Lecturers at the University of New Hampshire have been in negotiations for a new contract with the school for over two years now.
Lecturers teach undergraduate courses and advise students, but unlike tenured faculty, they have short term contracts. The UNH Lecturers Union has been raising concerns over compensation and job security as they continue to work with the school on a new contract.
NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with the unions current president Molly Campbell.
(Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)
How are lecturers different from tenured professors and adjunct professors? Why the different categories?
This is a great question, because it's really important to understand that there are different kinds of faculty at UNH. Lecturers are teaching intensive positions. So they're distinct from tenure track jobs that often involve research and scholarship as part of how they are evaluated and retained.
So lecturers are about 25 percent of the faculty at UNH, but they actually teach roughly 50 percent of the classes. So we don't have the same stability or salary that people might associate with university faculty positions. You'll find that lecturers are on 1 to five-year contracts, but again, teaching most of the classes. So a lot of the people who are showing up to UNH for the first time right now, lecture faces are the ones that they're seeing in the classroom.
So let's talk about the controversy here on this contract negotiation. Lecturers have been working off the old contract for two plus years now. How is that affected compensation for you and your colleagues?
So none of the lecturers have received any cost of living increases or adjustments since we went out of contract in June of 2017. So we're not seeing any of those adjustments that might make it a little bit easier to keep up in our area, which is a pretty high cost of living.
We also lost 17 faculty in 2018, and there are a lot of people that don't feel like their job security is very secure under the current contract we have. So there are quite a few folks who are worried that feel that their positions here are precarious, which of course, is, you know, not ideal because those sorts of worries kind of take away from the time you spend teaching when you're worried about looking for other jobs or, you know, making ends meet.
Now, the average salary for lecturers at UNH is actually higher than the national average for a four-year public institution. Meanwhile, the average salary for professors at UNH is actually well below the national average. And I'm wondering if you've gotten some push back from other employees at the school that are saying, you know, your union is pursuing this when there are other positions that are paid less compared to other universities.
We haven't had people pushing back on us regarding comparing compensation packages. But I will say that when we were creating our first contract, and this is only the second time that we've ratified a contract with the UNH or tried to, the first contract that we engaged in writing with the university was about getting those salaries to that living wage. And that was a very successful negotiation. The entire contract was written, negotiated and agreed upon in 14 months. So what we're working on now is actually very small changes to the contract. So it actually doesn't really make sense that we would be negotiating over two years to make very small changes in the contract.
But what are those demands?
When we say cost of living raises, we've looked at pieces that are, you know, 1 to 3 percent salary increases. If they're going to non renew us, we at least need enough time to look for another position. The 17 lecturers that were non renewed in 2018, they missed the entire academic job market because the educational hiring cycle is unique and takes place over an entire academic year. So what we're looking for with this contract is the ability to create some space so that if you're going to not renew a contract, that lecturer is going to have time to apply for other positions. This way, you don't have lecturers who are in a constant state of job searching just in case they're non renewed. Because right now, we are all operating with those 17 lecturers that were cut last year, just sort of in our minds.
But, you know, the university's contention that there has been a decline in student enrollment for a while now across the system, the university system. The university needs to cut costs. Does not affect your position in negotiation with with the university?
We definitely are aware of that, and some of the lecturers who, you know, are affected they did have classes that had less folks enrolled, but that was not true kind of across the board. So another piece is that, you know, we keep watching administrative salaries going up. Just this morning, we're getting reports that the board of trustees has approved another $288,000 in bonuses for upper level administrative faculty. And so we're aware that there is money out there. It just doesn't seem to be for teaching faculty.
So, sure, there's a lot of pieces that we understand are in play. There's enrollments. There's different demands. There's changing programs. But we believe that those can be negotiated in a respectful way that says we're all in this together. We understand that there's a shifting higher ed environment right now, but we're going to let you know in time for you to search for another position. We're going to handle a non renewal in a respectful way that still makes you feel valued. That's what we're looking for. We're not looking for the same kind of securities you would get with a tenure track line. We are asking for these smaller but important changes that just allow lecturers to concentrate on their jobs.