Dear Alma| “I Am as Shocked as You Are”

Dear Alma,

Is it true that the President of the Board of Trustees thinks that non-tenure-track faculty are hourly employees, with no expectation of academic freedom?  Does Mr. Kennedy think he can fire whomever he pleases?

Signed,  Shocked

Dear Shocked,

It is true.  I am as shocked  as you are, because those words have a familiar ring.  Back in the 1920s,  Mrs. Mary Busey, then head of the BOT, used to refer to the faculty as her  employees.   The president of the university, David Kinley subjected job applicants to a political loyalty test, and you could be fired for your views and religious beliefs. This was before the introduction of tenure. (Upton Sinclair documented this state of affairs in The Goosestep, his 1923 book on American universities.)

But I’m standing here to tell you things are changing.  Non-tenure-track faculty at UI Chicago now have a union contract that protects them from arbitrary firing without just cause.  They aren’t “hourly employees” with no due process rights.   It’s time for a union on this campus, too.

Love Alma.

Published by Susan Davis

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

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