July 30, 2013
'a hill CAN'T be a valley, you know. That would be nonsense—' [said Alice]. The Red Queen shook her head, 'You may call it "nonsense" if you like,' she said, 'but I'VE heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!' - Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
In the world outside Rutgers University, the term “non-renewable” applies to the most popular books at the local library and to natural resources that cannot be replaced. Here at Rutgers, non-tenure track faculty know the term from their “Faculty Employment Agreement (UPF-5).” The employing dean chooses to check off either “Renewable” or “Non-Renewable.” Woe to the non-renewable.
Do not expect the words to have conventional meanings. Classifying an appointment as “non-renewable” is a powerful tool for which there are no rules. No one tells the deans, this case is a legitimate use for making a temporary non-renewable appointment and that one is an abuse. No one asks, if she is “non-renewable,” why are you reappointing her?
- We know it is common to dub some faculty members “non-renewable” employees, while employing them year after year after year.
- We know that long-term faculty members with “renewable” agreements can be surprised to discover their status changed to “non-renewable” without warning or explanation.
- We know that a switch to “non-renewable” may signal future termination without any requirement that notice be given or procedures followed.
“Non-renewable” faculty members lack standard protections. Here’s how the Academic Appointments Manual of Rutgers sums up what is lacking. “The appointment letter for a non-renewable position should clearly state the term of the appointment, that no evaluation or reappointment will be possible, and that no further notice of termination of employment should be expected.”
You can teach for decades at Rutgers as a non-renewable faculty member, without the right to advance notice of termination and without being evaluated. Non-renewables never acquire any seniority because if they work beyond their initial appointment, they are, by definition, not renewed. Sometimes it is the person who is non-renewable, sometimes it is the position the person (temporarily) fills that is non-renewable, and in the confusion the employer oversteps fair employment practices.
With these negotiations, we have an opportunity to rid Rutgers of such capriciousness.
Ann D. Gordon
Chair, NTT Bargaining Team
Research Professor Emerita