30 March 2016

Want Low-Cost, Performance-Based Higher Ed? Give It a Contract.

Here are some of the radical things that NTFC Local 6546 wants in a contract:
  • regular performance reviews
  • consistent, enforceable standards for promotion
  • multiyear contracts
  • a wage agreement
Here's what happens when non-tenure-stream faculty don't have those things:
  • employees have no idea from year to year whether they're meeting performance expectations -- or even what those expectations are
  • employees devote time and energy that could go into teaching to preparing a yearly fall-back strategy, so that if they are not rehired at the end of one academic year, they will have another job to begin in the following fall.
  • decisions on retention from year to year reflect everything BUT teaching excellence: the vagaries of enrollment patterns, the wish to employ favored graduate students, spousal accommodations (yes, I am a spouse who benefits from the current system), department politics 
  • the salaries that teaching NTTs earn bear no relation to the tuition dollars they draw, particularly relative to the salaries of tenure-stream faculty with similar teaching responsibilities.
If higher education in Illinois can only be preserved by replacing the shattered remnants of the pre-Rauner way of doing things with a "performance-based" system of funding, then supporting an agreement between the NTT union and the University administration is a step towards that bold new world of fiscal responsibility and financial stability.  An NTT contract would do what the present system does not: build accountability into the work of much of the teaching faculty and reward the ability of NTTs to fulfill the fundamental teaching mission of higher education without the high overhead of equipment like telephones, laptops, books, and internet connections (many teaching NTTs, lacking these amenities in their offices, do much of their work from home where they pay for them themselves). 

Oh, right: except that Gov. Rauner is holding the entire state budget hostage to the dream of eliminating collective bargaining. So much for NTTs leveraging their very cost-effectiveness into a better education for the taxpayers of Illinois.

The point is, when NTTs jostle and agitate for a contract agreement, they're not pulling the state deeper into the red. NTT teaching faculty already operate in the black and they want to hold their institution accountable for the instrumental role they play in upholding its mission to educate the students of Illinois (as well as the out-of-state and international students who also help to balance the books).

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