This Fall semester marks my 16th year teaching history at ASU. I love my profession. I love the collaborative art of teaching-learning that I get to participate in with the excellent students that come to ASU every year. However, this also marks my 16th year as an “NTT”—a “non-tenure track” professor. That means that I live off of a one-year contract from year to year. If my contract doesn’t get renewed for next year, I lose my job. If that happens, I lose my insurance. I will lose my house within a month of depleting my savings on my last mortgage payment. But for family, I would be homeless. And I am not alone.
Sometimes we are called by other misleading names—“Contingent Faculty”—“contingent” means something that is “un-necessary and dependent on another,” or “adjunct”—meaning “subordinate or incidental thing.” We teach 43 percent of the credit-hours generated at ASU, and credit hours are the basis for ASU’s funding. Without us, education at ASU wouldn’t be possible. Students: Do you know how many of your professors this semester are “adjunct”? Do you know how many of the teachers who are inspiring you, challenging you, and helping you to achieve your goals in life are working multiple jobs outside of the classroom just to make ends-meet? Do you know how many of them are on one-year contracts? Do you know how many of them are on semester-by-semester contracts? Do you know how many of them are one pay check away from being homeless? Your professors. Do you know that a percentage of the increased tuition you pay has not gone to faculty salaries—and especially not to “NTT” salaries?
I know first-hand how valuable education at ASU is. My grandmother graduated from ASU in 1923. My uncle graduated in the class of 1947 on the G.I. Bill after the Second World War. I graduated with a bachelor’s in history in 1994 and a master’s in 1998. My Appalachian education has served me very well. But I have personally witnessed in my time as a professor at ASU an increasing diminishing of that very education through the adoption of business models of administration that de-humanize professors by treating them as replaceable, or, to use another term, “flexible” tools. This diminishing has a real impact on the education that students receive: sub-living wages, in-secure working conditions, the necessity to work multiple non-academic jobs just to make ends-meet make it very difficult to be the most productive and effective teachers that the citizens of North Carolina deserve.
I am encouraged by Chancellor Everts’ willingness to listen to faculty and staff concerns, and even more encouraged by her willingness to take action with these concerns. As an “NTT” I would like to make some personal requests to the Chancellor: Continue the progress towards a more sustainable and just ASU by implementing the recommendations of the committee report on “NTT” faculty by enabling more lectureships, senior lectureships, and multiple year contracts for these positions. Continue the progress towards recognizing the dignity of “part-time” faculty by enabling them to have parking fees drafted from their checks, rather than having to pay up front before they receive their first pay check from the university. This latter request could be affected immediately, and would be a concrete example of how, one step at a time, we can make ASU what founder B. B. Dougherty envisioned it to be: “A place of beauty and of health”—and we can add, of true learning and justice.
Ralph E. Lentz II M.A., History M.TH., Systematic and Philosophical Theology Senior Lecturer, (“NTT”), History Dept.