Daily Egyptian

Non-tenure track faculty face uncertain future

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

Up to 317 non-tenure track faculty will be notified they may not have positions at the university in Fall 2015 as a result of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

The university, in an attempt to brace for Rauner’s proposed 31.5 percent cut of state appropriations to higher education, will inform these staff members if their contracts will be renewed by Friday.

Jim Wall, the president of the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, said these professors and professional staff are known as on-term appointments, which means each member is hired for either a semester or nine-month term. The association, which has between 500 and 600 members, is comprised of two groups — the other is continuing appointment, which is granted to faculty after five years in the association.

Advertisement

Per the current collective bargaining agreement between the association and SIU administration, there is no guarantee of re-appointment for any on-term faculty member. The administration either re-appoints, denies re-appointment or tells the member he or she may be brought back, but it is undecided. 

Wall said those who fall into the “maybe” category are sometimes notified as late as August.

“Most on-term faculty, and even continuing faculty, teach an awful lot of undergraduate classes and are heavily engaged with students in day-to-day instruction and laboratory learning experiences, for instance, the Clinical Center or WSIU,” Wall said.

He said the loss of this staff will greatly diminish students’ experiences, which could hurt enrollment. 

While most of the 317 members will not know their employment status until the state budget is finalized — which could happen later this summer — some employees will be notified they will not be re-appointed before then.

“It is likely that most term [non-tenure track employees] will receive “maybe” letters due to the uncertainty of the budget,” according to the Chancellor’s budget webpage on the SIU website.

University spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said although there are 317 on-term staff members, some will not be subjected to layoffs because departments such as aviation or education are mainly comprised of on-term professors.

Wall, who has taught at the university for 15 years, said many on-term appointment faculty are in their third or fourth year, meaning they are nearly continuing appointments. 

“There is a method for deciding whether a continuing faculty member will be subject to layoff,” he said. “With a continued appointment, there’s more involved to it so it provides an extra set of questions that have to be answered before they’re implemented.”

A continued appointment makes slightly more than the average nine-month salary of an on-term appointment, which is about $35,000, Wall said. If all on-term appointments were cut, which is highly improbable, the university would save more than $11 million. 

The result could be a loss of programs, and could force employees to look for work in the private sector or other universities. 

“The whole idea seems a little counterproductive, to target in my mind, the most productive, effective and cost efficient workforce the university has,” he said. “There’s a likelihood of fewer course offerings, larger class sizes and delayed graduation — if you have fewer professors, there’s fewer classes.”

He also said these cuts would make it hard for the university to attract new professors.

“Who is going to come here when they know they will be considered a temp?” Wall said. “I wouldn’t.”

He said some on-term appointments are made specifically to serve for one or two semesters but the majority of these staff members have houses in the area and want to maintain a long relationship with the university. 

Dennis Galloway, an on-term appointment in the college of Mass Communication and Media Arts, said he understands why the university presents this potential layoffs, but the uncertainty weighs on him.

“It is up in the air so it is kind of hard to plan for the future — not knowing what is going to happen,” said Galloway who is also the faculty adviser for the SIU chapter of National Association of Black Journalists. “No matter what decision will be made, I am a professional and I will do my job through the end of the semester.”

While the proposition is detrimental, Wall sympathized with the administration. He said President Randy Dunn and his staff are considering these cuts because of the uncertainty of Illinois’ budget. 

“They have to put out these letters, and I hope the faculty understands this is largely procedural,” he said. “But it is conceivable that these [layoffs] will happen and could even migrate further.”

Wall said the on-term group was one of the first to get layoff warnings because of Friday’s deadline. He said continuing appointments and other faculty could face cuts in the future.

There are no immediate plans for continuing appointments, but the university ordered a hiring freeze on all non-tenure track faculty, according the chancellor’s webpage.  

Although Wall values the on-term appointments and has compassion for the worries they have, he said he does not feel animosity toward Dunn or SIU administration.

“They’re affecting a whole lot of people… but we both understand the severity of the situation coming into play,” Wall said. “It’s mostly on the back of a screwed-up state budget. We would stand arm and arm in Springfield with the [administrators] given the opportunity.”

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected]  

Advertisement

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




The student news site of Southern Illinois University