Op-Ed: Part-time faculty deserve a fair contract

The Olin Center, home to Tufts' language departments, is pictured on March 14. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts Part-time Faculty Union met with the university several times this past spring and summer to negotiate a follow-up to our first contract, signed in 2014. The union had hoped to reach an agreement before our contract expired on June 30, 2017. We felt that a new understanding would reflect a willingness on the part of both parties to work together for our mutual benefit and to fulfill Tufts’ educational mission. Unfortunately, despite our flexibility at bargaining, June 30 came and went and the university was unwilling to meet us halfway with a fair agreement.

Tufts had been a model for respectful negotiations with contingent faculty, and we made significant progress in our first contract. We hoped to continue that progress toward being offered decently-paid jobs with reasonable guarantees for stability, security and improvement over time. After all, we are serious about offering the best education to our students. You may think that colleges in the United States offer solid middle-class positions to their faculty. Perhaps to save money, however, faculty conditions have changed dramatically over the last thirty years, and most people who teach at the college level today fill “contingent” positions with low pay, limited benefits and little job stability or security.

That’s why the mission of our union is to regain lost ground on some basic employment standards. 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 and hope to be able to afford retirement some day.

We are sure that the university can find ways to work with us toward mutually beneficial solutions to some of the issues on the table, including the issue of fair salaries, which is the primary remaining obstacle to an agreement.

If you find yourself with a representative of the university administration, please don’t hesitate to express your support for the faculty, part-time and full-time, who have contributed so much to the success of Tufts students and to the university’s educational mission.