Faculty titles vary around campus, and even the most attentive students can be confused by the difference between “Assistant Professor” and “Resident Faculty,” but the educators who hold those positions know the difference very well, as shown by two open letters in the April 12 issue of The Mooring Mast.
Pages four and 12 of the Mast feature full-page advertisements, but instead of promoting local businesses or on-campus resources, these pages included letters written by faculty deemed by the university to be “contingent” or “adjunct.” Synonym: temporary.
In the words of the authors: “That means our tenuous employment relies on the changing needs of the university from year to year, and we are paid a fraction of what full-time faculty earn.”
The first letter, signed by 24 adjunct faculty with titles such as “Senior Lecturer,” “Visiting Assistant Professor,” “Visiting Associate Professor,” and “Clinical Instructor,” addresses the campus with a plea for support.
“We urge you to join us in our movement to gain a voice for contingent faculty here at PLU and across the nation.”
While gathering support from the campus, the letter also serves to explain these professors’ intentions. In response to an AAUP survey of contingent faculty from two years ago, the contingent faculty on campus have been working to improve their situations, but since the improvements have been so slow in coming, they will be partnering with the Service Employees International Union, a union for contingent faculty.
The second letter is addressed to Tenured and Tenure-Track professors on campus, encouraging them to speak up for the rights of their contingent colleagues. It is signed by 15 professors.
While the main focus of the letters were to explain the complaints to the contingent and adjunct faculty, the letters also served as a notification that, because of the slow progress of any changes on campus, the contingent faculty are seeking help from the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU).
The complaints and data referenced in the letters originated from a survey conducted by the PLU chapter of the American Association for University Professors, which included respondents from 70 professors on campus.
Attempts to reach the Provost’s office, which is in charge of hiring, have not been returned. Vice President of Finance and Operations Sheri Tonn commented that she “wasn’t aware of the letters in the Mast before I read them last week.”