Last Thursday afternoon a delegation from United Academics met with CAS and Academic Affairs. We talked at length about the questions faculty raised in response to our last emails on the process of reducing NTT faculty in CAS. Our conversation was productive, if not complete. It will continue as the process unfolds, but we wanted to update you on what we know so far.
The CAS deans have said that CAS is running a $4 million annual deficit and, in response, cuts to non-tenure-track faculty must be made. One of the main sources of confusion and frustration has stemmed from the perception that the decisions being made (which departments are experiencing the biggest cuts and who is being cut) do not necessarily align with the biggest budget savings. We gained some clarity on this issue during our conversation.
While CAS still maintains there is a $4 million annual deficit, they made it clear that their goal is to reduce the ranks of the NTTF to “realign” the number of faculty to the student credit hours (SCH) in each unit. CAS expressed ongoing concern about the ratio of TTF to NTTF and its impact on our AAU ranking. They indicated that, even in the absence of a budget deficit, it is likely the reduction of NTTF would still be happening to some degree.
This explanation from CAS did not allay concerns about the scale and speed of the realignment. However, it did help clarify why certain cuts that save little money are nevertheless being made. For instance, a report from a natural science department had informed us that all their pro tem faculty were not being renewed, even though most of them were hired to replace professors who had used grant funds to buyout courses. The savings to the college will be minimal, but eliminating these positions will reduce the numbers of NTTF and improve the TTF to NTTF ratio.
The CAS deans are confident that units will be able to rearrange course schedules and assignments so that the loss of NTTF positions will result in very minimal loss in classes or student credit hours. They report that almost all conversations with department heads have gone smoothly and the areas where legitimate concerns have been raised have largely been accommodated. To United Academics, however, many members and their department heads have been expressing the opposite.
The Heads of Language and Literature units at the UO offer a powerful explanation of how the proposed cuts “weaken the ability of language departments to field programs, serve students, and advance the mission.” Please refer to their memo here.
We were also able to gain clarity on the scope of the cuts. While the process is ongoing and no final decisions have been made, it looks as if ~100 positions will be cut, resulting in a reduction of ~45 FTE. The majority of these cuts will be in the pro tem and instructional postdoc ranks, although ~20 Career NTTF positions are also slated to be cut.
As we stated in our last email, we believe that more time is necessary to plan for reductions in overall faculty in order to do so in the humane way President Schill proposed in his original email. We offered several reasons why taking a step back and giving departments and faculty more time made sense. We pointed out that these cuts are coming at the worst time for faculty to continue their academic careers at other universities. The job cycle begins in early fall and winds down in spring. Receiving a non-renewal notice now condemns a faculty member to a year out of the academic labor market. We also pointed out that the selection of which career NTTF would be considered for non-renewal seems unfairly arbitrary. Faculty on multi-year contracts who happen to be up for renewal this year may be on the chopping block, while faculty who are mid-cycle are safe. This randomness does not allow units to ensure that the best person for the work is retained. We also suggested that a delay in some of these cuts would allow units to make better, more informed decisions about the future curriculum.
The administrators we spoke with seemed receptive to these ideas, if non-committal. We hope to be able to continue conversations as soon as possible. We have also heard messages from members in colleges other than CAS, and we encourage you to continue to send updates about the situations across campus.
Ultimately, the battle to preserve positions will need to be fought, if necessary, at the department level. If department heads and unit faculty are generally amenable to proposed cuts, it will be extremely difficult for United Academics to argue to preserve the positions. We can direct and amplify arguments made at the unit level for one or all positions, but if a department head or faculty committee signs off on the cuts, there will be little we can do.
Again, your questions and information have driven the objections and solutions we have offered to the administration and we encourage you to keep sending them.