NTTF concerned over changing contracts, lack of communication

Serena Bettis

Editor’s Note: The Collegian updated this article at 4 p.m. June 2 to include information from the letter sent to non-tenure track faculty and a statement from Provost Rick Miranda. 

Despite years of protests and progress, non-tenure track faculty at Colorado State University continue to face job insecurity and confusing communication from the University and the Board of Governors. 

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The Committee on Non-Tenure Track Faculty and the American Association of University Professors at CSU organized an “open meeting” at The Oval June 1 to discuss the recent non-renewal of many NTTF contracts and address faculty confusion on the matter.

Colorado State University faculty gathered Monday afternoon at The Oval for an open meeting regarding changes in NTTF contracts and confusing communication from University administration June 1. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

“Contracts have been basically legal for teaching faculty in the state of Colorado since 2012, and it took many years to get it codified to be able to do this at Colorado State, by virtue of our faculty manual,” said Sue Doe, an English department professor and incoming chair of the Faculty Council. “And so that was put into place a couple of years ago, and so those contracts have now been offered in some cases.”

Doe explained that very specific criteria must be met to receive a contract. Doe said an instructor needs to have served for five years, and over the course of those years, they need exceptional evaluations as well. 

Many faculty at the meeting said that within the last few weeks, an unknown number of NTTF received letters informing them that their contracts will not be renewed, and they will instead move to a continuing, or at-will, appointment. 

With the Board of Governors choosing not to continue to renew those contracts, they are undermining our goal of … establishing some little bit of security for our non-tenure track faculty.” -Jenny Morse, Chair, Committee on Non-Tenure Track Faculty

“What it does is it provides flexibility for administration to make decisions around personnel in the context of the great fiscal difficulty,” Doe said. “We’re having to make reductions to salary and reductions to base units (and) budgets to have the opportunity to also work with faculty who are at-will. So that means basically they could be terminated for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason.” 

In the letter sent to some NTTF, which was forwarded in an email to The Collegian with personal details removed, the University explained that due to the “uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” and anticipated financial difficulties, the University will allow NTTF contracts to expire and automatically convert NTTF appointments to continuous appointments. 

“Please understand that this change is a precautionary measure, taken in response to the unprecedented budget restrictions facing the university,” the letter said. “It is not meant to signal to you, a much-valued faculty member, that your employment with CSU will necessarily end soon. Rather the university must maintain, for all employee groups, as much flexibility as possible as it navigates an extremely challenging financial reality.”

Jenny Morse, the CoNTTF chair, said CSU has 790 NTTF and knows that, thanks to institutional research, there are 140 NTTF on contracts. 

“In creating those contract appointments, we were establishing two to three years of longevity,” Morse said. “With the Board of Governors choosing not to continue to renew those contracts, they are undermining our goal of … establishing some little bit of security for our non-tenure track faculty.”

According to a 2019 Collegian article, NTTF teach about 48% of student credit hours. Jana Anderson, an NTTF statistics professor, said NTTF conduct the bulk of undergraduate teaching as well.

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Colorado State University faculty gathered Monday afternoon at The Oval for an open meeting regarding changes in NTTF contracts and confusing communication from University administration June 1. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

“This has been a strange sequence of events given that the last couple of years have been all about ‘let’s promote our NTTF and find ways to support,’” Anderson said. 

Sean Bryan, a geosciences senior instructor, said he was told his expiring contract would be renewed, but he has not seen it yet or received much communication about it. 

“It does sound like there might have been some missed or poor communication last year, and it’s possible the upper administration thinks people got notified when they didn’t actually get notified,” said Sue James, mechanical engineering professor and incoming vice chair of the Faculty Council. “If that happened and where that breakdown happened nobody knows for sure, but we need to talk about it, and if it’s really a misunderstanding and it was a mistake, the mistake needs to be corrected.”

Associate Professor of Spanish Antonio Pedrós-Gascón attended the meeting in solidarity with his NTTF colleagues. He said he wants the Board of Governors to know that CSU is an institution of academics. 

“We are not a corporation (and) … we are not a business, and thus our culture is very different from theirs,” Pedrós-Gascón said. “I think that they are absolutely oblivious to that situation, at least by the way in which they were holding part of the discussion in the last Board of Governors (meeting). I think it was very clear that there is a big misunderstanding on the part of several of them.”

Colorado State University faculty gathered Monday afternoon at The Oval for an open meeting regarding changes in NTTF contracts and confusing communication from University administration June 1. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

Doe said they want the Board of Governors to rethink the non-renewal of NTTF contracts.

“The Board of Governors has already stated this policy, but they’re meeting again at the end of this week, and we’d like them to revisit it because we think that there are grave implications to this, in part because it’s a violation of the way that the manual lays out the policy,” Doe said.

The CoNTTF released a letter on their website to the Faculty Council Executive Committee that outlines their concerns and the potential violation of the Faculty Manual caused by the adjustment of NTTF contracts. 

“Members of the Board of Governors, at their May public meeting, encouraged campus presidents to preserve maximum flexibility and hold off on contract renewals where possible until the university budget picture becomes more clear,” the CSU system wrote in an email to The Collegian. “As of the latest budget projections, the CSU system anticipates all non-tenure-track faculty will be renewed for the next year and we anticipate economic projections make future layoffs extremely unlikely.”

University Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda wrote in an email to The Collegian that the University acted under the advice of the Board of Governors to preserve flexibility. Once the budget is settled, Miranda wrote, the University can revisit the contracts. 

“In the meantime, it is important to note that the non-tenure track faculty for the first time were able to seek promotion this year and between 50 to 60 will be promoted and receive promotion salary increases,” Miranda wrote. “For the first time, non-tenure track faculty were eligible for professional development leave and almost all requests were granted. Finally, in a time of severe budget reduction in which we are seeking to avoid layoffs and furloughs, we included an increase in base salaries for non-tenure track faculty.”

For more background on NTTF at CSU, visit The Collegian’s search page, which will display past articles on NTTF protests and a five-part series that further explains NTTF’s position on campus.

Colorado State University faculty gathered Monday afternoon at The Oval for an open meeting regarding changes in NTTF contracts and confusing communication from University administration June 1. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.