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Open Letter on Contingent Faculty at University of Denver – Part Time and Non-Tenured Faculty Are Organizing.

July 22, 2020

University of Denver Campus, Fall, 2013

_________________________________________________________

(When I started teaching at what was then called “The University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies” – whose name was changed to the Korbel School of International Studies in honor of the institute’s founder, Joseph Korbel – I never anticipated that GSIS – or as it was later called “Korbel” would be my academic home for the next 22 years until I retired in June of 2015. But then one of my mother’s two famous sayings “You make a plan for life and then life makes a plan for you!” came to fruition.

I mostly enjoyed the work there, gave it a great deal of my time, intellectual and emotional energy, and without sounding too boastful, know in my heart of hearts that I accomplished something. As in all work there were tensions – I often felt the place was rudderless, without a vision of where the world is headed and how an academic institution like Korbel could shape its curriculum to meet the global challenges that lay in the future. I made some efforts in that direction which came to naught.

For most of my years there I held a somewhat unusual position – I was full time, non-tenured faculty. I had an annual contract, medical benefits, full use of the universities impressive on-line research system and discounted membership in the university’s five star recreational facilities – oh, yes – and a free bus-light rail pass. And more importantly, I had a full time job teaching – and as a result, work-wise, couldn’t have been happier. I was never particularly interested or frankly, impressed with the full time tenured faculty with a few exceptions who know well whom they are.

Early on in my “Korbel experience”, very early on in fact, it became apparent that the non-tenured faculty – non-tenured full-timers, adjuncts – were treated a notch above door mats, had few rights and little voice in the place although over the years – as the statement below notes – we taught an increasing majority of the classes. Heavier workloads, lower – much lower salaries.

We non-tenured and part timers – if we wanted to improve our status, or merely tread water – had better organize into some kind of a union or union like organization to defend our situations. My years at Korbel this never happened, nor did it seem to me, was there much interest from my fellow non-tenured types at the time. 

It has taken the Coronavirus pandemic to shake the non-tenured faculty and part-timers out of their lethargy.

Here is their first salvo. Louis, I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

In solidarity – me.)

_________________________________________________________

Open Letter on Contingent Faculty at DU

The COVID-19 crisis threatens the most vulnerable in every sector of our economy and community. At institutions such as the University of Denver, one particularly vulnerable group is contingent faculty: those on one-year contracts (VAPs and VTAPs) and those paid course to course (adjuncts.) Contingent faculty generally have the highest teaching loads, are paid less than other faculty, receive little to no research support, and have little to no job security. Contingent faculty taught 62% of the total credit hours at DU in 2018-19.

The exploitation of contingent faculty is a broad and growing problem nationally, and has been increasingly prioritized by groups such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). At some institutions across the country, the position of contingent faculty is being worsened further as they are targeted first with budget cuts related to COVID-19.

DU lists “inclusiveness” as one of its core values and strives to “create a diverse, ethical, and intellectually vibrant campus” in order to provide a “challenging and liberating learning environment.” (https://www.du.edu/about/mission-vision-values) Contingent faculty are more likely to be women, people of color, or members of other traditionally marginalized communities, making them an especially important constituency for building a diverse institution and creating the desired learning environment. Contingent faculty at DU have weathered the storm of the move to online teaching and continue to devote their time and energy over this summer to designing engaging courses for students this fall. It is therefore not ethical or respectful to respond to their efforts by further disadvantaging this already disadvantaged class of faculty. Finally, because the inequities and job insecurity experienced by contingent faculty constrain their intellectual freedom, ameliorating these inequities is crucial for creating an intellectually vibrant campus.

In order to live up to its core values and goals, DU should therefore set a positive example for other institutions by ensuring that the conditions of contingent faculty are not further worsened by the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, in many cases, the opposite has happened.
Although DU is an institution of learning, it has targeted the employees who teach the most DU students first for cuts.

What has happened

· Some VTAP and VAP lines at DU have been terminated altogether due to budget restrictions stemming from COVID-19. This has rendered some faculty unemployed during a health crisis and at a time when other educational institutions are hiring few new faculty members.

· Some VAP and VTAP lines have been turned into adjunct lines. This means that former VTAPs will be teaching the same heavy teaching load in 2020-21 as they did in 2019-20, but for half the salary and with no benefits. This denies loyal DU faculty adequate income and healthcare during a health crisis.

· DU has invited tenure-line faculty to delay sabbaticals and has stated that this will result in the termination of adjunct contracts already signed.

· Most VTAPs and VAPs for 2020-21 have a new clause in their contracts that reduces job security to zero. The clause warns that the contracts may be terminated at any time with no warning or severance pay:

“Please note that the term on this offer is contingent upon enrollment levels continuing at their current level through the end of your  contract. If enrollment levels drop unexpectedly, the University may cancel courses or reassign courses to tenured faculty, and this could result in eliminating visiting teaching positions. This could require the university to cancel or end your contract earlier than anticipated and pay you in proportion to time worked.”

· International VTAPs and VAPs are particularly threatened by the new clause in their contracts. International scholars depend on a full-time contract to maintain their visa status. If their contracts were terminated as the above clause threatens, their visas would also be terminated and they would have to leave the country within 30 days. For all international scholars, this would mean significant life disruption and financial loss. In the case of some faculty, this would also mean being forced to return to countries in which they face political and safety risks due to their research.

· DU has not disclosed any of the above in its “Financial Update for Fiscal Year 2020-21”circulated on June 9th 2020, which lists other financial cuts and layoffs occurring at the institution.

What we believe

a) COVID-19 should not be used as a reason to further worsen the position of contingent faculty

b) Delayed sabbaticals are never a legitimate reason for discontinuing VTAP or VAP lines, turning VTAP/VAP lines into adjunct lines, or terminating contracts with VTAPs/VAPs or adjuncts

c) DU should only consider discontinuing VTAP/VAP lines, turning VTAP/VAP lines into adjunct lines, or terminating contracts with VTAPs/VAPs or adjuncts if enrollment drops in a given division by 20% or more.

d) Even in the case of a drastic enrollment drop, DU should consider a range of other options before resorting to actions such as discontinuing VTAP/VAP lines, turning VTAP/VAP lines into adjunct lines, or terminating contracts with VTAPs/VAPs or adjuncts. These options
include:

Reduce class sizes
• Reduce salaries for all employees who earn significantly more than a VTAP salary
• Cut the number of high level administrative posts (DU went from 16 to 30 Assistant,Associate and Vice Chancellor/Provost positions between 2014 and 2020.)
• Use unrestricted endowment
• Take a loan
• Temporarily lift the prohibition on already hired adjunct faculty teaching Common Curriculum
• Redeploy contingent faculty in other (e.g. administrative) duties rather than discontinue them
• Grant tenure line faculty teaching releases for program development and other academic reasons, freeing up teaching for contingents
• Redeploy tenure line faculty in exercises like “reputation building,” freeing up teaching for contingents

What we request

1. We call on DU immediately to amend unsigned VTAP/VAP contracts for 2020-21, replacing the clause quoted above with a statement that guarantees a 30-day notice period in the event of early termination as well as severance pay in the amount of half the time remaining on the contract. VTAPs and VAPs who have already signed contracts should be offered replacement contracts that guarantee a 30-day notice period in the event of early termination as well as severance pay in the amount of half the time remaining on the contract.
2. We call on DU to pledge in writing that in the future VTAP/VAP lines will not be cut or turned into adjunct lines unless enrollment drops by more than 20% in the relevant division.
3. We call on DU to pledge in writing that the measures enumerated under (d) above will be considered and deliberated upon in faculty senate before VTAP/VAP lines are cut or turned into adjunct lines.
4. We call on DU to disclose figures of how many VTAP/VAP lines have been terminated or turned into adjunct lines for COVID-related reasons this spring/summer. We call on DU to offer explanations of why these measures were necessary that are more specific than “financial exigency” and consider reversing these decisions.
5. We call on DU to pledge in writing that delayed sabbaticals will not result in the termination of contracts with contingent faculty.
6. We call on DU to pledge in writing that the tuition waiver will be ensured for 2020-21VTAPs/VAPs throughout the academic year, even if their contracts are terminated early.
7. We call on DU to pledge in writing that VTAPs/VAPs who have been terminated or reduced to adjunct status in Spring 2020 for COVID-related reasons will automatically be shortlisted for new VTAP/VAP positions that open up in their departments for the next three years.

Signed:

Contingent Faculty
William Akoto, JKSIS
Alec Baker, GSPP
Amy L. Balogh, Religious Studies
Sarah Bania-Dobyns, JKSIS
Sarah Bierhaus, Music
Mallaree Blake, GSPP
Yonahton Bock, JKSIS
Sara Botelho-Andrade, Mathematics
Sarah Boyer, English/ Writing
Joshua Burg, Counseling Psychology
Mary Byrnes, GSSW
Lucy Cane, Political Science
Emily B. Carty, JKSIS
Curtis Coats, Media, Film & Journalism
Kurt Colburn, Law
Jessica Comola, Writing and University
College
Kirsten Cooper, Psychology
Anne Dawid, University College
Christine A. DeVore, GSPP
Javier Alonso Muñoz Diaz, Languages and
Literatures
Mimi Diaz, College of Education
Christy Doyon, GSSW
Joseph Drexler, JKSIS
Jamie Blair Echevarria, GSSW
Jim Freeman, Public Policy
Christina Foust, Communication Studies
Michael Furry, Music
Rebecca Gaines, Counseling Psychology
Erin Gazelka, GSPP
Suzanne Ghais, Conflict Resolution
Patricia Greer, University College
Tina Hageman, GSSW
Trina Hoefling, University College
John Holmberg, GSPP
Lisa Ingarfield, GSSW
Mark James, University College
Steve Jenks, University College
Christopher Jennings-Shaffer, Mathematics
Hinckley A. Jones-Sanpei, JKSIS
Qwist Joseph, Art and Art History
Susan Kaplan, GSSW
Amy Kapoor, Law
Chappell Kingsland, Music

Amanda Flott Kinsey, GSSW
Odette Kugler, Languages and Literatures
Judith Leinen, Art and Art History
Marjorie Long, University College
Sherri Maciosek, Information and
Communication Technology
Mahesh Manandhar, Engineering
Emily Markley, GSPP
Channing McAdams, English Language Center
Mindy McCarrolle, Mechanical Engineering
Jessica McLaughlin, GSSW
Laurel McMechan, Art and Art History
Michael J. McNeal, JKSIS
Eleonora Miller, Languages and Literatures
Katherine Miller, GSPP
Will Mitchell, Computer Science
Christopher Newman, Law
Robert Noun, Law
Greg Ormiston, Languages and Literatures
Noah Phillips, Emergent Digital Practices
Ksenia Polson, GSPP
Johnny C. Ramirez, Media, Film & Journalism/
History
Kaitlyn Reinan, Computer Science
Evangeline Reynolds, JKSIS
Jena Robertson, Computer Science
Nina Sharma, Daniels College of Business
Anna Sihon, GSSW
Grant Simmons, Communications Management
James Spensley, ManagementMelissa Streno, GSPP
Timothy Sumerlin, Counseling Psychology
Vicky Tomlin, Counseling Psychology
Mariano Torcal, JKSIS
Miguel Trujillo, GSSW
Randy Wagner, Political Science
Richelle Walker, GSPP
Chris Wera, Education and Business

Faculty in Solidarity
Erin Anderson, Educational Leadership and
Policy Studies
Yolanda Anyon, GSSW
Lynn Baker, Music
Marie Berry, JKSIS
Jennifer Campbell, Writing
Victor Castellani, Language, Literatures &
Cultures
Frederique Chevillot, Language, Literatures &
Cultures
Kimberley Chiew, Psychology
Alejandro Cerón, Anthropology
Sara Chatfield, Political Science
Lynn Schofield Clark, MFJS
Paula Cole, Economics
Chris Coleman, Emergent Digital Practices
Lisa Conant, Political Science
Jennifer Erickson Cornish, GSPP
Katherine Crowe, University Libraries
David Daniels, Writing
Lauren J. DeCarvalho, Media, Film and
Journalism
Natasha Dobrinen, Mathematics
Laurel Eckhouse, Political Science
Erin Elzi, University Libraries
Rafael Fajardo, Emergent Digital Practices
Lindsey Feitz, Gender and Women’s Studies
Thomas French, Mathematics
Rebecca Galemba, JKSIS
Brian Gearity, GSPP
Michael Gibson-Light, Sociology and
Criminology
Esteban Gomez, Anthropology
Hava Gordon, Sociology and Criminology
Kim Gorgens, GSPP
Kathleen Guerra, Spanish Language, Literary
& Cultural Studies
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Law
Matt Hill, Writing
Jennifer Hoffman, Physics & Astrology
Lynn Holland, JKSIS
Jason Jeffries, Religious Studies
Shashank Kanade, Mathematics
Haider A. Khan, JKSIS
Brieanne Kohrt, GSPP
Michael Kinyon, Mathematics
Christina Kreps, Anthropology
Margaret Kwoka, Law
Andrew Linshaw, Mathematics
Heather Martin, Writing
Seth Masket, Political Science
Jae McQueen, GSSW
Daniel Mellano, History
Stephen von Merz, GSSW
Gwen Mitchell, GSPP
Lavita Nadkarni, GSPP
Thomas Nail, Philosophy
Chris Nelson, Higher Education
Cecilia M. Orphan, Higher Education
LP Picard, Writing
Chiara Piovani, Economics
Daniel Pittman, Computer Science
Artur Poczwardowski, GSPP
Erika Polson, Media, Film & Journalism
Aleksandr Prigozhin, English and Literary Arts
Julia Roncoroni, Counseling Psychology
Dean Saitta, Anthropology
Aubrey Schiavone, Writing
Aaron Schneider, JKSIS
Markus Schneider, Economics
Catherine Smith, Law
Elizabeth Sperber, Political Science
Casey Stockstill, Sociology and Criminology
Jing Sun, Political Science
Dheepa Sundaram, Religious Studies
Paul Sutton, Geography and the Environment
Nicole Taylor, GSPP
Trisha Teig, Pioneer Leadership Program
John Tiedemann, Writing
Jennifer Tippett, GSPP
Tracy Vozar, GSPP

Maria Vukovich, GSPP
Nancy Wadsworth, Political Science
Diana Waldman, Media, Film & Journalism
Lindsey Webb, Law
Yavuz Yasar, Economics
Further questions may be directed to
contingents.du@gmail.com

 

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