PENNEY NICHOLS-WHITEHEAD: Ferris non-tenure track faculty have no contract for fall 2015

To the editor:

Approximately 45 percent of the course sections offered at Ferris State University are taught by non-tenure-track instructors, who have only “temporary” positions. These instructors have limited job security — sometimes only a single semester guarantee of employment — even though 70 percent of them have been here for over five years, many for 15 or 20 years. Non-tenure track instructors are committed professionals, knowledgeable and highly skilled in our fields.

Ferris, like many other institutions relies heavily on non-tenure track instructors, but pays them significantly less, gives them fewer benefits than tenure-track faculty, and refuses to even give them an equitable cost of living increase. The administration claims that Ferris cannot afford to increase non-tenure track faculty salaries or provide other benefits for many non-tenure-track faculty, yet they have managed to find the funds to substantially increase both the number of administrative positions and the compensation they receive, including the funds to increase President Eisler’s salary to $263,302.

Colleges and universities like Ferris are some of the worst offenders in terms of pay inequity. Tuition increases are usually blamed on increasing faculty salaries, but tuition has increased steadily, even when faculty salaries have not, and even as the percentage of non-tenure track, “temporary,” low-paid faculty members has increased. Because of this, non-tenure track instructors at Ferris and across the country have been forced to unionize to obtain fair treatment — at more than 40 schools since 2012, eight schools just since November of last year!

Our contract at Ferris expired on June 30, and we have been in negotiations since May 2015. We still have no agreement, even though classes begin on Aug. 31. We care deeply about our students and the Ferris community, so despite the lack of a contract at this point, we are ready and eager for fall classes to start and we will be there to teach our classes, but that does not mean we should not be treated fairly.

Our tenure-track and tenured faculty colleagues, as well as other unions on campus, have assured us that we have their full support and we hope the larger community, when provided with the facts, will also support us in our efforts to obtain fair, equitable compensation and benefits.

Penney Nichols-Whitehead, Ph.D.

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