Before the 2016 strike won NTFC our first contract, most non-tenure track faculty (NTT’s) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) had little to no job security. While some individuals were appointed on contracts lasting several years, most of our members were appointed on one-year contracts.
Each spring, these NTT’s faced the stressful possibility of having to go back on the job market for the fall. Updating resumes, securing letters of recommendation, and searching national job listings were regular parts of our members’ jobs, parts that competed with their duties to their students, their departments, and their research. Uncertain of their future, many were hesitant to buy homes in Champaign-Urbana or invest in the community they might be forced to leave the following year. This was not only a problem for new hires. Even NTT’s that had been at the university for a long time, sometimes decades, had no assurance that they would have their job come fall.
In addition to this regular stress and uncertainty, there was no guarantee of when NTT’s would be notified of reappointment. Some NTT’s would receive notice as late as July or August–just weeks before the semester began–that they had not been reappointed for that academic year. For these NTT’s, it was often times far too close to the start of the fall semester at other colleges and universities to find comparable work. This meant that many would be jobless or be forced to do jobs outside their fields with fewer benefits, resulting in great hardships for them and their families.
This precarity had other consequences as well. Uncertain of their futures, NTT’s were hesitant to do anything that might challenge the practices of people in power. As a result, academic freedom suffered. This fear was reinforced in 2014 after Dr. Steven Salaita had his offer to join the faculty rescinded when the Chancellor’s office reviewed pro-Palestinian tweets on his personal Twitter account. If something like this could happen to a tenure-track faculty member, NTT’s felt their own abilities to voice dissent were nearly nonexistent.
Our Union Fights for Job Security
For the first contract, these issues of job security were a top priority. NTFC won guarantees that letters of non-reappointment concerning the following fall would be sent out by May of each year. And although efforts to provide multi-year appointments failed, we did win a stipulation for those who have been in the bargaining unit for six years, granting them one extra year of an equivalent appointment, should they be let go.
For the second contract, we pushed and won even more. Under the new contract, those who are Teaching Associate Professors, Teaching Professors, Clinical Associate Professors, or Clinical Professors for three consecutive academic years will receive contracts lasting at least two years.
With our first and second contracts, we have come a long way from the precarity of one-year contracts and late appointment decision notices that used to be regular parts of NTT life at UIUC. We do, however, still have a long way to go. Some of us, especially newer hires, still face serious job security concerns in their first few years with the university.
We will continue to fight for your interests, but we need your ideas, your energy, and your expertise to make NTT job security at UIUC a reality.
Please reach out anytime. NTFC works best when we all work together!
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