IOWA CITY — After leading a march through the University of Iowa campus Friday and planting signs in the lawn outside the UI president’s home, rhetoric lecturer Matt McBride ripped UI President Bruce Harreld for failing to meet with non-tenure-track faculty over demands for better working conditions.
“I understand being president’s a hard job. That’s probably why you get $600,000 a year to do it,” McBride shouted to a crowd of dozens through a bullhorn. “I’m not 100 percent sure what being the president of a university entails. My guess is it would usually entail meeting with 55 percent of your faculty when they’re unhappy. Apparently not.”
The university’s non-tenure-track faculty, who have been growing in number, have been organizing toward unionization for months — despite recent changes in Iowa law stripping collective bargaining rights of public employees.
At a time of financial challenges for the university — declining state support, increased competition for students and faculty, and funding and governance decisions at the federal level — UI non-tenure-track faculty last month delivered a list of demands to Harreld’s office.
Those demands included, among other things, a voice in policy decisions; longer and more stable employment contracts; hiring and pay justification transparency; and standard annual raises.
The group also asked Harreld to issue a public statement by April 27 expressing support for union rights of non-tenure-track faculty and committing “to offering a fair process to form a union with full collective bargaining rights.”
Harreld didn’t issue any statement or meet with the group, although UI Associate Provost for Faculty Kevin Kregel did, along with Associate Provost Diane Finnerty, and Russ Ganim, professor and director of the Division of World Languages, according to emails requested by The Gazette.
Following that meeting, non-tenure-track faculty organizers on Wednesday asked Kregel to schedule a meeting with Interim Provost Sue Curry, Harreld, and UI General Counsel Carroll Reasoner “by the end of the day tomorrow.”
“We ask that this time representatives of the administration come prepared to commit to concrete steps to meet the list of demands we provided to you,” according to the faculty email.
That didn’t happen either. Instead, Kregel on Friday sent the group an email suggesting Harreld and Curry support forming a committee charged with submitting proposals to the president and interim provost by the end of the calendar year.
The committee, which would begin meeting by the start of the upcoming fall semester, would include four non-tenure-track faculty, along with tenured faculty members and representatives from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean’s office and the Office of the Provost.
Nontenured faculty mocked that proposal during a rally Friday, arguing they’re done with committees and want action.
Meaghan Harding, an English as a Second Language lecturer, said while standing in front of the president’s home Friday that if he refuses to meet with them in a timely fashion, it’s “no business as usual until we have good jobs and union rights.”
“If Harreld and his bosses, the regents and the governor, won’t meet our demands, we will replace them with people who will,” Harding said.
She spoke right after Cathy Glasson, a Democrat running for governor who is president of the local union representing thousands of UI Health Care employees.
“Job insecurity has created a culture of fear among my colleagues, and I’m tired of being afraid,” Harding said. “There’s only one thing to stop this university from treating us this way. Organize and take action.”
The non-tenure-track faculty cite a recent Board of Regents report showing the university now has 1,754 non-tenure-track faculty, up from 1,589 in the 2015-16 academic year. That is 54 percent of UI faculty, up from 48 percent three years ago.
Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa, meanwhile, report non-tenure-track faculty make up a smaller portion of total faculty — 31 percent at both institutions.
Tenured and tenure-track faculty at the UI are on the decline, from 1,564 in 2015-16 to 1,516 in the most recent year on record, according to the board report.
UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said the UI numbers should be considered with the caveat that it has hundreds of clinical faculty within its UI Hospitals and Clinics. As of Oct. 1, 2017, 842 of the nontenured or tenure-track faculty were clinical track.
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