In a move that both faculty union leaders and administrators are calling significant, a new contract at Rutgers University contains a requirement that 100 new tenured or tenure-track faculty positions be created in the system over the next four years.
The $12 million that will pay for the hires is coming in some ways from both the existing faculty and the administration. Faculty negotiators agreed to cut their wage demands by a total of $6 million if that money and a matching amount would be used for a fund to pay for the new slots.
"It builds the base permanently and it brings to the faculty what we desperately need: a growth in our ranks. We need that more than free parking or other benefits. It will enhance our jobs as educators and our intellectual life," said Rudolph Bell, a professor of history at the New Brunswick campus and co-chair of the negotiating team for the union, a joint chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors. "I am going to have colleagues I very much want."
Philip Furmanski, executive vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers, who was the lead administration negotiator in the recently concluded talks, said that while he has heard many professors nationally worry about the erosion of tenure-track lines, he had not seen a faculty union adjust its salary demands to create them.
"This is certainly a major step forward in administration-union relationships and I hope we would continue it here and see it applied at other institutions across the country," Furmanski said.
The Rutgers contract -- which is still awaiting formal approval from members -- is being hailed by organizers of the AFT's Faculty and College Excellence campaign (known by its acronym FACE) as a model for the way faculty members can reverse what many professors view as the dangerous trend of tenure-track positions being replaced with adjunct slots. Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP, which also is pushing the issue of creating tenure-track lines, issued a statement praising the contract for reinforcing "our tradition of strong negotiations not only over remuneration but also over issues of principle."
The provisions on tenure-track positions come in a contract that also contains strong improvements for existing faculty members and graduate teaching assistants. Professors will see base pay go up by 25 percent over four years while teaching assistant salaries will be up by about one third. Part-time teaching assistants also won new health insurance benefits.
The exact impact of the new hires is difficult to measure. Rutgers experienced major budget cuts last years, prompted by state shortfalls, and many vacant positions were placed on hold. Bell estimated that the number of tenured or tenure-track professors currently is about 1,900 and he predicted that the funds in the pool for new positions would end up supporting more than 100 new slots. Estimates from the AAUP indicate that about half of those teaching at Rutgers are off the tenure track.
Bell said that faculty groups would be meeting with administrators to jointly plan which searches to conduct. So many positions are vacant, Bell estimated at least 150, that many departments are missing the experts in key areas that should be represented.
While students may not be aware of particular vacancies, they feel the impact. Bell said. "The students see it when they are shut out of certain sections, or they can't get into a required course and stay an extra year, or they have a part-time lecturer who they like, but who can't be a mentor when teaching only one course" and teaching elsewhere, Bell said.
Both Bell and Furmanski said that because of tenure-track faculty members' research obligations, and the regular turnover among part timers, it was unlikely that adjuncts would lose positions as a result of the change. Furmanski said that he shared Bell's hope that the funds would allow for even more than 100 slots to be created, but that additions would depend in part on trends in state support.
Amy Bahruth, president of the part-time lecturers' bargaining unit at Rutgers (which is still in negotiations over its contract), said that her colleagues backed the provision on creating tenure-track positions even though -- she quipped -- "we are in the unique position where we may be advocating the elimination of our unit."
Bahruth said that there are so many adjuncts teaching that the new tenure-track slots "aren't going to impact our lines that much." From an educational perspective, she said, the contract provisions make sense. "This is a good thing for the university. We support the fact that the full timers made such a creative deal," she said.