Non-tenure track faculty at the University of Iowa say they’re laying the groundwork for labor negotiations with the administration. The group of adjuncts, instructors and visiting professors had its first formal meeting with officials Wednesday morning.
After holding a series of protests and staging a sit-in at the president’s office, instructors said Wednesday’s meeting with university administrators was a breakthrough.
“This morning’s meeting did feel like an invitation to the table. It felt like for the first time we are being listened to on our issues," said Elizabeth Weiss, who teaches writing at the university. "And we’re kind of defining a way forward that will allow us to continue to do so.”
President Bruce Herrald, Provost Sue Curry, General Counsel Carroll Reasoner and other administrators attended the closed-door conversation. Non-tenure track faculty shared their experiences, including their struggles to access healthcare and a desire for family leave.
"One of my colleagues spoke about her inability to access health insurance at the university, how that affects her ongoing health condition and her ability to perform her job to the best of her ability," Weiss said.
And Weiss found administrators' responses encouraging.
“The folks we spoke with were genuinely receptive to the concerns we brought up. And they agreed that these were important issues that we needed to address. So in that sense this was a genuinely productive conversation,” Weiss said.
University public relations official Jeneane Beck released a written statement after the meeting underlining the role of these faculty members at the school.
"Fixed-term Faculty are vital to the University of Iowa’s mission; providing specialized contributions in teaching, research, or service. Colleges have and will continue to address issues that hinder competitiveness with our peer universities. The University of Iowa will continue to communicate directly with members of the university’s community," Beck wrote.
The instructors are asking for higher pay, better benefits and broader representation in the school’s governance structure, which shares responsibilities between the administration, the Faculty Senate, staff and students. Non-tenure track faculty members have said they can't adequately petition for changes under the current governing system.
According to the Faculty Senate's Constitution, the organization must include eight members "who at the time of their election must hold non-tenured appointments or probationary salaried clinical faculty appointments."
Faculty Senate President Russell Ganim released a written statement supporting future conversations.
"The university believes in a collaborative approach when dealing with faculty concerns and takes these issues seriously. Part of this collaboration involves working through the university processes including creating representative committees to resolve such matters. We are pleased this will be the direction moving forward," Ganim's statement read.
Weiss said non-tenure track faculty members are scheduling a series of meetings with administrators over the next month to outline their specific requests.