ISU faculty, staff discuss nontenure positions at forum

Maria Ball

Improved pay, benefits and academic status for temporary ISU employees may be the results of a meeting between university faculty members and administrators this week.The forums, held Tuesday and Wednesday, provided an opportunity for administration, faculty and staff to voice their concerns and suggestions about the possibility of implementing nontenure-track appointments at Iowa State. The issue of academic freedom was widely discussed because nontenure faculty are not afforded this privilege, said David Hopper, Faculty Senate president. Tenure is the only guarantee a faculty member has of academic freedom, he said.”One of the most important things in a university is the ability of a faculty member to get up and speak the truth, whatever that truth may be, without losing their job,” said Hopper, professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.Christie Pope, chairwoman of the task force on nontenure-track appointments, said allowing an unlimited number of temporary positions at Iowa State threatens free speech and open discussion in the classroom. “A growing number of nontenure-track faculty is an attack upon academic freedom,” said Pope, Faculty Senate president-elect. “Nontenure-track faculty may engage in self-censorship in order not to offend and put their positions in jeopardy.”Virginia Allen, associate professor of English, said temporary employees sometimes feel the need to censor themselves.”Many temps report that they fear retaliation if they speak an unpopular truth in their classes or in public forums,” she said. John Pleasants, temporary assistant professor of zoology and genetics, also said nontenure faculty have to be careful about what they say so that “you don’t ruffle any feathers.”The treatment of nontenure faculty at Iowa State was also discussed.”Temporary faculty have sometimes been exploited,” said Pope, associate professor of history. “Nationally, such positions have not carried salaries or had benefits and working conditions commensurate with the work required.” She said nontenure faculty do “more teaching for less money.”One of the reasons continuing nontenure-track appointments are being considered is because it costs more to employ tenured faculty, Hopper said. “The bottom line is quality costs,” he said. Hopper said the continuing nontenure-track position will provide temporary faculty with increased compensation, job flexibility and stability. “We want to raise the level of how we’re treating temporary faculty and make them feel better about their work,” he said.However, Pleasants said the task force report portrayed temporary faculty negatively. “Nontenure faculty are viewed as a growing cancer on the university that needs to be cut back,” he said. “There is nothing in the report that speaks of the value of temporary faculty.”The importance of nontenure faculty was never in question, Pope said. “Iowa State has had temporary and adjunct faculty for a long time, and they have made important contributions to the university,” she said. “The purpose of the report is to see that such persons have rewarding careers here.”