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To: Department Leadership and APT Committee

Open Letter from English Department NTT

We, the NTT faculty of the Department of English at Howard University are concerned that the recent announcement regarding Master Instructor applications is a violation the letter and the spirit of our hard-fought collective bargaining contract. It also violates the basic principles of employee equity, opportunity, and the frequently stated principles of faculty development for NTT teachers.

In our contract, we achieved an increase in the percentage of Master Instructor positions to 30% of all full-time faculty. We understand this 30% as a principled goal line, not simply a cap, and we counted on our departments and chairs to continue to push for more MI positions to achieve that goal, as they have been doing for years because we all value stability and longevity in our teachers.

For those who were not there in negotiations: we were explicitly told that the seven-year cap on lecturers must remain as it serves as a probationary period, during which skilled lecturers should be promoted to Career Status MIs or would be timed out of employment. While we strongly disagree with this logic and oppose the seven-year cap, the university refused to budge on that issue. We intend to continue fighting the cap and making it a cornerstone of our campaign during contract negotiations in the fall (as we come up for renewal), but the path we have now to job security depends on access to Master Instructor positions for all lecturers who qualify.

This principle was agreed to by the university's representatives and it has also been used as justification as to why MIs were not eligible for promotion into tenure-track positions, such as when one English MI was chosen for a tenure-track position by the department after a national search, but refused promotion by the Provost's office with the argument that he was already an MI and not eligible for further tenure.

We understand that this is primarily a labor issue. The composition of the department of tenure-track to NTT remains the same regardless of how many are lecturers and how many are MIs. But MI status allows lecturers to work towards better job security after years of devotion to this department rather than being cast aside as expendable, exploited labor (as is too often the norm in higher education).

Whatever the goals of the University regarding R1 research production, Howard English is not simply a research department. It is also a service teaching department. NTT Lecturers and Master Instructors handle the vast majority of the service teaching loads of the department, from teaching an average of 80-100 students a semester per faculty in freshman writing to serving as a primary workforce for designing and teaching the Introduction to Humanities sequence. Through these courses, we teach nearly every undergraduate student in this university in vital subjects, and sometimes these are a student's only courses that touch on writing and humanities topics. NTT faculty also do heavy service loads above and beyond the terms of our contract, working with Writing Across the Curriculum, CETLA, SABES, Amistad and numerous other vital programs for our students. We represent Howard English to the broader undergraduate community and beyond. The needs of NTT faculty for basic things like job stability, career development, teaching support and cost-of-living-adjustments are the needs of the department, and long-term aspirations should not come at the disregard of the humans who have been sustaining this department for a decade and more. We reiterate we are a dual department and both the research and teaching are vital to our role at this university, but all too frequently this university has deprived its teachers of the most basic support systems and growth opportunities.

At Howard English, we have all (NTT and TT) spent years organizing and fighting the neoliberal university's production of an expendable teaching labor underclass by building a department that attempts to lessen the worst of the exploitation by including NTT in decision-making, promotion tracks, and teaching and research opportunities. The collaboration and mutual support between the organizing efforts of the NTT bargaining unit and the English tenured faculty and leadership has been essential to building a strong department. This new policy is a frank betrayal of years of community building and solidary in the name of false promises of tenure-track growth that will never meet the extensive service teaching needs of this department.

We ask that this decision be reconsidered and that the values of employee development and equity will continue to be priorities in this department.

We ask that a yearly Master Instructor application and appointment process be reinstituted, that all eligible faculty are given fair consideration in a clearly defined, timely, and transparent process, and that the department continue to push for the maximal allowable promotion of qualified lecturers each year.

Why is this important?

We must fight the loss of career development for our colleagues.


2024-04-22 15:33:30 -0400

100 signatures reached

2024-04-22 14:54:51 -0400

50 signatures reached

2024-04-22 14:44:14 -0400

25 signatures reached

2024-04-11 14:30:18 -0400

10 signatures reached