Letter of Support from SEIU Local 500
at The George Washington University
As members of SEIU Local 500 for part-time faculty at The George Washington University, we write to express solidarity with you in your current and unfortunately contentious contract negotiations as well as your efforts to get clarification about the recent “non-renewals” of established lecturer faculty. We write from the position of now entering our sixth contract negotiation and draw on those experiences here.
First, we congratulate you on the enormous gains you have made for Lecturer Faculty within the terms of the first CBA you and the University negotiated. We especially applaud the increases in compensation, the provisions for professional development (travel and leave), the securing of a university-wide promotion structure, and the establishment of a grievance structure. In various ways, we have been and continue to be negotiating on these same issues.
Second, we share your concern over the sudden and unexpected non-renewals of lecturer faculty who had been teaching successfully at UNH—many for a number of years. It not only comes suddenly and unexpectedly but unnecessarily. In this concern, we write both as fellow employees and as educators.
In the former role, we join you in stressing that predictability of employment has been and remains a major concern of the more than 1,000 faculty whom we represent. As we all know a great deal of teaching involves “off-the-clock” or “outside-the-contract” work such as staying current with both substantive and pedagogical developments in one’s field, reviewing a variety of possible texts for coming semesters, working to learn new digital delivery platforms, writing letters of recommendation for former students (sometimes years after one has had the student in class). One of the ways such work is acknowledged by the employer is by giving as many guarantees as possible of continued employment.
In the latter role, as educators, we are aware of the enormous gains one makes over time as a teacher. These gains are in knowledge of how much time it actually takes to cover given parts of the syllabus, where students are likely to encounter problems, better ways of presenting complex material in a mode that is accessible to the student, and, as importantly, what parts of material can be “safely” omitted in order to have more time to stress critical issues. It is this gain in knowledge of how to fit the substance of the material to the nature of the student body that is so irreplaceable when we talk about “the consequences of the loss of teaching experience.” But also important for the student is the sense of continuity that comes from knowing that teachers will be there when a new academic year begins or when after some time away a student needs to reach back for a recommendation or for advice. These are some of the reasons why losing some 160 years of teaching experiences is so painfully short-sighted.
Kip Lornell, Ph.D,
Department of Music and President of GWU Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU-Local 500)
Anne McLeer, Ph.D.
Director if Higher Education, SEIU Local 500.
Gillian NIebrugge-Brantley, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Vice President of GWU Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU 500)