By Paul O’Keefe, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
This session was centered around non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at Rutgers, specifically the introduction of a new article and the amendment of an existing one. Together these articles would strengthen processes of renewal, extension, and initial contract length for all NTT faculty at Rutgers, and they would provide a pathway to tenure through a teaching track for all new hires and all current NTTs who want the opportunity.
Erin Kelly introduced the two articles. She vividly highlighted the fundamental role that NTT faculty play in delivering core Rutgers teaching and service obligations in the pursuit of its academic mission. Her full comments are reproduced at the end of this update, and I encourage you to read them.
Carla Katz presented our union’s proposals for amendments to Article 27 and introduced the new Article 29 on Teaching Tenure. Article 27 highlights include increasing integration and parity between existing TT/NTT categories, increasing minimum lengths of contracts at different levels, and eliminating unnecessary levels such as “Instructor.” Article 29 introduces a framework for teaching tenure; Carla developed a compelling argument for its necessity, building on the experiences Erin had earlier discussed. We await a counter from management.
Management had very little direct challenge to the introduced articles or the figures used to support our demands. Management was presented with a clear choice: continue on the current trajectory of becoming the most adjunctified, insecure labor–dependent Big 10 school or be a groundbreaking flagship of higher education, not just within the state but the nation.
Management’s representatives engaged positively and constructively with proposed adjustments to Article 24 and the introduction of the teaching tenure article. Implicitly conceding that it was a subject to be bargained over, the conversation switched to the difficulties management might have in removing errant faculty. The union lawyer helpfully suggested the principles under which this is possible for tenured faculty: with cause and respecting due process.
The teaching tenure article remains subject to a counter, and the only real negative was the response to a request for a decision on graduate funding—management kicked the can down the road again.
Let’s keep the pressure up! I’ve included Erin Kelly’s introductory remarks to the bargaining session below.
Introductory Remarks on NTT Faculty Issues
By Erin Kelly, Director, Graduate Writing Program
I’m Erin Kelly, the director of the graduate writing program, a small subsection of the larger writing program that provides zero-credit writing support classes to the entire Rutgers graduate population. As part of this role, I lead the program’s marketing and outreach, curriculum development, staffing/budgeting, and extracurricular programming (workshops, symposia, guest speakers, etc.) on top of my teaching responsibilities.
- The larger writing program, consisting of nearly 100 full-time faculty teaching nearly a thousand courses per year, is led by a similar group of NTT teaching faculty (many with PhDs, but some hold MFAs, JDs, and have accrued significant professional/technical writing experience).
- While we have one tenured executive director from the literature side of the English Department who liaises with the larger department and SAS on our behalf, all the day-to-day operations of the program are carried out by NTT faculty with one- to three-year renewable teaching contracts. We are also assisted by a small but dedicated administrative staff (which has seen incredible turnover since the pandemic).
- In many ways, the Writing Program is the most recognizable face of the university for students, nearly all of whom take at least one course in our program, whether they are international students, honors students, transfer students, or even high school students doing dual enrollment programs. For students first arriving at Rutgers, we are often the only instructors who know and recognize them by name. We take this responsibility of ours very seriously, and put a lot of time and effort into making this introduction to college a positive learning experience—we’re not just teaching them to think and write critically, we’re teaching them how to navigate college, all the way through graduate school.
- As you might imagine, managing such a massive program requires a tremendous amount of coordination and behind-the-scenes labor. For instance, in addition to managing the GWP, I also serve on the WP’s curriculum committee (reviewing our program to find areas for growth and revision in line with current best practices), its personnel committee (reviewing internal candidates for reappointment and promotion on a regular basis as required by our contracts), an informal peer mentorship committee, and various ad-hoc projects (studying bylaws, teaching observation protocols, etc.). Some of this work is compensated through course release, thanks to my administrative role, but many faculty who serve in these groups do so on top of a 4/3 full-time teaching load. Our contracts stipulate that our roles are purely teaching roles, with no expectation of service or research, but without such extra labor, we would not be able to continue to update our pedagogy in step with advances in our field or to collectively review our practices and identify areas for improvement and innovation. This is especially true in light of the disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic.
- This past semester, our Department Chair arranged for an external review by writing program administrators at peer institutions. While they were impressed by our instructors’ skill and our students’ enthusiasm, they were frankly appalled that the entire program was run by untenured faculty, which, in their eyes, was an obstacle to having the freedom to advance a bold, unified vision of a cohesive writing curriculum that follows students through their university careers. Our own experiences attest to the difficulty of such work without the protections and affordances of teaching tenure.
The above is a report from the fourth bargaining session for our next contract. After each session, our union will provide an update, written by a rotating cast of member-observers who are sitting in on negotiations. Click here for a full archive of Bargaining Updates.