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A regional National Labor Relations Board official this week rejected Vanderbilt University’s claim that its full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers are managers under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore not entitled to collective bargaining — similar to tenure-track faculty members at private institutions. The board officer based the decision, in part, on the fact that relatively few full-time, non-tenure track instructors serve in shared governance roles or on committees at Vanderbilt. 

The board also rejected the university’s claim that non-tenure-track faculty members don’t share enough common interests to form a union. But in a somewhat unusual move, it also split up the proposed unit into four separate ones, by school, to further ensure that members share a community of interest: the College of Arts and Science, the Divinity School, the Blair School of Music, and the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Separate elections are to be held in each.

M.L. Sandoz, senior lecturer and director of forensics at Vanderbilt who has organized to form a non-tenure-track faculty union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, said in a statement, “I am pleased with the decision and that we can now move forward again. I believe that working to improve the university as a place of work and a learning environment is a very important endeavor.” 

Susan R. Wente, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Vanderbilt, said in statement that the university “is focused on ensuring that all of our faculty are fully informed and understand the potential changes unionization of full-time, non-tenured track faculty may have on the university's unique shared governance model. We also believe that it is critical that all faculty members in each bargaining unit vote in the upcoming election.”