Our Job Was to Fix It

An effort to improve the treatment of non-tenure-track faculty.
By Michael Bérubé

In summer 2015, the new chair of Pennsylvania State University’s faculty senate, Mohamad Ansari, appointed me chair of the senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee, on which I had served the previous two years. Among the charges he gave me were two that would dominate the upcoming academic year and—if my committee fulfilled them—would drastically change the way fixed-term, non-tenure-track faculty are treated at Penn State.

One charge involved taking votes away from fixed-term faculty, and was therefore politically dicey. Indeed, when I eventually introduced my committee’s recommendation on the floor of the senate, I opened by saying that I believe you should never take votes away from people without a very good reason. But in this case, we had one.

The situation was this. On some of Penn State’s campuses, fixed-term faculty were permitted to vote for the members of promotion and tenure committees; on other campuses, they were not. No one knew how this state of affairs came to be, but it clearly didn’t make any sense. My committee was therefore asked to standardize fixed-term voting rights across the campuses.

So why didn’t we simply grant votes to the fixed-term faculty who did not have them? Because of the other charge—to create a system for the review and promotion of fixed-term faculty on all campuses. Incredibly, even though Penn State calls itself “one university geographically dispersed” (that is, it does not consist of a flagship and “branch” or “satellite” campuses), there was no such system. On some campuses, only a unit head conducted reviews. On the fifteen relatively small “Commonwealth Campuses” that make up “University College,” fixed-term faculty had to wait at least eight years for promotion; at University Park and at the five “stand-alone” Commonwealth Campuses (Abingdon, Altoona, Behrend, Berks, Harrisburg), they could go up for promotion after five years. Some departments and divisions had fixed-term review committees (almost fifteen years earlier, I had created one in the English department at University Park); most did not.

In other words, it was an incoherent mess. Our job was to fix it.

Review and Promotion

Over the next few months, my committee decided (a) to bar fixed-term faculty from voting for the composition of promotion and tenure committees, on the grounds that fixed-term faculty themselves could never serve on such committees and would never be administered by them, and (b) to create Fixed-Term Review Committees—one for University College, one for each of the stand-alone campuses, and one for each college at University Park—that would consist entirely of fixed-term faculty, elected by fixed-term faculty.

We believed—and I, personally, strongly believed—that this was a significant net gain for fixed-term faculty. Some fixed-term faculty would lose the right to vote for promotion and tenure committees, but that loss, I thought, would be more than offset by the right to vote for, and serve on, committees that would create a markedly more just and less arbitrary procedure for the promotion of fixed-term faculty. Additionally, we created a third tier of promotion beyond that of “senior lecturer,” mirroring the three-rank structure of the tenure-line faculty.

Spoiler alert: the story ends well. We created those committees—accomplishing the single most important change for the better for fixed-term faculty working conditions in Penn State’s history. In September 2016, the president and the provost approved them, and elections began the following spring. In the course of 2016–17, the Faculty Affairs Committee proposed, and the faculty senate passed (again meeting with the approval of the president and the provost), a standardization and revision of the titles for all three fixed-term ranks. This change not only involved cleaning up the Augean stables of contingent faculty nomenclature; it also granted many fixed-term faculty professorial titles (for example, “associate teaching professor”) for the first time.

But on the way to our happy ending, there was much friction and debate—and at the time I write this, one important piece of work has yet to be done.

Regrettably, though understandably, some fixed-term faculty members objected to losing the right to vote for the members of promotion and tenure committees. One senator emotionally testified that to her mind, that voting right was an index of trust, a sign that her tenure-line colleagues valued her input. It was not easy to look her in the eyes and say, “That may very well be, but they’re still not going to let you serve on those committees.” Likewise, to the senator who objected that his campus treats all faculty as “one faculty,” I had to reply that I am very familiar with, and supportive of, the idea of “one faculty.” But that does not change the fact that the fixed-term faculty on his campus did not have tenure and did not have a means of earning it.

The most remarkable objection to my committee’s plan was that it created a “separate but equal” system for fixed-term faculty—as if fixed-term faculty would have all the rights of tenured faculty, starting with continued employment with termination only for cause, with the employer bearing the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence, if only my committee and I hadn’t come along to Jim Crow them out of those rights. I refrained from pointing out how profoundly obscene this objection might sound to the actual people who lived under the reign of Jim Crow.

Multiyear Contracts

The more substantive impasse with fixed-term faculty involved multiyear contracts, and that remains our piece of unfinished business. From the outset, I had regarded these initiatives for fixed-term faculty as a tripod: one leg involved the creation of review committees elected by and composed of fixed-term faculty; the second involved the creation of a third tier of promotion and standardizing titles across the tiers; the third involved the provision of multiyear contracts.

Inevitably, administrators—at Penn State and everywhere—will insist that they need the “flexibility” afforded them by one-year contracts, in case of precipitous drops in enrollment or job performance. But there is no meaningful sense, at Penn State (or at many other places), in which administrators need as much flexibility as they claim. On the contrary, many fixed-term faculty members at Penn State (and at many other places) have worked for a decade or two on one-year contracts, on campuses where enrollment has held steady or grown all that time.

All through 2015–16, the Faculty Affairs Committee and the Intra-University Relations Committee (which chiefly represents the interests of the faculty on the Commonwealth Campuses) were at loggerheads on this issue, even though no one was opposed to the provision of more multiyear contracts. The reason is that Faculty Affairs saw the creation of Fixed-Term Review Committees as the ideal vehicle for awarding multiyear contracts; such contracts, we believed, could be bundled with promotion and the raise attendant on promotion. Intra-University Relations, by contrast, did not want multiyear contracts pegged to the promotion process. And it took me the full year, a couple of joint committee meetings, and hundreds (if not thousands) of e-mails to understand why.

As their committee saw it, multiyear contracts should simply kick in after a certain number of years. One version of the proposal mandated three-year contracts after five years and five-year contracts after ten years. To their way of thinking, then, the Faculty Affairs Committee had mucked up a strict seniority system by introducing a review and promotion process; their argument was that (a) for fixed-term faculty, multiyear contracts were more important than promotions, and (b) the promotion process would never be approved by the administration anyway. I summarized (b) in our final joint meeting like so: “You think the promotion-and-review process we created is bullshit.” They heartily agreed.

Members of the Faculty Affairs Committee, for their part, understood (a) but were baffled by (b). Intra-University Relations Committee leaders explained that although the senate had expressly stipulated that fixed-term promotions would be awarded exclusively on merit (not based on financial considerations), the money for the promotions would come from the individual campuses rather than the central administration in Old Main, which funds promotions for all tenure-line faculty. Moreover, many of the members of the Intra-University Relations Committee had worked for years under capricious and arbitrary conditions and had no faith that those conditions would ever change.

And that was where we were stuck. Faculty Affairs wanted, and successfully passed, a promotion system overseen by fixed-term faculty, a system we believed could also provide for the creation of multiyear contracts; Intra-University Relations wanted, and did not get, a system for multiyear contracts that relied solely on seniority. And they either did not believe that their system would give administrators an incentive to fire fixed-term faculty before they became eligible for multiyear contracts or were willing to take that risk.

Clearly, the Intra-University Relations Committee was wrong to believe that the administration would not agree to the creation of fixed-term review committees. But once those committees were approved, administrators argued that they did not see why they would grant multiyear contracts to fixed-term faculty members unwilling to go through the review process they had just endorsed.

As of 2018–19, I will become chair of the faculty senate; this year I serve as chair-elect. I will continue to argue that the senate needs to establish all three legs of the tripod if we are to effect the kind of improvement in fixed-term working conditions we had originally envisioned. But I have learned, in this process, that tenured faculty ostensibly working as allies of fixed-term faculty can readily be perceived by fixed-term faculty as working at cross purposes to their real interests.     

Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Photo by DutchScenery/iStock


Professor Berube, I profoundly respect your efforts to address the "mess" at your institution. However, it is still based on maintaining a 2-tier faculty system which is the root cause of the dysfunction in higher ed. In some cases, contingent faculty are stronger instructors, researchers, and contributors to our social fabric than tenure-line faculty. The "mess" is that the 2-tier system is supposedly based on merit, which is both highly subjective and clearly untrue. The way out (it seems to me) is to work towards one faculty, all hired into tenure-lines, but hired for different things. Some are hired full-time, and that includes teaching, advising students, contributing to governance, recruiting, and other service for the university. Others are hired part-time and that includes teaching and contributing to governance. All are equally respected, all are treated with due process. Let's cut to the chase here, and dump the 2-tier system.

Many thanks for this comment, Professor Harty. Two years ago, Jennifer Ruth and I published a book-- The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments-- that outlined (among other things) a plan for the conversion of NTT faculty to a tenure track. Weirdly, some people totally misread our proposal and claimed that we were (a) barring NTT faculty from doing research (we were simply arguing for a tenure track that did not require research) and (b) creating a two-tier system. But if you look at the Appendix to that book-- which is based on a proposal Jennifer actually made at her institution, Portland State University-- I think you'll find that you and we are on the same page. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my administration at Penn State to buy into that proposal. So I have been working for what I (and my NTT colleagues) consider the next best thing.

Michael Berube makes me cringe. Why not remove your own voting privileges? The god's eye view he pretends to have is always patronizing and self-serving. He publishes these celebratory treatises as if he's done us all a favor. Jane Harty is exactly right. The problem is the form of thinking he advocates. Some deserve rights and privileges, while others don't. He'll argue eloquently to conserve the power people like him have, as we see here, instead of listening to others. It's a sorry thing.

The book he published does indeed turn research into a hobby for people who aren't like him. Why do they deserve that? What makes you and your ilk capable of a teaching and research balance? Why do others not deserve it? Why limit research as a part of the vocation for anyone other than yourself and those in your labor conditions? I could get onboard with that, arguing that your labor status should be more like NTT. As a symbol of that collegiality and interest, take some of those releases you have and give them to others. Take some of those funds you use to go to MLA and give them to the NTT down the hall. They deserve it just as much as you do. Any new labor plan should move toward that end, making all faculty EQUAL, not the other way.

With people like him battling for even more hierarchy and no voting rights, who needs enemies?

Actually, Abbey, the proposal my committee devised was the result of wide consultation with my FT faculty colleagues (not all of whom agree about such matters). And if you think it resulted in "no voting rights" and "even more hierarchy," you missed the point, in my humble opinion. FT faculty now have voting rights they never had before-- not because of my efforts alone, but because they worked so hard (I am thinking of my friend Mary Miles in particular, but Paul Kellerman and Kevin Hagopian were also key) to come up with a plan that would pass muster.

Professor Berube's recount of the arduous process for promotion, titles, and multi-year contracts for the Fixed-Term Faculty is accurate. I want to recognize and extend my appreciation for the level of work that has gone into the successes that have been achieved thus far.

However, as the Fixed-Term Faculty who did lose her right to vote, I would like to add clarification to the article. At our campus, the fixed-term faculty, in addition to tenure and tenure-line faculty, had the right to vote for the tenured faculty members we thought best to serve on the P&T committee. Since the outcome of tenure decisions are not made in isolation and do impact the campus plus its resources, the importance of my right to vote was participation in shared governance, not that I wanted to serve on the P&T committee. Furthermore, as a senator representing my campus, I retained my right to vote for P&T promotion committee membership at the Senate level as a Fixed-term faculty member, why should it be different at the local campus? I would like to see tenured and tenured-line faculty vote for membership of Fixed-term Promotion Committees as well.

Prof. Berube, Michael, I appreciate your comments, and can see that you and Jennifer Ruth have been trying to do handstands, far more than most, to work towards better treatment for contingent faculty. But we keep running into the same giant roadblocks from our higher ed administrators and some tenure-line faculty who are protecting their turf. Prof. Collins, Abbey, I think we have to model respect for those who don't have it for us. That, and continuing to say, over and over, may we (as NTT) be part of governance please? Would you treat us fairly please? It is in the best interest of our institution(s) that we be humane to our colleagues and not put each other down. NTT faculty are holding the whole creaky structure up, and that needs to be recognized. Since I am here, Michael, is it possible to make this thread on your excellent (if frustrating) article more public? I had a hard time finding it after the initial read, and this is a very important discussion.

”Regrettably… some fixed-term faculty members objected to losing the right to vote”

How could this be regrettable?

“if only my committee and I hadn’t come along to Jim Crow them out of those rights. I refrained from pointing out how profoundly obscene this objection might sound to the actual people who lived under the reign of Jim Crow.”

Why? White men dominate the tenured ranks while people of color are far more likely to be NTT. Your plan only revises that with different language and context. Your change benefits the white men who dominate the tenured ranks, and creates a “separate” status for NTT, far more of whom are people of color. Your plan has the same underlying philosophy as Jim Crow laws and the outcomes, giving people different rights, have the same intention.

“tenured faculty ostensibly working as allies of fixed-term faculty”

I believe this man is sincere. He believes he is an ally and that his view is the only appropriate one. He believes he merits the power he has and the appointments he receives. He believes what he is doing is appropriate and maybe even the best for all involved. What’s regrettable is that people like him are in positions to make decisions over the voices and interests of others.

If he had gone through city or poor rural high schools, community college, and a poor state university, followed by years of NTT work, never making it to the tenured ranks, he would be the same person with same intellect. But his understanding of what is it to be NTT would be different. His view of hierarchy in the academy would be different. That’s why I not against him per se, but against the people in privileged circumstances who misunderstand that 1) you’re not the person to speak for NTT for and should, above all else, listen and only take action that reduces inequality 2) tenured “support” like this is damaging to NTT, 3) a NTT instructor in his position of power would see things differently and come to different conclusions, 4) the NTT/Tenured and Endowed Professor binary is a false one. The lowly instructor isn’t any different than you and does not deserve a different treatment or a separate set of rights. 5) The Jim Crow academy he advocates is wrong for the same reasons Jim Crow society was wrong: as stated above, NTT and Tenured/Endowed Professor binary is a false one, just like the Black/White people binary is a false one. There’s no reason to protect falsehoods, or make more of them, like another tier of this system. They should be dismantled. While Michael Berube is intelligent and accomplished, his understanding of labor is too clouded by his own situation. He is confused about what is happening, about how people could possibly question his knowledge. But he's also unaware that his confusion is caused by his own ignorance. He is just too convinced that he is right to listen.

Rose, you write: "as a senator representing my campus, I retained my right to vote for P&T promotion committee membership at the Senate level as a Fixed-term faculty member, why should it be different at the local campus? I would like to see tenured and tenured-line faculty vote for membership of Fixed-term Promotion Committees as well."

I have two responses to this. One, your right to vote as a member of the Senate follows from your election to the Senate. Every member of the Senate is equal as a matter of Senate policy, and I value all the feedback I've gotten from my FT colleagues, many of whom have much more knowledge and expertise in Senate matters than I do. But it just didn't make any sense, as a matter of justice and equality, that some FT faculty had the right to vote for P/T committees and some didn't, depending on which campus they were employed by. I was hoping that by helping to create a system in which all FT faculty could vote for FT Promotion/Review Committees, I was making the system more egalitarian, not less. But I am sorry that the process involved taking a vote away from you and from other FT faculty who could vote for those committees.

But allowing TT faculty to vote for the FT committees, I think, is a mistake. It opens the door to all kinds of power imbalances and potential intimidation. Right now, in the first year of implementation, some colleges and campuses are creating committees of TT faculty to review FT promotions to the newly-created third rank, and many FT faculty are not happy with this. I am hoping it is just a temporary, one-year measure. Because the goal of this legislation was that FT faculty would have more autonomy over their working conditions.

Thanks so much for responding. You have been an awesome fellow Senator, and I am hopeful that we can get those multi-year contracts in place, with your help.

Dylan, you write: "the NTT/Tenured and Endowed Professor binary is a false one. The lowly instructor isn’t any different than you and does not deserve a different treatment or a separate set of rights." I couldn't agree more. And as I indicated in my replies to Abbey and Rose (above), the plan we came up with at Penn State was devised after much consultation with FT faculty. This is something some of them had been working on for many years, and I was simply trying to use my position of institutional privilege to help realize it.

As for your opening question:

”Regrettably… some fixed-term faculty members objected to losing the right to vote”

How could this be regrettable?

You did drop the "though understandably" part of my sentence, which isn't quite fair. But I can speak to the "regrettably" part: I regretted that some of the FT faculty, like Rose, took this personally. I believed that we were proposing a system that gave FT faculty more power over their working conditions than the right to vote for P/T committees, but I understand why some of them don't feel that way, and I hope this new system works much more strongly to their benefit. But then, the whole article is about how FT faculty and TT faculty like me might see these things differently.

As an AAUP officer and chair of Committee A I want to inject two points into this conversation.

First, it has long been the AAUP's position, held as well by Michael and his interlocutors, that we should "dump the two-tier system." For decades now AAUP policies have sought to move us in this direction, but, alas, we have been less successful than we would like. But we will persist, striving to unite, as we must, those on the tenure-track and those on contingent contracts.

Second, I just want to add that I can think of no one who has done more to advance this agenda than Michael Berube. The book that he wrote with Jennifer Ruth provides, I believe, a laudable general goal as well as a cogent analysis of the problem. But Michael has also -- as this article demonstrates -- been willing to get into the implementation weeds, build the difficult but essential alliances, and make the necessary compromises, that may not get us to where we would ideally like to be but help us make progress. He should be applauded.

Thanks so much, Hank. But honestly, I was simply following the lead of our fixed-term faculty, and it's not false modesty for me to say so. (I can't do false modesty! When I try, it sounds so ... false.) And of course if Faculty Senate Chairs Mohamed Ansari and Jim Strauss hadn't appointed me chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee in 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively, I wouldn't have been in a position to try to implement any of this. And now that Faculty Affairs is chaired by Nicholas Rowland (Penn State-Altoona) and Rosemary Petrilla (Penn State-Hazleton-- see her comment above), I think we are in a very good place to try to implement multi-year contracts.

It’s hard to say if it’s ignorance or arrogance that causes Michael Berube to act like this. He promotes and defends a Jim Crow academy and then has the conceit to say we “agree” - we don’t agree. People who agree with me do not take away peoples’ voting rights, promote unequal tenure tracks, or endorse two classes of professors with different entitlements (oh, and just coincidentally, you are in the one on top--how nice for you!). While I consent that your interpretation of devious villain in the labor melodrama is artfully demeaning to others, it’s quite an understatement to say that we do not agree.

Henry Reichman’s defense of Michael Berube reminds me of George W Bush and his FEMA cronies slapping each other on the back after Hurricane Katrina.

As I said above, I am sure that people like Reichman and Berube believe they are right. That in itself is the problem. A circumstance in which wealthy people educated at elite universities, who have never experienced anything other than privilege (just like George W & his FEMA cronies), and of course have never been anywhere near the NTT, are in positions to make decisions about things they do not understand has always been the problem. (Their conceit and patronizing comments to others is just an annoyance.)

Dylan, I am sure you understand that I did not create the rank of "fixed-term" faculty at Penn State. But your comment suggests otherwise. I am merely trying to improve the working conditions of fixed-term faculty at Penn State, and I am doing so in concert with my fixed-term colleagues, many of whom serve with me in the Senate. As for "unequal tenure tracks," I am sorry you oppose a plan to convert contingent faculty to tenure-line positions. You share that position with Penn State administrators, as it happens. But I see that you are one of those people who get angry when I say I agree with you about something, so let's completely disagree about these matters. Best wishes to you.

P.S. I keep forgetting to say this: in the course of establishing these fixed-term review committees, we made sure that tenure-line faculty could not vote for them or serve on them. Some deans were vocally opposed to giving the fixed-term faculty so much autonomy, and in fact some college were allowing tenure-line faculty to determine the fate of fixed-term faculty. We took those votes away from tenure-line faculty.

And I don't believe the Jim Crow system allowed African-Americans to elect their own representatives. Just for the record.

Michael Berube, I do oppose your plans. Just two clarifications:

“You oppose a plan [to fundamentally transform tenured professorship into a divided, hierarchical class system in which some (mainly faculty from entitled, already-advantaged ethnic and institutional backgrounds—by coincidence, people just like Michael Berube!) receive continual support to engage a research and teaching balance, while the new lower class (with many more faculty from underprivileged backgrounds than the upper-class) would likely receive lower pay while the intellectual work of investigation, *not* supported by institutions under the plan, is relegated to hobby-status; the first step is to] convert contingent faculty to [these lower, unequal] tenure-line positions [that lack support for the academic activity that brought many to the profession in the first place; one must admit, this is a convenient idea for the privileged, rich white guys up top who already run the place; they are ‘merely trying to improve the working conditions of fixed-term faculty’ and don’t seem to realize just how self-serving and patronizing their actions are].”

This is exactly right: I am “one of those people who get angry” when someone who supports a Jim Crow academy, writes triumphant commentaries about taking voting rights away from NTT, and wants to divide tenured-professorship into unequal classes, says that they agree with me.

Michael Berube, you do a superb impression of Colonel Jessup on the stand in A Few Good Men. Wrong as can be and smug as hell about it. I doubt you would have such a superior attitude about any of this if you were off the tenure track.

Dylan, I'm sorry, but you just couldn't be more wrong about the plan Jennifer Ruth and I propose. Please read the book. We are not suggesting that some tenured faculty be demoted to non-research ranks. We are proposing that *contingent faculty*-- people who currently have no hope whatsoever of tenure-- be converted to the ranks of the tenured, where they will enjoy all the due process guarantees of tenure. We know that the conditions under which contingent faculty work usually do not permit them to do research-- they receive no institutional or financial support for it-- so we want to stipulate that, in the conversion to tenure, they not be penalized for that. This is a plan to tenure contingent faculty.

I won't return your ridiculous insults and your unwarranted hostility, which I have encountered in many threads and (it appears) from many nyms. I only ask that you take the time and trouble to familiarize yourself with what Jennifer Ruth and I have actually written. And I sincerely hope your inappropriate analogies to Jim Crow do not lead your colleagues of color to conclude that you are a racist.

“I sincerely hope your inappropriate analogies to Jim Crow do not lead your colleagues of color to conclude that you are a racist.”

Let me add this to my “list of things white male academics have said to me.” My parents moved to the US when I was 3. They didn’t live in Jim Crow, but I know too well what it is to be a person of color in the south. I change the way I speak, dress, what I eat, the way I eat it, the way I walk, the way I arrange my hair, all to make people like Michael Berube comfortable every single day where I work. I know he has the privilege of not doing any of those things.

“I won't return your ridiculous insults and your unwarranted hostility”. I don’t know what I wrote that could be understood as ridiculous or insulting. I don’t think it is insulting to say a smug person is smug or that a person with a superior attitude has a superior attitude. It’s hard for me to imagine that you would communicate like this or even begin to entertain a Jim Crow academy if you were off the tenure track. So I don’t know why any of those things could be understood as ridiculous or insulting. What you said to me was deliberately wrong and deliberately insulting.

I don’t like any form of Michael Berube’s new model of scaled professorship, but for the sake of argument, instead of a strictly Jim Crow model, why not rotate schedules? Especially in the humanities, pedagogical and research projects rarely take more than three years. Instead of dividing people with the same preparation into two separate and unequal groups, each hire would rotate positions every three or five years. All retain tenure. There’s no reason to argue that one group is exceptional or that they deserve the entitlements they have now and that Berube wants to maintain for them in a Jim Crow system.

Dylan Jackson, I'm going to operate under the assumption that you are a person of genuine goodwill. But like many contingent and adjunct faculty, you've found yourself in a struggle against a system that treats you as a disposable accessory. I understand; I've been there. For the past twenty years, I've worked as contingent faculty -- teaching too many classes for too little pay, always feeling as if the institution places limits on my academic freedom. But I would never trivialize the plight of people of color living in the segregated south by comparing my situation to theirs. Working as contingent faculty is nothing like living under Jim Crow. I'll admit I'm fortunate; I work with colleagues who respect the work I do even when the institution might not award me accordingly. And I'm fortunate to have tenured colleagues who are willing to use their clout to support NTT faculty. I have fought for NTT faculty rights for the past twenty years -- and I expect to continue doing so indefinitely. But I consider the tenured faculty at my university to be my colleagues and my friends. Their support has given us a greater say in governance. And while we still have a long way to go, I cannot sit back and allow you to attack my colleague and friend Michael Bérubé. There are plenty of other fights he could be fighting; he has chosen to be an advocate for NTT faculty. I only wish that you had colleagues with as much integrity as he.

Michael Berube is arguing on behalf of institutionalized inequality. The two cases of Jim Crow logic have many similarities.

One case is the state (Jim Crow in government) and the other is the university (Jim Crow in the academy). In the state version, one group is "more equal" than the other and receives benefits; in the university version, one group is "more equal" than the other and receives benefits.

In both cases, the people are equal but they are treated differently by their institution.

The inequality in Jim Crow government was based on racism. Berube’s model of inequality may have some other underlying reason for maintaining that some are “more equal” and should thus receive benefits withheld from the others. Whatever the case, it's clear that Berube’s vision of a Jim Crow academy favors people just like him.

Hi Everyone, especially Dylan since I’ll address your points. I’ve been working on efforts to reform FT faculty titles and contracts for years, ever since I realized I might choose to continue to be one! I now consider both Michael and his wife friends and Michael has been an exceptional ally in helping me achieve goals I set for myself before he’d even come to Penn State. More than almost any other tenured faculty here, Michael listens to me and treats my ideas with human respect rather than hierarchical analysis. Many of these ideas are actually mine and, far from hoarding attention, Michael has been sure to graciously share the acclaim that accompanied our plans so now I want to share in their defense. Long before we knew each other, Michael was listening to me simply because I was FT faculty. He considered fighting to open tenure to current FT faculty and essentially “start over” with everyone together. I pointed out what would be lost there: FT jobs, for example, are the last in academia to prioritize anything other than cut-throat publishing competition. Building your life in a location you value matters, moving periodically without giving up some seven year holy grail tenure matters. Not needing to contort every idea to be on trend until you “win” tenure. That matters. Michael listened and we talked and a bunch of us started thinking about new and gradual change. Many decisions grow from efforts to protect the most vulnerable FT faculty: older, without terminal degrees, part time. The current promotion committees comprised entirely of FTs for FT promotions (and TL committees for their promotions) are a temporary compromise. I’m not sure that Michael sees it the exact same way, but it doesn’t matter because he will always listen and respect my ideas, I trust that in ways I trust little else in this strange, dystopian, hierarchical, machievallian place we’re trying to make a community. Agree or not, Michael will discuss issues to concensus. What would happen if you put everyone together on one track and pitted FT and TL faculty against each other for tenure? Disaster. What would happen if TL faculty and FTs joined each other on FT promotion committees? TL faculty with far more administrative expertise and larger egos might dominate, giving FTs no voice at all. I’m very much in favor of bringing FTs and TLs together on committees with increasing frequency over the years because that’s the way they will learn from each other. Most importantly, that’s how FTs will learn to “play bureaucracy”. But not now. It’s all in progress and certainly none of this is intended to take a problematic two tier system and make it worse. Michael is such a collegial person with whom to work that even though he chaired Faculty Affairs, I wrote the actual title chart we’re using. Every decision he trusted me to make was motivated by the desire to diminish boundaries among faculty. We assigned titles with less extreme differences, hoped to extend contracts and made other choices geared towards compromise and moderation rather than confrontation and distinction. A truly helpful reform will take a very long time. But those faculty, like Michael, interested in helping are nothing if not in opposition to the fallacious notion that we are solidifying some sort of Jim Crow (like Paul, I think that belittles the tragic nature of southern Jim Crow laws as opposed to current unfair labor conditions among people who pursued education for many years to know exactly what they were getting into). Do you want every job to be a nationwide search with seven year up or out tenure, pulling families apart and fueling already destructive competition? I don’t. Another complicated issue to address will be the seperation of teaching and research as if they are stations on an assembly line. I’m all for “teaching focused” faculty. But faculty who do no research ever are not really functioning scholars at universities. Right now, I’m a “teaching professor” but I don’t see that as the optimal end of reform. The great thing about Michael that you are missing is that HE CARES that I said that. I’m certainly a big believer in my own self-importance, but I think Michael has worked hard and brings an enormous amount of expertise, axoerience, and influence to this project. I could protest and whine and try to change things by myself, but things have been working a lot better since Michael started working WITH me. If any further evidence is needed, once we took this one step with titles — again, I expect more to come — Michael was beyond gracious in sharing credit and discussion time, whether in our mutual department or The Chronicle. If anything, I’m inclined to remind others how much he’s done because, unlike too many other academics, he’s in it to work together, not to hoard accolades. I’ve been bullied and I get upset (that’s an understatement...I totally freak out). That I confidently trust Michael as a colleague (not a supervisor from whom I have something to gain by buttering him up) is a real testament to his ability to be real and authentic in a broken, dehumanizing system. In every interaction with Michael, I feel valued, heard, and respected and that puts him in an elite group among my colleagues of all ranks (and I adore my job, so am fond of a lot of my colleagues, but still see too much bitterness). So, even there, he stands out in a positive way and I’m legitimately befuddled as to why he would become a chosen “target” when there are a-holes aplenty out there from which to choose. Mary :-)

In my impulsive desire to defend my friend and legitimately righteous colleague, I glanced over comments where he already explained that these steps may be towards a tenure for all structure. I may not even agree with every step and every aspect of the endpoint, but, again, that’s not what matters. What matters is that Michael is seriously discussing these ideas with the very people who will both work with him to make change and live those changes. I feel fully confident that my ideas will be respected and I plan to respect others’. I may well change my own views — sort of the point of conversation. So I don’t think anyone, least of all Michael, is imagining a separate but not equal system and, unlike any of us, he published a book about it! I’m actually grateful for this dialogue. Like Paul, I leave feeling so fortunate to be supported and surrounded by colleagues who are friends. I complain a lot. But wonderful aspects still shine through in our work.

As the only one of us who wrote an entire book on the topic, Michael has probably given more thought to the notion of tenure for all than any of us. I am an FT faculty member and I’m more cautious about that plan than he is. But I’m excited because I know it’s something that, so long as Michael remains one of the hardest working, most highly involved advocates, we will all be sharing and discussing ideas every step of the way. That type of trust is what makes these projects progress rather than battles or impositions. We’re lucky to have the group we have, especially Michael.

I wish that Michael Berube would be behind the scenes in this. I find his entire manner to be too patronizing and superior, and I think this affects how I read his work. (I can’t analyze very well while physically squirming in my seat. I recognize this as my own shortcoming.) But Jane Harty and Rose Petrilla are correct. Any labor plan should come closer to making all faculty EQUAL. This is not the position Michael Berube represents.

It doesn't help that Michael Berube’s attitude toward people who disagree with him oscillates between a passionate insensitivity and a kind of elephantine cattiness. I would be insecure, too, if my jobs plan were so closely paralleled in aims and effect to Jim Crow laws. Claiming Dylan Jackson may be considered racist for pointing out that your “separate but equal” echoes Jim Crow laws is how racism works nowadays. Take a critique and manipulate it so you can label someone else a racist. This is how sitting for the national anthem has become a crime.

Instead of dedicating so much to petty quarrels, the task and challenge is think more about why many people, especially NTT faculty, aren’t interested in a “Separate but equal” academy. For one, the divisions do too much to please administrators and neoliberals. But the Jim Crow approach is malpractice in many other ways. The PhD is a research rather than a teaching degree, the separate parts will not be equal, the people at the top would not be exceptional but they would receive institutional support for what they spent 5-10+ years of their lives preparing to do (both research and teaching). The questions I asked before remain. What makes you and your ilk capable of a teaching and research balance? Why do others not deserve it? Why limit research as a part of the vocation for anyone other than yourself and those in your labor conditions? Aside the neoliberal flavor, and the preferential angle for those who would end up in (or are already in) the research cohort, this is not a valid way forward.

Abbey, Paul Kellerman and Mary Miles are non-tenure-track faculty at Penn State. They are two of the many NTT faculty I have worked with on these issues, and they are talented and valuable colleagues. I can't imagine why anyone would ignore their voices in this discussion.

Michael Berube, I too am non-tenure-track faculty. I can't imagine why anyone would continually ignore my questions in this discussion. Now that you have, I think I prefer silence.

I am just catching up to this, and I don’t get it. Penn State created a procedure in which faculty off the tenure track can elect review and promotion committees consisting exclusively of faculty off the tenure track? And created a third tier of promotion beyond that of “senior lecturer” for faculty off the tenure track? With raises for promotions? And someone thinks this is analogous to Jim Crow? That’s literally insane.

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