Elon University has achieved excellence throughout its history: a world-class study abroad program, commitment to environmental sustainability, focus on inclusivity and pioneering experiential learning programs. As non-tenure track professors, ranging from adjunct instructors to lecturers and continuing track faculty, we are proud to be part of Elon — teaching bright, inquisitive minds who attend this forward-thinking institution.
Despite successes, Elon faces similar challenges as our peer institutions regarding employment of non-tenure track faculty. In the past, non-tenure track positions were the minority among college instructors.
Today, we, the non-tenure track, are almost half of Elon’s faculty. Though we have different relationships and responsibilities to Elon, we are highly qualified and dedicated and bring unique skill sets to this university.
Yet some of us do not know whether we will be teaching here from one semester to the next. Some of us struggle to see any long-term career pathway at Elon, despite our commitment to our students and the university. Many of us do not know how our performance is evaluated or what policies determine whether or not we will be promoted. A few must make hard choices between paying rent and paying medical bills because we don’t earn enough to make ends meet.
The discrepancy between what non-tenure track faculty contribute to this campus versus the tangible and intangible inequalities experienced by the same group indicates there are still places where Elon can improve as a community. In order to make these needed changes, non-tenure track faculty at Elon have decided to come together to form a union. We can do better together as a union to negotiate as equals with the university administration for improvements that benefit our students. After all, our working conditions are also student learning conditions.
We want to fully belong as Elon faculty, be valued for what we contribute and have equal access to resources so that we can be the teachers, mentors and scholars that our students deserve. We strongly believe that by supporting the well-qualified, committed, non-tenure track faculty on this campus, Elon will be a better place for all the members of this community.
1) Elon’s students deserve faculty fully engaged in teaching without entering the job market each year or worrying about making ends meet. We are committed to this institution and seek a commensurate commitment from the university.
2) Elon’s tenured and tenure-track faculty want to work with the administration to ensure that their programs’ undergraduate instruction have continuity and effectiveness. The welfare of their non-tenure track colleagues contributes to that goal.
3) Elon’s administration benefits when non-tenure track faculty are treated fairly, consistently and with respect as engaged and productive professionals fully invested in and accountable for their work.
As non-tenure track faculty, we come together with colleagues across the country in Service Employees International Union’s Faculty Forward, the fastest growing higher education union in the country. More than 54,000 of our colleagues at more than 60 campuses – including Duke University, Tufts University, Boston University and Georgetown University – formed unions and have made improvements through collective bargaining for themselves and their students.
We all want what is best for Elon. The non-tenure track faculty believe that we are the most qualified to voice our own concerns and needs. By forming a union, every non-tenure track faculty member at Elon will be represented in a forum dedicated to our own unique roles.
We ask the university administration to remain neutral and comply with federal labor laws as we come together to democratically organize our union. All Elon faculty deserve to be respected in words and actions. We contribute immensely to this university in spite of the low pay, demanding workload, inconsistent benefits and poor job security. We come to this university daily and make it a better place because we are professionals who love our fields and are committed to our students.
Our efforts align with the commitments in Elon’s mission statement: to “nurture a rich intellectual community characterized by active student engagement with a faculty dedicated to excellent teaching and scholarly accomplishment” and to “foster respect for human differences, passion for a life of learning, personal integrity, and an ethic of work and service.”
Elon has a great opportunity now to embody these commitments. We look forward to making that progress together.