English Department Formally Asks Provost’s Office to Improve Working Conditions for Career Faculty

On June 11 the English Department presented Provost Jayanth Banavar and Exec. Vice Provost Scott Pratt a comprehensive proposal for improved salary and working conditions for the career faculty in the Composition Program. This presentation arose after English devoted their entire April department meeting to deliver the same requests to the three Deans of the College of Arts & Sciences (Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences Andrew Marcus, Divisional Dean of Humanities Karen Ford, and Dean of Faculty Operations Bruce Blonigen).

In both meetings, TTF and Career Faculty spoke together to address longstanding problems concerning salary, course load, contracts, and professional development. After gathering considerable comparator research, a working group formed to study these problems found that the UO offers career faculty within ENG the lowest salary, highest workload, shortest contracts, and little to no formal professional development. In addition, English conducted an employee satisfaction survey and found that fully 80% of career faculty report that their salary does not allow them to meet their basic financial obligations. Studying internal and external salary data, English learned that the majority of their career faculty earn at least $5,000 below the earning cap of $45,510 for a family of four to qualify for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food assistance. In addition, nearly every ENG career faculty member across all ranks earns under the starting salary at our neighboring institution, Lane Community College.

The Composition Program, housed within the English Department, teaches 7,000 students per year. Composition is 100% administered by career faculty and its 25+ Career and Pro Tem instructors mentor and train Ph.D. graduate employees to teach Writing 121 and Writing 122, the two required courses all UO undergraduates must complete. In 2019, Composition faculty will join their Math colleagues in Tykeson Hall, described recently by President Schill as an “initiative that will support student success from the moment they step foot on campus to the time students leave and beyond. There is nothing more important.”

Despite the breadth, scope, and reach of the Composition Program, career faculty are some of the lowest paid faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences, earning about 83% of the CAS average salary for career instructors.  In addition, labor outside of teaching the stipulated nine courses is necessary to keep Composition functioning at basic levels, much less launch and sustain university initiatives designed to improve student retention and success.

A key factor that led ENG to develop their formal request to address inequities in working conditions is the near-constant state of hiring they’re in, as pro tem and career faculty cycle in and out due to the inability to sustain careers under current conditions.  The problem is compounded by the skyrocketing cost of living in Eugene and the surrounding area.

Prior to both presentations, English’s Diversity Committee drafted a memo and addendum summarizing the inequities, comparator research, survey data, and formal requests.  This resulted in scheduling the meeting with the CAS Deans, who were receptive to English’s requests. It’s unclear what the Provosts will do to address these concerns, although Provost Banavar publicly stated that the University must take care of its people despite having scarce resources.