We want to congratulate this year’s graduating seniors on their significant accomplishment. As part-time faculty who teach many of the foundational writing and language courses at Tufts, as well as many other courses across all disciplines, we are proud to have been part of the educational experience of the Class of 2017.
The Tufts Part-time Faculty Union has met several times this semester with the university to negotiate a follow-up to our first contract, signed in 2014. The union hopes that we will be able to reach an agreement before our current contract expires on June 30. Any new understanding will necessarily result from a willingness on the part of both parties to work together for our mutual benefit and to fulfill Tufts’ educational mission.
We are faced with difficult circumstances. Until about 30 years ago, those teaching at our colleges and universities held solid middle-class positions with good pay and job security. Things have changed dramatically since that time, though. Like many others in our country today, most people who teach at the college level fill “contingent” positions with low pay and little job stability or security.
That’s why the mission of our union is to regain lost ground on some basic employment standards. We propose that seasoned faculty members who have demonstrated a commitment to Tufts should be able to expect a transparent and reasonable reappointment process that includes standard protections against arbitrary or biased treatment. We also believe that we should be able to predict our course loads from one semester to the next, as fluctuations in our assigned courses can dramatically reduce our salaries, wreaking havoc on our already precarious financial situations. To us, these items represent the fundamental fairness that should be extended to all faculty irrespective of their part-time or full-time status.
Our working conditions are student learning conditions. Just as we should not be expected to teach in a climate of instability and unpredictability, Tufts students should not have to wonder whether a faculty member will still be working at Tufts when, in a few years, it comes time to ask them for a letter of recommendation for a job or graduate school.
We part-time faculty teach about a third of the courses at the university and we uphold the idea of One Faculty, with a goal of equitable compensation and equal treatment across all faculty ranks, and a salary scale over the life of our contract that exceeds increases in the cost of living in this extraordinarily expensive urban area where we live and work.
Tufts has been a model for forward motion on relations with contingent faculty, and we made significant progress in our first contract. We hope to continue that progress toward shifting the paradigm for academic employment back to a model where ours are good paying jobs with reasonable expectations for stability, security and improvement over the years.
We appreciate that in recent negotiating sessions, the university has begun to acknowledge our concerns and take them more seriously. We applaud them and hope that our positive negotiating experiences can translate into action. We are sure that the university can find ways to work with us toward mutually beneficial solutions to some of the non-economic issues on the table. We also hope that the new, positive atmosphere will carry over to our discussions regarding economic issues, including compensation.
If you find yourself with a representative of the university over commencement weekend, please don’t hesitate to express your support for the faculty who have contributed so much to the success of graduating seniors and other students here at Tufts.