Letter to Duke Non-Tenure Track Faculty

Letter to Duke Non-Tenure Track Faculty

Dear Colleague:

As members of Duke Teaching First, we are writing to invite you, a fellow non-tenure track faculty member, to help us make improvements on campus. As an organization comprised of non-tenure track faculty, our objective is to improve our working conditions while ensuring higher quality education. We are proud to be working to achieve this vision alongside our allies: students, alumni, staff, and tenured faculty.

Non-tenure track faculty members now comprise nearly half of the teaching staff at Duke. Last year, we spoke with our colleagues across the university and held a public forum on faculty concerns. We identified several areas to be addressed, namely: inconsistent pay for dedicated, highly qualified, and inspired teachers; inconsistent health, vacation, and retirement benefits; lack of transparency; exclusion from shared governance; and uncertain job security.

In our efforts to improve our working conditions, we have taken the initial steps toward forming a union for non-tenure track faculty at Duke. Across the country, professors and lecturers are coming together under the banner of SEIU Faculty Forward—including at Tufts, Boston University, Georgetown, and George Washington. By joining our colleagues in Faculty Forward, we will position ourselves not only to make gains on our campus, but also to unite with faculty from coast to coast as part of a larger movement to address the issues facing higher education in the United States today.

Improving our working conditions will benefit our students, tenured faculty and the administration:

1. Students have a right to teachers who can be fully engaged in providing them the best possible education without spending time and energy entering the job market every year and without being consumed by the preoccupation of making ends meet;

2. Tenured faculty rely on the ability of non-tenure track faculty to guarantee the continuity and effectiveness of undergraduate instruction in their programs; and

3. The entire university will benefit when non-tenure track faculty, who bear a large part of the teaching load, help build a community of engaged and productive professionals fully invested in and accountable for their work.

Together, we can bring about positive change that will uphold Duke’s tradition of instruction and research while being recognized as a leader in higher education, an esteemed medical center, a key part of the region’s economy, and a great place to teach, research, and learn.

By uniting our efforts, we can accomplish these changes. To this end, we want to make sure that you have the information you need to get involved or to answer any questions about how forming a union would raise standards for our jobs, our students, and our profession. We have invited Faculty Forward organizers to help us form our union, and we will be in touch with you outside of class or in your office to hear your ideas and collect feedback on changes you’d like to see at Duke. You should also feel free to contact us directly at any time.

The first step to making improvements at Duke is to sign a union authorization form. Faculty are signing these confidential forms to demonstrate a commitment to making improvements at Duke for ourselves, our students and our families. We hope you’ll join us.


Rann Bar-On, Lecturer, Mathematics
Diane Bryson, Lecturer, English for International Studies
Germain Choffart, Lecturing Fellow, Romance Languages
Josh Gibson, Associate Professor of the Practice Art, Art History and Visual Studies
Matteo Gilebbi, Lecturing Fellow, Romance Studies
Jim Haverkamp, Adjunct Instructor, Arts of the Moving Image
Jane Hawkins, Professor of the Practice, Music
Nancy Kalow, Instructor, Center for Documentary Studies
Genna R. Miller, Instructor, Economics
Jaybird O’Berski, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Theater Studies
Peter C. Pihos, Lecturing Fellow, Thompson Writing Program
Fred Raimi, Professor of the Practice, Music
Andrea Scapolo, Lecturing Fellow, Romance Studies
MJ Sharp, Instructor, Center for Documentary Studies
Elizabeth Tremmel, Lecturer, English for International Students

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