Tenure-line and contingent faculty are forming one union because we are all instructional faculty

On Jan. 20, tenure-line and non-tenured contingent faculty at our campus filed for an election to form a union together. 
 
 
When we attempted to form a faculty union nearly two decades ago, we did it to save tenure, and we included only tenured and tenure-track faculty. The threat of forming a union may have saved tenure from sudden death, but it didn’t prevent the more gradual decline that followed. 
 
 
The University of Minnesota has changed a great deal since then. Many employees still hold tenure, but the steady erosion of tenure lines is evidence of a shifting instructional model. 
The role of contingent faculty has increased steadily as tenure-line faculty have left and not been replaced. Now, nearly half the people teaching here are on either one-year or single-semester appointments, with none of the job security or speech protections that tenure provides.
 
 
By design or by bureaucratic inertia, the administration still separates tenure-line and contingent faculty, placing most contingent instructional employees outside the “Instructional” unit, in the “Professional and Administrative” unit. 
 
 
The administration’s own discomfort with this disconnect between bureaucratic alignment and reality is evidenced by the increasingly common “faculty-like” designation that invites some contingent instructors into some aspects of faculty governance while still maintaining this division. While the meaning of “faculty” has clearly changed over time, these changes aren’t reflected in this separation of categories.
 
 
We are forming one union together because we work together. In many cases, we teach the same courses and work with the same students. We have a common interest in improving conditions of teaching and learning at the University. The union we’re forming reflects the reality and diversity of the University in 2016. 
 
 
We don’t know how the administration will respond. They may try to defend and maintain the false divisions built into the bureaucracy. We encourage them to listen to our community and recognize the changing face of instruction at the University. 
 
 
We’re forming a union together because we all want a stronger voice to make the University a better place to teach, research and learn. 
 
Naomi Scheman, professor of philosophy and 
gender, women and sexuality studies 
 
Erin Trapp, senior lecturer, cultural studies and 
comparative literature