Four faculty members (Sen. Anne Langendorfer, Sen. Misty Anderson, Sen. Andrea Ludwig, and AAUP Executive member Mary McAlpin) addressed the Board of Trustees this past Friday. The text of their remarks, which covered non-tenure-track faculty pay, a faculty trustee on the Board, the future of shared governance with the UTIA/UTK merger, and student programming fees, are below. The links at the top of each will take you to video of the proceedings if you prefer to hear them live. Their remarks are at the beginning of each video.
The Senate will continue to follow up on these issues and will hope to see meaningful action on each of them. If you have questions or ideas, please contact your senator and make your voice heard; your participation strengthens shared governance on our Campus.
ERS Session, 8:30 AM, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019
Senator Anne Langendorfer, Lecturer in English
Last year I came here to share what it feels like to teach as a full-time lecturer at UT, overwhelmed and overburdened by a university that refuses to adequately support us, and therefore refuses to help us teach our students, who are deeply engaged in the transformational process of becoming educated. This lack of support stunned me.
This fall, President Boyd has been traveling the state promoting the Tennessee Promise and Pledge scholarship programs, which provide free tuition to students whose families are struggling to make ends meet. These are good programs that help families in need. But there’s a problem: many of Tennessee’s own lecturers would qualify. We make so little that if we have college-age children, our own children are eligible for these need-based programs. Let me be clear: these programs are essential, but they also point to the university’s failure. Lecturers are paid so poorly that UT considers our households “in need.” And UT is right. We are in need. A university that pays lecturers a salary that leaves their own children dependent on free tuition is engaged in a chilling hypocrisy. This university is failing to live up to its mission to educate students when it fails to value its faculty’s labor.
As lecturers we know all too well that our students will stay at UT when they feel heard and valued. We know this to our core. We work to implement teaching practices that support our students’ education, but it’s hard to do our work when we’re worried about our own ability to pay the rent, repay our student loans, care for our children, and save for retirement. Students come to college for the tenured faculty—for the reputation their research creates for UT—but they stay because of lecturers, who establish students’ relationship to higher education—and to UT. It’s in my classes that students build their adult intellectual habits, their ideas about work, education, and the world around them. They transform themselves through our labor.
My professional organization, the Modern Language Association, states, “The minimum salary for full-time appointments at the entry level should be at least $67,000.” They set this entry level salary in the year 2002, four years before I began my PhD. After six years teaching at UT, I make $40,000. Through earning a PhD, I transformed myself into a knowledgeable and values-driven writer, thinker, researcher, and educator. My professors guided me through this taxing process of acquiring knowledge and the process transformed me. This education now allows me to help guide my own undergraduate students through their own personal educational transformations.
This fall when I asked my students what they thought it meant to earn their college education from faculty with PhDs, they told me that they thought it meant we had written dissertations. We have. They told me that they thought it meant that we had been in college for a long time. We have. They told me they thought we earned more than their high school teachers. I had to admit: we do not. I make less than schoolteachers who have the same degrees that I do. My colleagues in the K-12 educational system are grossly underpaid, yet they make more than I do—by a lot. If I taught here in Knox County, I would make at least $10,000 more than I do now. How can that be? How can you oversee a university that has so vastly undervalued the work of my colleagues and me?
Last week when my colleagues and I met with Provost Manderscheid to present a petition with 1,440 signatures calling for fair pay for lecturers with a base salary of at least $50,000, he claimed to be sympathetic to our needs, but offered no plan and no timeline. We cannot wait. Everyone agrees that educators are underpaid. Most people can’t do anything about it. You can. We’re calling for you to act now—today—to hold the Provost, the Chancellor, and the President accountable. Tell them that when they present the UT budget to you this winter, it must include fair pay for lecturers. Hear us. Value us. Pay us fairly. Pay us what we’re worth. Pay us what you think our students’ education is worth.
Senator Misty G. Anderson, James R. Cox Professor, English
My name is Misty Anderson, and I’ve been a professor here for 23 years. I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for allowing me to speak today. I’d also like to thank so many of them for reaching out to me over last year during my term as Faculty Senate president for UTK, UTIA, and UTSC; in particular, thank you Chair Compton, Donnie Smith, and Amy Miles. I feel both supported and battle-tested after a year that started with the dismissal of a chancellor, the arrival of a new provost, the appointment of an interim chancellor, the appointment of Interim President Boyd, and a rack of significant policy changes. Amid that much change, I think we handled things with grace and good will. But it’s not surprising that there were times we weren’t sure who might be in or out of their lane when it came to communicating with the System or the Board.
That’s why I’m here today to ask you to advocate for the restoration of a faculty trustee to the Board. The Association of Governing Boards recommends that, in Board restructurings, faculty trustees should be included if they were a part of the previous Board model. We’re all aware that the composition of the Board is a legislative matter, so this appeal is for your advocacy, and, if you see fit, the designation of a Faculty Member as an interim measure. The faculty member who serves on the ERS committee is an absolute necessity to informed decision-making about our educational, research, and service policies, but that person does not have a vote or a voice on the main Board. Even that position rotates annually among the 4 main campuses, campuses with different missions, sizes, and cultures. Restoring a Faculty Trustee to the Board means that faculty members from 2 of those 4 campuses, which ask very different things of their faculties to fulfill their distinct missions and serve the needs of their students, would be bringing valuable institutional memory and perspectives.
Professors feel the results of board policies and the changes over time that affect our students. In the case of UTK, the direct instructional budget has shrunk from roughly 50% to 37%. That percentage reflects the pay of non-tenure track, PhD-holding faculty, about which my colleague Anne Langendorfer just spoke so eloquently. Former chair Raja Jubran used to speak of the fiduciary responsibility of the Board; I think we can help you ask even better questions about why we make the choices we do, and whether they best support the realities on the ground, in the classroom, with our students, and in our labs. We are on that ground. We’re not just a constituency; we’ve dedicated our lives to that ground, trading higher paying private-sector jobs to devote ourselves to it.
One more closing thought. You know that phrase, “Is nothing sacred?” Even people who aren’t especially religious use it when they feel that nothing escapes being turned into a commodity, or a piece of the internet, or just a statistic; that nothing is set apart. Well, this place is sacred; to the native people who lived here first; to those who have walked the hallowed hill; to the dedicated professors and the students we have taught and mentored over generations. Though we are all aware of its role as the engine of the American economy and the fiscal realities of financing that engine, the university is a space and a time set apart, where students engage in deep study, formation, and discovery. That time in their lives fuels future innovation and builds up citizens. We need the university’s difference, its set-apart-ness, now more than ever, as the world, which turns no faster than it used to, is changing at a breakneck speed through a global economy that is at the edge of our ability to comprehend. Professors may not think like CEOs, but that is an asset to this board. We can connect you to the life of this place and help you make the decisions that will help our universities thrive. Together, we share a sacred duty to do just that. And that is why I ask you to restore the position of faculty trustee.
Full Board Meeting, 1:00 PM, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019
Senator Andrea Ludwig, Associate Professor, UTIA Extension
I am Dr. Andrea Ludwig. I am an associate professor of ecological engineering at the Institute of Agriculture. I currently serve as the elected chair of the Ag Caucus for Faculty Senate. I also served on the unification committee as a representative of UTIA faculty, the only representative of UT Extension on the committee. This service provided me with a unique opportunity to hear from a variety of stakeholders regarding unification, however, what I share today certainly may not reflect all faculty’s sentiments. I come here today to be a voice for faculty, staff and stakeholders who demand a place at the table in decisions that affect the culture and efficiency of our flagship, land grant campus. You may recall, I brought before you in June a summary of faculty and stakeholder input that rejected the secretive process and timeframe used in bringing the unification resolution up for vote. That collective voice signaled a general favorability in the idea of unification, but also a plea for more time to understand the details and ramifications. After brief discussion, concerns were dismissed and the resolution passed. Since then, I have seen first-hand the consequences of that action: our staff not having clear, transparent information to provide to the very community partners that help support their salaries (to the tune of $8.8M annually statewide); distinguished faculty, those who I consider mentors and who have given this university their professional life, asking “Why, why should I attend this listening session? They didn’t ask my opinion before, what difference would it make now?”; stakeholders as well as employees having lost trust due to the lack of transparency and details, leading to real concern over their future with the university in the long-term. These are issues not fully detailed in the unification report, but are real stories that deserve attention.
Just as you all give your time and effort to this university when you could be investing it elsewhere, we faculty and staff invest our time here, when we could be collecting higher salaries elsewhere in industry or practice. We choose to be here because of the deep academic culture of this institution, one that has prospered over the past 225 years, valuing shared governance, a concept best represented by the American Association of University Professors as a joint effort between interdependent faculty, administrators and others, requiring communication and the full opportunity for appropriate joint planning.
The process used for unification and to create the Oak Ridge Institute was absolutely counter to joint planning and the concept of shared governance. It was secretive, and it overlooked the most valuable assets this university has to offer, it’s people. Morale is at an all-time low in my frame of reference, not due to lack of funding, not due to heavy workloads, but instead because of the feeling of not being included in this process, one that impacts our ability to serve our land grant mission; inclusion that we deserve and were accustomed to. We need system leadership that recognizes campus communities, both internal and external, as valuable assets in generating grass-roots support and providing valued input. I am highly encouraged to see the tangible outcomes in the memo from leadership on Tuesday, which will without a doubt help to rebuild trust; highly encouraged to read that “[administration] will heed the clear message… about the importance of input and process in building trust moving forward.” But what are the actionable steps? What assurances do we have today that future decisions will be made in the open? Faculty and staff need assurance that there is a desire to build trust, and that starts with acknowledgment of the failures in the unification process. Once acknowledgements are made, that is then the platform for trust building activities to achieve an environment where big ideas can take life. Everyone benefits from gaining mutual respect and a common understanding that shared governance is not done on the back end of big decisions, not by appointing committees or taskforces, but instead by recognizing the valuable assets we have among us to contribute, to move big ideas forward on common ground. Can we faculty be assured that we will be included in joint planning, future structural changes, and will have a full voice in selecting the next leader of this university?
Thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to seeing ideas come together to nurture a healthy, collaborative UT.
Mary McAlpin, past AAUP President, Distinguished Humanities Professor, MFLL
I am speaking today on behalf of the Executive Committee of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville chapter of the American Association of University Professors. I am here to convey our serious concerns about the new process by which student organizations apply for monies generated by the Student Programs and Services Fee, or SPSF. Up until this fall 2019, these funds were distributed by a committee composed of students, faculty, and staff. These committee members considered written proposals, interviewed student leaders, and then voted on the allocation of funds. Under the new process, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UTK has ultimate control over which student proposals are funded.
A strong inference can be drawn that the goal of this dramatic change in the method for allocating fees is to forestall further legislative disapproval of one student organization: Sexual Empowerment at Tennessee, or SEAT, the student group that has, at least until this year, benefited from student fees in order to put on Sex Week. As faculty, we wish to hold the UTK administration accountable for its willingness to sacrifice the free speech rights of all students in a misguided effort to censor SEAT. In response to legislative pressure, the UTK administration has taken the serious step of removing student control over which events are funded by the SPFS. In addition to constituting an attack on student free speech, this new policy universally harms our students, because it limits opportunities for them to build the valuable leadership skills derived from conceiving, planning, and managing campus events.
We hope that you will read our longer, written statement with attention. In this document, we describe both the old and the new processes, and emphasize our three most serious concerns: one, that the new process undemocratically removes control of programming from students; two, that the new process does a grave disservice to students by denying them practical leadership opportunities; and three, that the new process is the result of a misguided retaliation against one student group, namely SEAT.
The students at the University of Tennessee are not children. They are adults, and they are citizens; and they are more than ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood and citizenship. They must be allowed a primary role in determining how the fees that they pay are used to support programming designed by the students, for the students, in the best interests of all the students on our campus.
Thank you for your time.
For more information about the AAUP chapter’s statement and their local work, go to: https://aauputk.wixsite.com/utk-aaup/statements