The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate voted unanimously last Thursday to create an ad hoc committee in charge of investigating the concerns of nonladder faculty members.
Four members of the six-person Committee on the Status, Pay and Conditions of Non-Ladder Faculty have already been selected. They will begin work after October recess to determine a procedure for inviting two nonladder faculty members — those who are not on tenure track — from outside the Senate to serve on the committee. This marks the first time in the senate’s two-year history that nonsenators will sit on a committee. The committee expects to produce a report on the concerns and a set of recommendations by spring 2017.
Twenty members of the FAS Senate, excluding two senators who were not present at the Thursday meeting, voted to establish the committee.
“Many core areas of the academic curriculum in Yale College are sustained by nonladder faculty and they will be called on to play an even greater role as the College expands,” reads the official description of the committee. “This ad hoc committee will examine the status of nonladder faculty in the round, paying attention to issues such as pay, benefits, job security, opportunities for career development and progression, research support and wider issues of inclusion in departments and programs.”
In light of the opening of the two new residential colleges, the administration plans to increase the number of nonladder faculty, said FAS Senator and ad hoc committee member Ruth Koizim, a senior lector in the Department of French.
Currently, the FAS is composed of roughly 640 tenure-track professors, 100 language lectors and 200 lecturers, said FAS Senator and committee co-chair Shiri Goren, a senior lector in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department. With the expansion of Yale College, there will be an increase in the hiring of nonladder faculty, so it is important the committee makes the administration aware of their concerns regarding salaries and other working conditions, Goren added.
“There’s going to be more of whoever we are, and we need to take a look at who we are,” Koizim said, referring to nonladder faculty. “The information is out there, but it’s never been carefully examined who nonladder faculty are, where they’re employed, what their responsibilities are and what their pay scale is.”
Goren said that nonladder faculty members shoulder a lot of responsibilities beyond teaching, including “service to the University” such as sitting on committees and conducting peer reviews. Most of them also serve as academic and thesis advisors to students because they are the faculty members that students usually see every day and thus approach first, Goren added.
Nonladder faculty members have raised their concerns at senate meetings and over email in the past year, when the senate was producing reports on broad topics including diversity and expansion, FAS Senate Chair and committee co-chair Emily Greenwood said. Many faculty members who responded to surveys on these topics said the hierarchy of the FAS and the needs of non-tenure track faculty should be considered when thinking about creating a more inclusive climate, Greenwood, the chair of Classics, added.
“Yale is a hierarchical place. People are reminded of their places in the hierarchy in subtle ways — or sometimes not subtle. It was only five years ago or so that we nonladder people got to eat free lunches in the dining halls, the same as ladder faculty,” said James Berger, a senior lecturer in the English and American Studies departments who is not a member of the Senate.
Berger said at present, nonladder faculty can be awarded semesters off from teaching duties as long as the project they work on is entirely devoted to their teaching, such as designing a new course. Granting a semester off is not in any way connected with writing and publishing scholarly research papers, Berger said, adding that many nonladder faculty do research and attend conferences on their own time and money.
“This issue has to do with the moral obligation of the administration to provide adequate work conditions to its workers,” Goren said.
Goren cited several concerns of nonladder faculty, including the fact that when they retire, they lose access to Yale email and library privileges from the University.
Some other concerns raised by nonladder faculty include identification, job security and career development, but the committee has not yet determined which specific issues it will investigate, citing worries about setting the committee’s agenda prematurely.
There is also fear of a shortage of funds for lecturers who want to attend conferences or publish their work, which can hamper their professional development, Greenwood said. She added that some of the “most creative” work by nonladder faculty happens outside of the classroom, and that descriptions of their positions should emphasize their involvement beyond teaching.
“It’s hard to really thrive and plan for the future when you’re worried about whether or not your contract is going to be renewed, and there’s a lack of transparency about terms and reviews for renewal work,” Greenwood said. “We see this as part of a broader conversation about transparency and circulation of information.”
At this stage, the committee is focusing on establishing the procedure for including nonsenate faculty members in the committee and talking to nonladder faculty to determine what the most pressing issues are, Greenwood said.
The relatively new senate is proceeding with caution because it is unconventional to seat nonsenate members on a senate committee and this will inevitably set a precedent, Koizim said. She added that members are beginning their work with an open mind to better understand the present situation and what can be improved.
“I think this is a moment of great opportunity,” Koizim said. “This is an issue which has been of extreme concern to certainly everybody I know who teaches language, and there’s a lot of us for all the years I’ve been at Yale. It really is the perfect time to look at it … we want to make sure that all of this is done in a careful and respectful manner.”