AAUP Contingent Faculty Committee seeks solutions
By Carolyn Gonzales
The UNM Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently hosted a discussion on contingent faculty at UNM. Hugh Witemeyer, president of the UNM chapter and professor of English, organized and led the discussion.
Susan Deese Roberts, professor in the General Library and director of CASTL, said, “Our goal in CASTL is to support the teaching mission of the University. We frequently don’t know who contingency faculty are – especially part-time, temporary faculty — and we want to invite them to participate and be a part of new faculty training.”
The Department of English recently celebrated the work of retiring Professor Hugh Witemeyer with a one-day conference, “Literature and the University,” at Zimmerman Library’s Willard Reading Room.
“The event is different than any we’ve ever held for a retiring professor,” said Scott Sanders, department chair.
In addition to exploring Witemeyer’s literary areas of interest and expertise, the event focused on university governance, a focal point of much of Witemeyer’s service work.
“This was an opportunity to honor Hugh, but also to showcase the best of what we do,” Sanders said.
James Burbank, a 57-year-old writer with a master’s degree, has been teaching in the English Department for the past two years. He said he “loves UNM,” but finds it difficult to live a contingency lifestyle, not knowing from one semester to the next whether or not he has a job. He expressed other concerns, too.
“I am on the same page with the faculty when it comes to research and scholarship, we are aligned intellectually, but I am concerned that we are set against one another with regard to remuneration,” he said.
Bob Greenlee, mechanical engineering, said he has been a Lecturer II for 20 years. “There is no advancement opportunity,” he said. And yet he fills a critical role, directing undergraduate studies and handling accreditation.
Other concerns voiced at the meeting included being dropped from, or never included on, list serves, losing e-mail and library privileges at semester’s end and parking, especially for those teaching in the evening.
Beulah Woodfin, professor emerita, School of Medicine, and AAUP New Mexico State Conference president, said the trend with contingent faculty raises concerns about the future of the profession.
“If graduate students do not perceive a stable job market in higher education, we’re going to be cutting our throats with the body of faculty of the future,” she said.
Witemeyer said that the AAUP Contingent Faculty Committee is working with the Office of the Provost to look at the issues. “The contingent faculty issue is part of a larger issue. It is the flip side to the loss of tenure lines,” Witemeyer said.
Among proposed solutions are rolling two-year contracts so that part time faculty who want to be, and often are, rehired semester after semester could have some stability. The committee is also looking at benefits options for those not covered.