Write WSU President, Interim Provost and Deans
in Support of Our Lecturers
Lecturers and Senior Lecturers play an essential role in undergraduate education at Wayne State. Lecturers are 14% of all full time faculty (FTF), but are closer to 20% when we only consider the faculty involved in undergraduate education (i.e., Business, CFPCA, CLAS, Education, Engineering, and Honors). Lecturers and Senior Lecturers at WSU are contingent non-tenure track faculty, and receive minimum of 1-3 year appointments that may be renewed. Last week, WSU administrators from several colleges sent mass notices of non-renewal to all Lecturers and Senior Lecturers up for renewal (including CFPCA, CLAS, Engineering, and Honors). When you get a notice of non-renewal, it says that you are fired – that there are no plans to bring you back in the Fall. It offers no hope.
[Click to write the letter to see specifically who the letter is going to.]
The Lecturer Steering Committee does not share the Deans' interpretation of the contractual process of sending blanket notices to everyone. As President Wilson stated last year, notices of non-renewal are required only when the intention is to not-renew those faculty. Sadly, the strong likelihood is that nearly every single Lecturer and Senior Lecturer will be renewed by the start of Fall 2021. In fact, if we look at the last five years of renewal (based on the data provided by the Provost's office), CFPCA, Honors, and Engineering have been bad-faith actors for years (with CLAS joining them last year) in giving notices of renewal to all Lecturers up for renewal every single year. Over the last five years, 82% of these notices of non-renewal have ended up renewing the faculty member, with the other 18% constituting people who retired, found a new job, or were actually fired. In that same period, the School Business issued zero notices of non renewal and the College of Education issued 5 notices of non-renewal that all ended in the faculty member leaving the University. This condition makes it impossible for Lecturers to know if they've actually been fired and leads them to hope (without actually knowing) that they will have a job for months, as they often wait for up to 6 months to get a renewal letter.
So why do Dean Corvino, Dean Fotouhi, Dean Hartwell, and Dean Seeger insist on this cruel, heartless, and humiliating exercise demeaning our colleagues? They will say it is the contract that forces them, but President Wilson has rebuffed that interpretation and their fellow Deans in the School of Business and College of Education do not give blanket notices to all Lecturers up for renewal. Furthermore, the average length of service for Lecturers up for renewal is 10 years; many have been serving closer to 20 years, and the longest has served for 40 years. These colleagues are long-serving, dedicated members of our University. This process is unnecessary, unfair, and dishonors the commitment these faculty have made to our students. When these are well established and valued teaching faculty, why create all of this upheaval for nothing? Consider the petition started by one of Senior Lecturer Richard Pineau's (Math) students: it received 1000 signatures of support in 18 hours. Students understand what's happening, and they don't appreciate it because Lecturers are primarily dedicated to their success.
This policy of issuing blanket notices of non-renewal -- premised on a misinterpretation of the contract -- does no one any good: it causes uncertainty, heartache, and very real stress for our Lecturer colleagues. It also creates an unnecessary risk for the administration to lose talented and highly qualified lecturers due to the callous treatment imposed by these blanket notices. Indeed, among those who received notices last week include Lecturers who are currently standing for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (not to mention the numerous prior winners of that award, the CLAS Teaching award, and other accolades). These faculty can get jobs anywhere, but they've dedicated their expertise and time to Wayne State and the students that we serve.
Universities who strive for greatness have already figured out how to adjust their faculty structure to incorporate teaching-intensive faculty (i.e., Lecturers) with meaningful job security. Wayne State ranks at the bottom of its national and regional peer research intensive institutions in how it treats its teaching-focused non tenure-track faculty. It is time Wayne State took steps in the right direction: acknowledge the value Lecturers bring to our educational mission by creating an employment situation that treats them with the professionalism they and their students deserve.