  faculty.

Isn’t it time for a union here at UIUC?

Published by Susan Davis

I teach in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois.

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