On Thursday, Feb. 9, the United Campus Workers Colorado (UCWC), a union for faculty and staff at the University of Colorado’s four campuses, delivered a petition calling for fair working conditions for non-tenure track faculty to the Board of Regents.
The petition gathered just over 1,000 signatures. It was created by the Non-Tenure Track Caucus, which gathered in 2021 to discuss the need for better compensation, job stability and opportunities for career advancement.
“This is my eighth year teaching full time, and I love it,” said Wendy Bolyard, a UCWC member and non-tenure track professor in the School of Public Affairs at CU Denver. “I love our students. I love the atmosphere of our university. But, I also feel like I do the same work as tenured and tenure-track faculty members. I just do it in different percentages.”
According to CU system data, 52% of instructional faculty across the CU system are non-tenure track, meaning they do not have an indefinite appointment at the university. Some of these faculty have multi-year contracts; however, a majority of them are at-will and are rehired semester to semester, according to the UCWC.
Bolyard said this creates the issue of job insecurity.
“[The situation] can literally be [that every] semester, you cross your fingers and hope they invite you back,” Bolyard said. “That is a little scary, especially at the CU Denver campus, where we’re having budget shortfalls.”
During the public comment section of the Board of Regents meeting, Emily Harrington, a tenured associate professor in the English department at CU Boulder, spoke on behalf of the non-tenure faculty.
Harrington shared stories of colleagues selling plasma to make ends meet, having second jobs and relying on government housing and food pantries.
Harrington asked for the regents’ support on two Colorado legislative bills, SB23-111, the Public Employees’ Workplace Protection Bill, and SB23-048, the Non-Tenured Track Faculty Bill, which would extend multi-year contracts from three to five years. She also urged the regents to keep non-tenure track faculty in mind when discussing the year’s budget.
Members and supporters of the UCWC dressed in red and gathered at Tivoli Brewing prior to the Thursday meeting to make signs and swap stories.
A few students even attended to support their professors, including CU Boulder junior Mia Henderson.
“I wanted to be here to show support, to show that students are backing this,” Henderson said.
In addition, Henderson wanted to address how the job instability non-tenure track faculty face can have an impact on students too.
“Not having stability with professors is a big deal,” Henderson said. “Having relationships with and connections with professors are super important. When our professors are changing every couple years, it makes it hard to have a stable learning environment and to build the lifelong connections that I’m here to build.”
Later in the meeting, the regents discussed the 2023-2024 budget plan, which details a raise in minimum wage for staff and student workers and potential increases in compensation.
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Chad Marturano discussed the challenges of balancing the university’s priorities of compensation with keeping the tuition for incoming students stable and dealing with budget shortfalls, specifically at CU Denver and UCCS.
However, the budget proposed at Thursday’s meeting is only a plan. According to Marturano, the final budget may look different depending on a variety of factors, including the amount of funding the university can get from the state government.
The regents will approve the final campus budgets in April.
“Our campuses are making tough choices in order to prioritize compensation,” said CU President Todd Saliman.
Bolyard said she hopes the petition brings the issue of compensation for non-tenure track faculty to the “top of mind” for the regents as the budget season begins.
“We want the regents, as the leadership of our system, to really set some priorities and values,” Bolyard said. “[We hope they can] lift up the non-tenure track faculty and make sure that the budgets are used in a way that reflects the value and importance of the work that we do.”
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Celia Frazier at firstname.lastname@example.org.