The vital work of non-tenure track faculty in higher education is widely undervalued and underappreciated. Too often, administrations fail to acknowledge the indispensable expertise and labor of NTTF and fail to appreciate their contributions to the research, instructional and service missions of universities. This is one of the central reasons we unionized and why faculty at many other universities are following suit. Our collective bargaining agreement has moved this campus in the right direction with respect to NTTF – better pay, longer-term contracts, transparent channels for promotion, increased sabbatical eligibility, and new benefits. These gains are the first of many needed steps for the UO to achieve a secure and stable workforce and provide credible respect for the critical academic work of all NTTF.
The long-term success and the continuity of operations of the university require the specific advanced skills, expertise, and stability of a team of career professionals working to advance the university’s instructional and research missions. These roles are generally complementary and interwoven with those of tenure-track faculty and not a cheap substitute. The University of Oregon cannot realize its mission without the work of hundreds of NTTF in research labs, classrooms, and service roles across this campus.
Front-line research in the laboratory sciences critically depends on NTTF in the roles of bench scientists, scientific programmers, and career professional scientists with advanced degrees who staff and manage the core research infrastructure. The career professionals in the shared core research services provide a high degree of specific technical expertise and commitment to the successful long-term continuity of operation of shared instrumentation centers. Appropriate staffing is a requirement by funding agencies (e.g. NSF, NIH, DOE) and receives intense scrutiny in the consideration of major research instrumentation grant proposals.
Our NTTF colleagues also play an essential day-to-day role in the one-on-one training, mentoring, and supervision of undergraduate and graduate students. Many units rely completely on NTTF to advise undergraduates and encourage department majors.
A commitment to growing the tenure ranks can and should occur alongside a commitment to fully embrace the professional roles of NTTF in our university. The recent administrative decision to emphasize hiring TTF while simultaneously cutting NTTF positions in select programs has impacted NTTF morale and raised concerns about the redistribution of workload among faculty.
Financially starved departments vital to the university’s mission should not be further reduced and imperiled. The heads of several language and composition departments outlined the risks to their programs with these cuts. Further, many faculty in the NTT ranks are worried that they might be the next target of cuts, sentiments exacerbated by the relative silence about how these cuts will materially impact the respective academic programs, class sizes, and ultimately our liberal arts promise. Because these cuts involve reductions in teaching faculty, the ability of these programs to sustain and grow student credit hours is curtailed.
President Schill has set ambitious goals to grow the university and solidify our place among the nation’s best research universities. United Academics supports these broad goals, but we believe we cannot achieve them without a robust and respected non-tenure-track faculty.