By Elianna Novitch
Nontenured faculty in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences gathered on the Pentacrest on Wednesday to show that they are essential to the university, not contingent.
The group of approximately 50 delivered a list of demands to the Office of the President along with a letter of support with nearly 200 signatures. University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was not in his office at the time.
The list of demands addressed a variety of issues that nontenured faculty face. Some include lack of representation in policy decisions, unstable contracts, lack of transparency surrounding the hiring and renewal process, stagnant pay raises, lack of insurance coverage, unequal access to parental leave, among other items.
According to a report from the state Board of Regents, in 2017-18 there were 3,270 faculty members employed at the UI. Nontenure-track faculty currently make up 54 percent of UI faculty. Since 2015-16, there has been an increase of 165 nontenure-track faculty — a growth of 10.4 percent.
“We’re trying to make it clear that if the university wants to maintain its standards of education, it has to recognize that a huge percentage of classes being taught to undergraduates are by nontenure-track faculty,” Rhetoric Department Lecturer Annie Sand said. “If they want us to be the best, most giving teachers that we can be for our students, they need to treat us with the respect and show us that they see our value as much as tenured professors.”
Sand said she and her colleagues recognize that these are tough financial times for public institutions, especially with recent budget cuts, but they wish to see budgetary constraints handled differently.
On March 28, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed off on budget cuts for fiscal 2018, which ends June 30. The midyear cuts amounted to $35.5 million for state programs and services — $10.9 million of which was split between the UI and Iowa State University.
“We don’t want the budget to be balanced on the backs of students and nontenured-track faculty, and that’s kind of what’s happening right now,” Sand said. “We need to find a different way to cut that money that’s not undervaluing nontenured-track faculty and forcing students to pay tuition that they can’t afford.”
The nontenured faculty members who attended the march came from a range of departments in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Meghan Knight, associate professor of instruction in the Rhetoric Department, has been a nontenured UI faculty member for 20 years.
“For 20 years, I have loved my job, but I’ve been treated by the institution that I work for as disposable,” Knight said. “We deserve to be full members of the community, we deserve to be paid fairly, we deserve to be part of the decision-making process. We want to be able to show up for our students, and it’s pretty hard to do that when we are being underpaid and overworked.”
Brooke Larson, a visiting assistant professor of linguistics, said a lot of the issues of nontenured faculty go under the radar and a lot of people, especially students, aren’t aware of them. The goal of the march was to make the presence and demands of nontenured faculty visible to the university.
“The question is, why didn’t we do it sooner? We’ve all been relatively isolated,” Larson said. “I have a lot of issues in my department, but I don’t know the issues of the people over in math. It’s taken awhile to overcome those barriers. We’ve realized we have a lot of the same core issues.”
Through communication and shared struggles, Knight said, nontenured faculty have come together to demand action from the university.
“For too long we have felt separated and voiceless,” Knight said. “But now we are organized, and we are ready to stand up for ourselves and our students.”