After a long series of negotiations and a one-day walkout in 2004, the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and the University finally agreed to their first contract. Yet this contract is of little use if individual schools – such as the School of Art and Design – do not follow it. The art school continues to renege on the part of the contract requiring periodic evaluations for lecturers to determine pay increases and promotions. Additionally, the school has long been laying off lecturers, claiming it wants to replace them with permanent faculty. The school’s dean, Bryan Rogers, must remember that nothing should come before the quality of education students receive at his school. If he truly wishes to improve the school, he must remember that poor treatment of lecturers will only harm the school’s reputation.
When Rogers took over the art school in 1999, it employed 42 lecturers; now, there are about 20. Of these, only two have been able to maintain their full-time status, while the rest have been demoted to part time – and have lost wages and benefits as a result. Additionally, the school has failed to perform an adequate number of performance evaluations for its lecturers. By dragging its feet and not completing the required number of evaluations, the school may be marginalizing qualified lecturers who would earn raises and expanded benefits if the evaluations were properly conducted.
Rogers’s attitude toward his school’s lecturers is also questionable. Many lecturers have reported feeling uncomfortable in meetings while the dean commends himself for eliminating several lecturers. Another lecturer claims he had his personal work misplaced as part of an evaluation. Practices like these can only harm the school as it seeks to hire accomplished professors to fill out its faculty roster. Mistreating existing employees signals to others that the art school is an undesirable place to work – surely something Rogers wants to avoid, considering his wish to improve the program’s reputation.
If the school wants more full-time faculty, it should first look at the possibility of promoting its own lecturers. They already have experience at the University, have built relationships with students and are familiar with the school’s environment. Cutting lecturers who are already here in favor of hiring more accomplished professors may improve the school’s recognition, but it may also replace seasoned lecturers with academics uninterested in teaching, decreasing the school’s quality of instruction. Rogers should make sure all new hires are excellent teachers and not just accomplished academics. By conducting the evaluations he is already obligated to perform, Rogers might find that some lecturers already here are indeed qualified for tenure-track positions.
The enforcement of the LEO contract is of the utmost importance exactly because it would prevent the unfair policies the art school is currently employing. Ceremonies dedicating new studios should not have to be accompanied by protests against the school’s labor practices, as happened last week. Rogers must respect the LEO contract and treat lecturers fairly while making sure none of the changes he is implementing compromise the quality of education that Art and Design students receive.