A statement on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty and shared governance
Published 6:20 am Sunday, February 25, 2018
We are calling on tenured and tenure-track faculty (T/TTF) at the University of Mississippi to use their relative positions of power to actively support their non-tenure-track faculty (NTTF) colleagues who are advocating for full representation in the Faculty Senate. To do so means listening to, collaborating with, and amplifying the voices of NTTF faculty in our own departments and across campus, including the Task Force for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty and Shared Governance (formed in September 2016).
There are roughly 600 NTTF members at our university. Faculty Senate seats are currently allocated based solely on departmental T/TTF numbers, and NTTF are explicitly excluded from serving on that body. NTTF are thus the only people at the university who do not have access to shared governance.
While the university’s core values statement highlights promoting “inclusiveness in its student body, faculty, and staff,” fostering “a civil community of shared governance,” and honoring “the dignity of all employees,” the current exclusion of NTTF members from shared governance undercuts our ability to live up to our mission.
Nationally, about 70 percent of university faculty are in contingent positions. Our ratio is more balanced: NTTF and T/TTF each comprise approximately half of our academic personnel, though NTTF teach nearly 60 percent of the student credit hours on our Oxford, Jackson, and regional campuses. While we all share serious concerns about the eroding of tenure lines on national and local levels, the existence of NTTF at our university is our reality. Ignoring our NTTF — in terms of both their talents and their concerns — does not change that reality and only reifies their isolation and maltreatment.
Our continued exclusion of NTTF from shared governance also runs counter to our peer institutions: currently, 88 percent of public R1 universities include NTTF in some way in shared governance. Furthermore, the scholarship on shared governance is clear: a single, unified body that incorporates all faculty equally, including both tenure- and non-tenure-line and full- and part-time faculty, results in not only a stronger shared governance body with an established, united voice but also the dissolution of departmental and status-based silos that proliferate across universities.
The Faculty Senate recently heard a proposal from the Task Force for full inclusion of NTTF in its body. The comments offered in response to this proposal at the January meeting came from a small percentage of the Senators but were overwhelmingly negative. Additionally, the Senate’s current plan for drafting a resolution unequivocally removes part-time faculty from all considerations and appears to suspend substantive input from NTTF about their own university lives.
We believe that a truly united faculty body makes us a stronger faculty body. When we fail to practice genuinely shared governance, we undermine university values, exacerbate inequities that affect NTTF disproportionately, and render invisible the labor and talents of half our faculty members. Moreover, we should strive for a more civil and fair workplace for everyone at our university, especially our most vulnerable colleagues. We accordingly call on T/TTF, especially, to use their status to work towards the common good.
Studies have consistently demonstrated that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions; in particular, contingent faculty members’ poor working conditions negatively affect student retention and completion rates. We, therefore, hope that T/TTF across our university will rally to support the full inclusion of NTTF in a unified Faculty Senate. A step towards improving NTTF working conditions is a step towards living up to our highest principles.
The Undersigned University of Mississippi Faculty Members:
Editor’s Note: For an updated list of names signed to this letter, visit https://edblogs.olemiss.edu/nttfacultyandsharedgovernance/.