Non-Tenure Track Faculty Members’ Testimony on the Value of Multi-Year Contracts

I have taught at UAA since 2010. I was offered a 2-year contract once during my time at UAA. Having that security of a multi-year contract allowed me to focus on the important work I do in my classrooms, projects I engage in with other faculty, and serving on committees. Non-tenured faculty need multi-year contracts to have continuity and consistency in their work, as our collective labor provides the building blocks for the university. Being under the cloud of chronic stress each year, wondering if the contract will be renewed is not healthy for faculty, the university, or for students who deserve the quality and consistency that non-tenured faculty work tirelessly to provide– without any guarantee that they will be retained. If non-tenured faculty are truly seen as valued members of the UAA family, then we deserve to be acknowledged through longer appointments.

I have been affiliated with the University of Alaska for nearly 20 years, first as a graduate student at UAF and now a term professor at UAA. In the last 6 years as a faculty member I have helped bring in over 30 million dollars for the University of Alaska and I find it deplorable that I have to ask for my job year after year. This makes me feel very used by the system and indicates that UA has no interest in keeping someone with my skills. The lack of faith for someone who has been so dedicated to making UA successful and getting through the recent hard times is heartbreaking. To this end, I have stepped up my efforts to leave UA and find a different job where I will have more job security and feel like I am supported. Longer multiyear contracts would also align better with multiyear awards (2-5 years) from NIH, NSF, NOAA, etc. It is hard to plan for the future and build up a lab or team when you are not sure of your job for the coming year. Multiyear contracts for those who have proven track record would provide confidence, boast morale, and allow creative and hard working people to succeed and help UA shine.

I have worked as a non-tenure track faculty member 2016. I teach in the Justice Department and hold an MA in Justice Administration. I am not grant funded. The Justice department at UAF brings in more tuition revenue than the cost of our entire program, including faculty salaries/benefits. I am not actively seeking other employment. Over the years I have sought other employment/career opportunities due to the fact that I am non-tenured track. Multi-year contracts would help me drastically as I would feel more secure in my employment professionally. It would also help me personally in my own confidence that if I had a severe medical injury, I would not lose my position, nor health care. The largest challenge I face as a non-tenure track faculty member is the promotion process that was recently approved by in the collective bargaining agreement to allow non-tenure track faculty the opportunity for promotion review. I am currently in the promotion cycle this year and I was not being reviewed by non-tenure, bipartite faculty in the peer review committee. Rather the committee was by faculty who hold tenure in tripartite positions. I received outstanding feedback without any negative comments or recommendations for improvement in the written peer review committee summary; yet, I am certain that because I am not tripartite and tenure track, I received 3 no votes out of 13 committee members. I am punished by my position, not performance. There needs to be a promotion process for term non-tenure track faculty to be reviewed by other term non-tenure track faculty.

I have worked for 5 years as a Term Assistant professor in the Computer Science Department. I am able to get small grants that support a summer salary. I teach mostly the upper level courses, including the CSCE Capstone Senior project class. I am currently on a one year contract, after being told that UAA was going to drop me this academic year, but the department failed to find a qualified replacement when they advertised for a position. That was the third time I was told that they no longer needed me due to budget cuts. Unfortunately, our department is so thin on faculty, we are barely able to teach the mandatory classes, much less offer enough of a variety of electives. The most important issue that I face is to try to establish long term research. I don’t want to apply for multi-year grants if I don’t know for how long I will have a job. For example, I am currently working on a research project that is likely to last several years. I provide unique expertise on this project, but I have been told this is the last year they can keep me because of budget constraints. In addition, there are so many adjuncts teaching because of our shortages, that the quality and oversight of the computer science building block courses is questionable.

I’m an Assistant Professor and Sustainable Energy Program head at UAF-Bristol Bay. I’m starting my 10th year with UA; during that time I have been funded both with Fund 1 and grant funds (primarily grant funds in the last 5 years). I think multi-year contracts are a CRITICAL tool for us to help attract and retain new faculty. UA is, unfortunately, not considered an attractive work environment due to lack of state support, budget crises etc., so we struggle to find and keep new faculty. The last time we tried to hire someone in our small program it took SEVEN months! I know the issue: what young person coming out of grad school can afford the risk of a 9-month contract? Especially if the position is grant-funded and the grant may go away in a couple years? With the university also cutting back on tenure-track positions it’s clear that we need a few enticements, and I know a multi-year contract would have given me much more peace of mind than just 9-month contracts. I have NOT been consistently looking for work; I’m very fortunate in that I do what I do because I care deeply about the clean energy transition and climate change, but I can also afford to do this because it’s a third “career” for me. (I have BSc and MSc degrees in Wildlife Biology, and transitioned to “clean energy education” because of my 20 year career in Alaska as an ecologist, and following my “second” career work in building science, energy efficiency and renewable energy.) However, I was forced to suddenly change campuses when, after 5 years at Mat-Su, my 9-month contract was not renewed due to the first round of major UA budget cuts (2017). I’m VERY concerned we will have trouble replacing my position without tools like multi-year contracts. And without longer-term security, how will new faculty effectively network in their communities and regions? Develop collaborative partnerships to seek funding for education, training, workforce development and research? They may be constantly looking for a more secure position – I know I would if I was younger and looking to start a new, more stable phase of life. (Recently my director, as we were working together on a hiring committee, mentioned there were 300+ positions open in the UA system. It’s very troubling…)

I am a term Associate Professor of English who has been teaching at a UA community campus since 2017. Prior to that, I was a tenured full professor in another state’s university system. Here, there is no possibility for me to seek tenure because tenure-track lines have been eliminated from my campus one by one until all of them are gone, against my campus director’s wishes. Year-to-year term contracts are all we have had. This has had several chilling effects. First, it leaves me and my term faculty colleagues continually unsure whether we will have a job next year or not, no matter how well we perform, yet we appear uncommitted if we keep one eye on the higher education job market. We must show unflinching commitment to an institution that refuses to show a commitment to us. Second, it makes it difficult for my campus director to recruit and retain high-caliber faculty who understandably want an institution that commits to support them and give them opportunities to grow and to advance their careers. Third, the phrase “term faculty” has a stigma. It cuts me (and my campus with no tenure track lines) off from governance roles that require tenure track status. It comes with assumptions that the reason I am “term” faculty is that I’m not good enough to be tenure track, that I am some kind of minimally-qualified temp worker. I have a PhD in English and two masters degrees, over 22 years of college-level teaching experience, and a long publishing and service record. My qualifications are not “minimal.” My service to this institution is not “minimal.” As professors, as scholars, as public servants, and as human beings, we are due more than “minimal” respect from our employers. Finally, if this rapidly-shrinking institution ever wants to put itself on solid footing for growth, it must have stability and quality in its faculty. It will have neither if it does not show as much commitment to faculty as it expects from them. Multi-year contracts are a step in the right direction.

I have worked for UAS since August 2006, first as an administrative manager. Once I completed my Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership in 2008, I was hired as an adjunct for the UAS School of Management and taught classes in both the graduate and undergraduate programs in an adjunct capacity through the summer 2018. I continued in an administrative capacity through March 2009; as an Interim Associate Dean through May 2010; and again, as an administrative manager from August 2016 through February 2018. In May 2018, I suggested to the Interim Dean that I be appointed to the position of term faculty to fill a void when a tenure-track faculty was non-retained. I was offered a one-year term faculty contract, not to exceed a year. In December 2018, approval was given to offer a second, one-year term contract. Then in December 2019, a third, one-year term contract was approved. However, a three-year term contract was requested by the program chair and fully supported by the Department of Business and Public Administration. The leadership at UAS determined that they would not approve a three-year contract, specifically because I am not residing in Alaska. I was a resident of Alaska for more than 10-years but relocated in late-2017 for my husband’s employment. From my initial, one-year term contract through July 2021, I spent a significant amount of time seeking employment as I only had a one-year contract. Searching for a position is difficult and time consuming when you are doing it right. CVs and cover letters are written to the specific position to ensure the committee sees the commitment of the individual. Additionally, the search was done on nights and weekends to ensure I was keeping up with my term faculty contract. While no job is entirely guaranteed, seeking a position when only having a nine-month contract adds to the stress of an employee who is required to perform at a certain level all while knowing they will no longer be ‘needed’ at the end of the spring semester. I have unique experience to UAS as an administrator and as a faculty member. But more importantly, as a term faculty, filling a tenure-track position, I lead our business program efforts in obtaining ACBSP accreditation, I lead a group of faculty meeting twice a month to review business program related areas including scheduling, curriculum, and offerings, I am the program lead for the BBA, Management emphasis, and I coordinate our Business Advisory Council membership and meetings. All while serving on UAS committees including dual enrollment, search committees and all business faculty meetings. My term contract is a 90/10 (teaching nine, three credit courses over Fall/Spring, with three credits of service). The day I received notice of my approved, three-year contract, a weight was lifted. I knew that I would be able to focus on reaccreditation efforts and continue to contribute to the programs at UAS. I can put multi-year plans in place knowing I will be in the position for at least three years. A challenge I face as a term faculty is that I am doing tenure-track work without the benefit of the tenure-track position. Most term faculty I have worked with teach their classes, participate in some university service, and work with their departments. I have not met any term faculty that are responsible for assessing a program, leading accreditation efforts, and serving on multiple committees with limited-service capacity. I also believe that as a term faculty, I am compensated less than tenure-track faculty in my discipline.

I have a long history with the University of Alaska. I started my undergraduate studies at UAS in Juneau in 2000, transferred to UAF two years later, and finished BS and MS degrees in Mathematics here at UAF. During that time I worked as a student employee, staff, adjunct instructor, then Term Asst Professor teaching Developmental Mathematics. I held that position of Term Asst Professor for 9 years until the position was non-renewed due to budget cuts. During those 9 years of being a “temporary” employee, I always had an eye out for other employment outside of UAF, someplace that may offer a permanent position with stability and opportunities for growth and development that aren’t afforded to a temporary faculty member. Due to the temporary status, I never felt truly compelled to grow as an employee- to serve the university or community, to develop novel curriculum or course offerings, or to fully participate in faculty evaluation. In short, being regarded as a temporary employee never empowered me to do more than the bare minimum. Why should I build for a future at this university when they’re not promising me any future beyond the current academic year? Multi-year contracts would eliminate a lot of these barriers to growth and development. Even if not permanent tenure-track, a multi-year contract would give faculty some stability, security, encourage them to give back to the university through service, and improve their instruction to better serve students.