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To: Smith College

Petition to Honor and Extend Employment Commitments for Contingent Faculty at Smith College

(scroll down to see updates!)

Monday, April 6, 2020

To President McCartney, the Office of the Provost, the Board of Trustees, and the broader Smith community:

In recent weeks, Smith College has made critical and potentially life-saving decisions in order to protect our community from the physical, financial, and psychological harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We call upon the College to honor their publicly stated commitment to equity and inclusion by also protecting contingent faculty members who face significant and disproportionate economic precarity.

Contingent faculty members encompass approximately 50% of all faculty at Smith College, according to the current Smith Faculty Directory [1]. “Contingent faculty” include but are not limited to: visiting assistant professors; lecturers; senior lecturers; salaried, paid-per-course, and short-notice hires; lab instructors; teaching assistants; and postdoctoral fellows. Contingent faculty may or may not be eligible for benefits; they may be part-time or full-time; they may have signed contracts for the 2020-2021 academic year; they may have verbal agreements for employment for the upcoming year; or they may typically be renewed in the summer.

Smith College has officially announced how it will protect and support tenured and tenure-track faculty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet contingent faculty have been left out of conversations that concern their future employment and remain unprotected. In an email on Friday, April 3, President McCartney stated that Smith is implementing a faculty and staff hiring freeze and the Office of the Provost gave departments until Wednesday, April 8 to request exceptions to these cuts [2]. Contingent faculty have not been invited to the table, nor have they received further clarifying information.

In contrast, the College has granted tenure-track faculty an automatic one-year extension of their probationary period. These disparate policy measures establish a protection divide between members of the faculty. They create structural conditions in which contingent workers face unprecedented employment insecurity while tenure-track faculty are protected through concessions such as extending the tenure clock. This has already put some faculty out of work who were promised and scheduled to teach next year, but had not yet been offered a contract. Likewise, this policy signals that the remaining contingent faculty are vulnerable to similar measures.

Moreover, the historical invisibility of contingent faculty exacerbates the unequal institutional treatment of contingent faculty by the College. Even before the pandemic, many contingent faculty were already teaching disproportionately heavier loads and larger classes. This work came with limited job security, sometimes without benefits. This has compounded the emotional and intellectual labor required in the abrupt transition to remote learning. The labor of contingent faculty is vital to fulfilling the mission of Smith College and should be protected accordingly [3].

On behalf of contingent faculty members at Smith College, we the petitioners demand that President McCartney, the Office of the Provost, and the Board of Trustees:

1. Extend all current contingent faculty appointments and accompanying benefits by at least one year; and

2. Honor all verbal, email, and informal agreements for employment for the 2020-2021 academic year.

We urge Smith College to be transparent in their current discussions, decisions, and pending actions that will affect contingent faculty hiring and publicize these through official channels to all members of the Smith community.

If Smith College chooses not to rehire contingent faculty, their ability to seek employment now will be severely circumscribed, given the growing number of hiring freezes by colleges and universities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic [4]. Smith can afford to use its considerable resources to protect the entire community. We urge the Smith College administration to take on the mantle of ethical leadership in setting equitable policies regarding its contingent workers.

Standing in solidarity with members of the Smith community whose jobs have already been terminated, we, the undersigned, call upon the College to respond transparently and quickly to this petition and its demands.


Why is this important?

Contingent faculty members at Smith College face significant and disproportionate economic precarity.

After you sign this petition, you'll have the option to leave us a message of support. In that message, please let us know what your relationship is to Smith College, such as:

Smith contingent faculty
Smith staff
Smith administration
Smith student
Smith alum
Smith tenure-track faculty
Smith tenured faculty
Five College contingent faculty
Five College staff
Five College student
Five College alum
Five College tenure-track faculty
Five College tenured faculty
Faculty or staff member at another college/university
Community supporter


2020-04-14 16:29:33 -0400

April 14, 2020: Thank you for your support! This has been a busy week. On April 10, we sent a letter demanding that the administration respond to our petition by April 13 at 5:00pm. Two hours before our deadline, President McCartney sent a message to faculty that acknowledged, but did not respond to, the petition.

We have assembled two new resources. First, we have created a Frequently Asked Questions page: Second, we have assembled a collection of messages of support for Smith College contingent workers:

This is a vital week for all of us. Please continue to share this petition, as well as these new resources. Thank you!

2020-04-08 07:15:03 -0400

April 8, 2020: Thank you for the tremendous response to this petition! We are touched by the outpouring of support and interest from the Smith College community, as well as those outside of it. We hit 1,500 signatures yesterday. Of those signers, 128 identified as current Smith College employees, 644 were current students, and 331 were alums.

At this time, contingent faculty have not received any response from the administration. However, students and employees received a message pushing back registration by a week to leave time for curricular planning. This is a crucial week to urge the administration to honor its commitments to contingent workers.

Please continue to share this petition in your own networks! We are also interested in collecting stories and experiences about contingent labor at Smith College. If you are connected to Smith College as a student, alum, contingent worker, or tenure-track faculty worker, please fill out this form:

2020-04-06 18:38:38 -0400

1,000 signatures reached

2020-04-06 12:45:58 -0400

500 signatures reached

2020-04-06 08:36:06 -0400

100 signatures reached

2020-04-06 04:24:22 -0400

50 signatures reached

2020-04-06 00:02:33 -0400

25 signatures reached

2020-04-05 23:25:40 -0400

10 signatures reached