By Naomi Hofferber
One current University of Iowa faculty member and one former member addressed the state Board of Regents on June 7 regarding the treatment of nontenure-track faculty at the university.
Matt McBride, a former lecturer in the Rhetoric Department, said he recently left the UI despite enjoying his job. His specialty was teaching writing to non-native English speakers, and he held classes that had a majority of Chinese students.
“Shortly after I was hired, I attended a meeting called by Dean [Raúl] Curto. He stressed that lecturer positions at Iowa were designed to be long-term positions. I believed him, until I started talking to people who had worked at Iowa long-term,” he said. “People who lose more and more money annually as their stagnant salary shrinks. They are literally being penalized for choosing to stay at the University of Iowa. So I left when I was ahead.”
McBride said contingent faculty are directly responsible for student retention, teaching required classes such as rhetoric, and those faculty members teach the lion’s share of classes.
Meaghan Harding, a UI lecturer in the English as a Second Language, also addressed issues of contingent faculty, noting a lack of job security and lack of transparency concerning how contracts are renewed.
She said that last year, she and her colleagues had to wait until May to find out if their contracts were renewed. At that time, many were offered one-year contracts,] rather than the three-year contracts that they thought had been the norm.
Harding said they were also not informed that interviews were the sole deciding factor regarding length of contracts.
“Although that didn’t happen this year, the renewal process is still shrouded in unnecessary secrecy,” she said. “What I’ve learned from speaking with my colleagues in other departments is that this doesn’t just happen in my department, it’s happening all over the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.”
Contingent faculty needed a voice on campus, Harding said, and both she and McBride are proponents of having union protection.
“Marginalizing and devaluing the input of nontenure-track faculty not only hurts us, it also hurts the university,” Harding said. “Denying job security and stability to people who work for the university, keeping us in conditions of poverty and insecurity, is not a good look for the state’s premier employer.”