The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

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UTC Faculty Spearhead a Weeklong Call for Equity in Working Conditions

During the last week of October, members of the UTC faculty and student body will participate in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the working conditions of contingent faculty. Contingent appointments include all those off the tenure track, whether part or full time, and whether compensated on a per-course or salary basis. These individuals may be known as “adjuncts,” “lecturers,” “instructors,” and “visiting professors.”

According to The American Association of University Professors, the proportion of faculty appointed to tenure-line positions is declining at an alarming rate. Forty-three percent of faculty appointments are part time, and over half of new full-time appointments are off the tenure track.

“Teachers’ working conditions equal students’ learning conditions,” said Dr. Eileen Schell, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University in New York, who works to educate campuses nationwide about inequitable labor conditions in higher education. Schell, who visited UTC in February, encouraged faculty across the country to participate in Campus Equity Week.

In Chattanooga, the week will consist of numerous activities that are meant to unite everyone who is interested in seeing equal labor practices in place at UTC. From Oct. 27-29 members of the contingent faculty will take part in a student-led Civic Awareness Fair that is meant to inspire community involvement. The fair, organized by The UTC Writing Center, Jennifer Beech, Assistant Professor of English and Writing Center Director and students will be held all three days from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Tennessee Room of the University Center. Booths sponsored by campus and community civic organizations will be set up to inform the public of an array of issues, as well as to provide information about how to get involved.

UTC’s Campus Equity Week events also include a roundtable discussion scheduled for Monday, October 27, 3:15 p.m. in Grote 129. The discussion will be preceded by the showing of a 30-minute documentary. All who are interested in the issues relating to conditions for contingent faculty are welcome to come and listen, learn, comment, and ask questions of the panel.

UTC Chancellor Bill Stacy encourages the faculty in assisting the administration as each explores solutions to faculty salary inequities.

"Unfortunately, when the state dollars for the UT system are cut by 9% for the current fiscal year, leaving UTC with a loss of $3.6 million from its budget, salary equity issues are difficult to address. We have individuals in faculty and staff positions all over campus who need substantial raises, and as we try to address these issues, we welcome faculty input," Stacy said.

In the fall of 2002, 40% of all undergraduate student credit hours taught on the UTC campus were taught by contingent faculty members. But in spite of carrying equal amounts of the teaching load at UTC, these teachers are paid only a fraction of the salary that the average tenure-track faculty member is paid.

Within the UTC Department of English, a typical adjunct, or part-time, instructor with a master’s degree is paid $1,353 per course – less than half of the average salary of an adjunct with the same credentials teaching at a similar institution in the state of Tennessee. In addition, adjunct faculty at UTC have no job security, no access to medical or retirement benefits, and limited access to private computers, telephones, and office space.

“We were interested in becoming involved because we have concerns that we believe are community concerns, not just university concerns,” said Jenny Smith, lecturer of English, who has organized the event along with Lanie Lundgrin, and Kristy Starks-Winn, also lecturers of English. Smith has worked as a member of the contingent faculty at UTC for eight years. “Positive steps have been taken in recent months to ensure more equitable conditions at least within the UTC English department, but there is still much to be done.”

Those steps include the recent creation of nine one-year full-time teaching appointments for contingent English faculty in the 2003-2004 academic year and the recent allocation of private and semi-private office space to contingent faculty members.

“We see these one-year appointments as a step toward establishing continuity in the freshman composition program,” said Dr. Lauren Ingraham, Director of Composition at UTC.

Ingraham said longer-term full-time appointments are a good idea because “students benefit immensely from the opportunity to learn from the same teacher more than once. In addition, teachers can learn from each other when they can establish relationships with each other over time.”

Tim Parker, formerly an adjunct instructor of English, received one of the nine full-time appointments this year. “Receiving the appointment was a kind of validation of the work I’ve been doing here for the last three years,” he said, but added that working on a year-to-year basis “offers little security for me and my family.”

For more information about Campus Equity Week contact Kristy Starks-Winn at 425-4261.