Ohio University’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, held "Ask Day” on Monday, a collective event in which instructional faculty asked the university to extend five-year contracts to them.
To do that, faculty members sent requests to university chairs, directors and deans on Feb.14, though the resolution to do so was passed by OU’s Faculty Senate on Feb. 7. Kyle Butler, instructional faculty coordinator for OU-AAUP and an associate professor in the Ohio Program of Intensive English, said instructional faculty spend time teaching and curating relationships with students.
“We develop curriculum and programming, advise students, secure grant funding, and take on leadership roles in our units and the university at large,” Butler said in an email. “When students develop a relationship with a professor, the loss of that professor may mean the loss of that educational relationship. This is not something that can just be replaced by another professor.”
The resolution would amend the current Faculty Handbook if signed by Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs. Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said the Faculty Handbook outlines the processes deans follow regarding faculty contract terms.
According to the handbook, contracts for instructional faculty are nine-month renewable contracts for a “term of one-year for the initial five years of service.”
Despite the handbook’s language, the practice of offering those five-year contracts is “incredibly rare,” Butler said in a press release.
Additionally, instructional faculty are not eligible for tenure and the handbook includes the caveat that initial and subsequent contract lengths “can be negotiated based on qualifications, experience and the need of the faculty member and department or regional campus.”
“The availability of longer term contracts was added to the faculty handbook with overwhelming support,” Jim Casebolt, an associate professor of psychology on OU’s Eastern Campus, said in the release. “If there is no intention of actually following that policy then the adoption of that promise in the handbook was a lie.”
Offers of five-year contracts would help give instructional faculty more security and support to be able to better serve their students, Butler said.
“A five-year contract is a commitment to the longevity of instruction faculty,” Butler said in an email. “It acknowledges that we are not simply ‘contingent faculty’ that are employed when we are needed and let go when we are not.”
According to the release, five-year contracts would help to retain faculty despite OU’s budget constraints. Butler said the •response among faculty to OU-AAUP’s action has been positive and that ultimately, everyone wants a strong university that achieves its education mission.
“Having faculty submit their requests on the same day is what transforms this from a disparate set of individual actions to a single collective action,” Butler said in an email. “When we all raise our voices together at once, it makes it easier for the decision makers to hear us.”