Editorial: Part-timers need union

NW Staff

In 2007’s fall semester, nearly 40 percent of NMU faculty members were not full-time employees. This means that 214 of NMU’s 536 faculty members didn’t receive full health benefits or job security and most didn’t have much of a voice at the university. Instead, they were consistently guessing whether or not they’d have a job next semester.

While full-time faculty members are given more job security, health benefits, high levels of departmental input and a larger paycheck, their part-time peers-who teach many of the same courses-are overlooked.

But that may be about to change. Part-time faculty at NMU are banding together and forming the Coalition for Contingent Faculty (CCF), a group dedicated to bettering the status and benefits of part-time faculty members.

The North Wind supports the CCF’s cause. The troubles the contingent faculty face affect not only those teachers, but also the NMU students who will suffer when their educators are overworked and concerned about their futures.

Be it full coverage or not, all faculty members at NMU should receive medical benefits, despite their status. A number of these individuals have years of experience, master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s. The least the university can do is to give these individuals health care.

Part-time faculty is hired on a semester-to-semester basis, depending on the department. This means that someone who teaches two courses in the fall could be jobless come winter. Often, part-time faculty doesn’t know if they’ll be teaching at Northern until weeks or even days before the semester begins. The administration needs to give these crucial faculty members sufficient notice regarding their professional futures at Northern. The advanced warning will give the teacher time to prepare for an upcoming course and will provide students with a more beneficial educational experience.

NMU, like most Michigan universities, has been hit hard by recent budget constraints, which is demonstrated by ever-rising tuition costs. Northern is not alone in these struggles though, as schools across the nation are facing widespread funding cuts. And while part-time faculty can’t be expected to be on the same pay scale as other faculty, the fact remains that the university is employing over 200 well-trained educators who are not receiving fair treatment.

If Northern Michigan hopes to provide a top-tier educational experience, it must first recruit top-tier educators. And to have any hope of doing that, the administration must start treating this vital group of people reasonably.