The Lecturers’ Employee
Organization, the union that represents non-tenure-track faculty,
has authorized its members to vote on whether to hold a one-day
walkout on April 8 to protest the unfair treatment they receive.
Despite contributing much to undergraduate education, this group
still does not receive the fair wages, health benefits and job
security that it deserves. Students, especially undergraduates,
should support the lecturers in their fight.

Mira Levitan

Lecturers account for about 25 percent of all undergraduate
teaching in the College of Literature Science and Arts, with
numbers as high as 75 percent in the Department of Romance
Languages and 67 percent in the Residential College. They are hired
primarily to teach, and as such can devote more of their energies
to their students than tenure-track research professors can.

Yet these valuable employees are not recognized for their
contribution to undergraduate education at the University. For
example, the average lecturer with a doctorate who teaches in the
Romance Languages department makes a paltry $32,013 per year and
will not see significant increases in this salary over time that
would reflect years or decades of service to the University.

Many lecturers do not know whether they will still have their
jobs a year down the road. Lecturers are employed through
short-term contracts, and once these contracts expire, a lecturer
must reapply for his job. These lecturers are treated like
temporary employees, and many of them must reapply every year even
though they might have been teaching for decades.

The effect that this has on the quality of undergraduate
instruction is noticeable. Many lecturers, especially in the
Romance Languages department, are only on contract for the semester
and must balance their in-class duties with the difficult reality
of only being able to count on roughly four months of work. How can
these individuals be expected to deliver top-quality education
while at the same time having little to no long-term investment in
the University or its students?

Increasing the quality of health benefits will have the same
effects as ensuring job security. Many lecturers lose their health
care benefits over the summer when they are not teaching, a loss
that can cost up to $800 per month. LEO is asking for the
University to extend health care benefits over the summer for all
who teach at least half time. This extension will lift a burden
from their backs and allow them to devote even more energy to their
students.

The University has been a leader in pushing for better treatment
of its teachers. In 1975, Graduate Student Instructors in the
Graduate Employees’ Organization won their first contract
after a month-long strike, setting the standard of fair treatment
for graduate student employees in public universities across the
country. There is no reason why LEO cannot follow in the footsteps
of GEO’s victories and establish a standard of fair treatment
for lecturers as well. Lectures deserve their students’
backing in their fight for fair wages, job security and health care
during the possible day-long work stoppage on April 8.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *