The University of Chicago is an academic community of outstanding scholars, teachers, students and staff who lead in the creation and transmission of knowledge. We call on the University to lead as well in the inclusive and equitable treatment of all its members, including its non-tenure stream lecturers. As tenured, tenure-stream and emeritus faculty, it is our obligation to ensure that our non-tenure stream colleagues receive the fair compensation and access to the necessary tools required to provide students with teaching and mentorship of the highest caliber.
In December 2015, these colleagues voted overwhelmingly to form a union. For two years they have been negotiating their first contract with the university administration. After these protracted negotiations, the administration is still proposing terms that would treat our non-tenure stream colleagues disrespectfully and unfairly.
The administration proposes reserving for itself the discretion to increase the teaching load of full time lecturers up to as many as 8 courses a year, a full 33% increase for most lecturers. It is hard to see how these many added hours of work will benefit students, when the clear consequence is that non-tenure stream faculty will have less time to prepare for teaching, grading, and meeting with students. They will also have less time for advising, conducting research in their fields, designing courses, running programs, and myriad other contributions they make to our departments and the University community and its shared life.
When it comes to benefits, the administration’s proposal is to maintain the status quo. Under the current system, part time lecturers receive no healthcare coverage. Even for full time lecturers, they receive less than half of the pay we get for parental leave, family leave, and medical leave. The administration also does not extend the full college tuition benefit that faculty children receive. The current proposal thus appears to value the families of non-tenure stream faculty at roughly one half the value of our families.
In terms of salary, the administration is proposing raises for lecturers of 0-2%. These raises are not sufficient even to meet the rising cost of living. The administration proposals for part time faculty, who are paid per course taught, are especially disappointing. Under their proposals, a part time faculty member, teaching 4 courses in a year, will still make less than $24,000 per year by 2021. In a year in which the administration has paid enormous sums to union avoidance law firms to defeat the graduate student unionization effort, these stingy proposals are especially unseemly.
We believe that the cumulative result of these proposals will be a less inclusive, less equitable, less vibrant university community. We call on the administration to instead agree to a fair, inclusive, and equitable contract that does not raise the course load of lecturers, compensates them fairly for their service, and values their families and health on terms equal to our own.