Lecturers asked to bear unfair burden by
‘U’

To the Daily:

One of the central issues at stake in the current struggle
between University administrators and union leaders for LEO is job
security. University lecturers are often hired on a year-by-year or
even term-by-term basis; they want a contract that acknowledges
their commitment to the University and their teaching as something
more than temporary and disposable. The University’s main
response to lecturers’ request for a contract that would
ensure two- or three-year appointments is that departments need to
make such short appointments because of fluctuating enrollment
numbers for classes — departments often don’t know how
many students will enroll for a particular class in any given
semester; they want the power, basically, to hire and fire
lecturers at will to meet enrollment demands. But this system of
hiring instructors for classes is based in a very deep inequity
that the University has taken advantage of for years.

One of the duties of an administration is to take into account
and manage risk factors, and in our world, that often means the
unpredictable numbers in student enrollment. As it is and as it has
been increasingly, the University administration manages that risk
almost entirely by giving it over to lecturers — the
administration constantly asks lecturers to take huge risks: If you
wait, we might hire you. If you will teach one semester, we might
hire you next semester. The situation is both bad for lecturers and
bad for students, who are taught then by instructors who work in an
environment of little or no professional acknowledgment and
support.

It seems that the administration is wildly irresponsible in
asking lecturers to bear almost completely the risk that it has to
manage. If there is no better way to predict and/or facilitate
enrollment numbers in classes, then the University and its
departments and schools must develop a more sophisticated mechanism
for managing that risk on their own. Whether they will admit it or
not, the University has in the past many years come to depend on
lecturers who willingly and often put themselves in danger of being
jobless. Essentially, then, the administration has not had to find
a way to manage on its own the burden of departments’ risk
factors, because lecturers have for so long been willing to
endanger themselves and their jobs in order to teach. The result is
an unfairly disempowered workforce and an administration that
cultivates its own safety and security from the endangerment of its
employees. This university is too great to operate with such unfair
job practices. Our students are too important to jeopardize the
quality of their education by disempowering their teachers, and our
teaching staff is too valuable to be treated so unfairly.
University administrators should agree to a contract that increases
job security for and acknowledges the importance of its lecturers.
Refusing to do so might drive away some of our best teachers, and
the quality of the University’s undergraduate education
should be its primary objective.

Aric Knuth

Lecturer, Department of English

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