Statement of Solidarity with ALL Faculty

Tenure for the Common Good was founded on the premise that tenure-track faculty had more security than our contingent colleagues and could consequently play an important role, speaking out in ways that tenure made possible. 


The economic carnage wrought on US academia by the COVID pandemic, has made it clear that now we are all, in some sense, contingent. And yet, although tenure-track faculty are now more vulnerable than ever to furloughs, retrenchments, and firing, there are still important differences between the status of those hired month-to-month or semester-to-semester, on the one hand, and those of us who retain relatively, if temporarily, secure positions. We remain committed to the principle of using tenure to work toward the good of all.


In this moment of shared threat, we want to make three statements:


  • Attacks on higher education implicate all of us. We all stand together, or we all fall. Tenure-track faculty must not stand by idly as contingent faculty fall to the budget axe. If we allow administrators to see us as disposable – any of us – all of us will be disposed of.


  • The problem of university budget crises will not be solved by cutting adjunct faculty, the worst-paid and most precarious of our faculty. Sacrifices should be shared, and they should be progressive. Universities must work from the top downwards, first cutting the salaries of the best-paid employees, including administrators — and reducing the salaries of others in proportion to their income.


  • The key to repairing higher education is to invest in the workers whose labor sustains the institution and the students who come to learn from them. Casualizing the profession by emphasizing at-will short-term hiring threatens our institutions. An academia worth saving respects and sustains the people who fulfill its primary functions: learning, teaching, and making knowledge. 


Tenure for the Common Good stands against any cost-cutting effort that eviscerates the people who work and maintain academia. And we call on all of our colleagues to join together to combat such attempts.


Unemployment claim template


Sample Chair Letter to Adjunct Faculty to Support Unemployment Claim

We are posting this for department chairs who want to support adjunct faculty in their pursuit of unemployment benefits.

Dear [faculty member]:

I write to let you know that due to COVID-19, at this point in time, we are not able to guarantee any faculty member off the tenure-track reasonable assurance of continued employment in the fall.

I encourage you to look into your eligibility for unemployment. You can find a link to information about the process in our state by going to the Department of Labor, finding our state, and clicking the link for “Apply for Unemployment Benefits.”

I will have more information for you about the fall as enrollments become clearer. In the meantime, if you can get unemployment benefits, I hope that helps. 



Statement on Equity and Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For Immediate Release: Statement on Equity and Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to higher education. Tens of thousands of faculty are suddenly moving into teaching online, often with little preparation and inconsistent support. The austerity environments many predict, in which enrollments fall and hirings freeze across institutions, will affect contingent faculty first and most harshly. It is crucial to focus on the situations of these colleagues. Their positions, already more precarious than most, will likely worsen more quickly than those of the tenured and tenure-track faculty.

To their credit, universities have wisely assisted by revising tenure clocks and eliminating elements of evaluation regimens because those evaluations cannot be done reliably or fairly in such emergency circumstances; centers for teaching and learning have been working in overdrive to offer faculty their expertise in online learning. Libraries are finding ways to provide access to research resources while faculty are locked out of campuses.

Yet, as happens all too often, contingent faculty, including graduate students, who constitute approximately 70% of the American professoriate, are generally included in these efforts only in piecemeal ways. Despite active participation in the herculean effort of bringing our curricula online, many contingent faculty are receiving little support from their institutions. This is particularly worrisome. Online classrooms, for example, especially ones established hastily under the conditions of stress, are vulnerable to abuse. Some, who seek to identify and punish instructors they believe engage in inappropriate “indoctrination,” can abuse this shaky new structure, creating a significant threat to academic freedom. 

As stay-at-home and lockdown orders reduce the number of options for online-accessible workspaces, contingent and other non-tenure-stream faculty face challenges beyond those of their tenured and tenure-track colleagues. Access to the equipment necessary to teach well online can be spotty; some lack adequate access to the internet. Not even equipment and access solve all the problems that many poorly-compensated faculty face working at home: lack of space; sense of safety/security; and so on.

All faculty, whether on or off the tenure track, face real struggles at this moment, and all need support. Many of the issues and recommendations in this statement are true for faculty of all ranks and statuses; however, every one of our common struggles is significantly more difficult for our colleagues who are the most precarious and worst compensated. We hope that professional organizations will recognize these needs and provide whatever help they can.

If the pandemic does have the effects on education many of us fear, we may see serious reductions in student populations. Many contingently hired faculty may see their jobs disappear. Their hard work helping make the transition happen now will not help them.

Solidarity demands that we support and protect our contingent colleagues just as we are working to protect and support our tenure-track colleagues. We should always do so, but the current situation amplifies the need.

We therefore call on institutions to act on the following recommendations, which rest on the central principle that contingent faculty should have the same resources, assistance, and protections against financial and professional damage that tenure-track faculty have, and due to poor compensation and working conditions, may have even more acute financial needs. 

Support for teaching while social distancing

Make sure contingent faculty are included on all contact lists concerning policies toward faculty and institutional support for remote/online teaching.

Offer emergency technical support and equipment to contingent faculty as well as students and tenure-track faculty.

Recognize that contingent faculty may need flexibility that tenure-track faculty do not . Do not promote synchronous over asynchronous scheduling. Do not require contingent faculty teaching at multiple institutions to use multiple video conferencing apps or technology platforms.

Compensate contingent faculty for the unexpected additional labor of converting courses to remote/online platforms. While all faculty should be compensated for the additional labor, contingent faculty are generally not eligible for other forms of compensation (e.g., comp/reassigned time, service credit).

Changes to evaluation/renewal/hiring processes

Suspend student evaluation of teaching for this semester.

Suspend teaching observations for the current semester.

Suspend annual evaluations, especially for non-tenure-track instructors, for 2019/2020. If your reappointment protocol demands evaluations, consider asking faculty to self-evaluate.

Extend multi-year or rolling contracts for one year, especially for faculty whose appointments end in Spring 2020. For faculty on shorter contracts, grant renewals unless financial exigency makes doing so impossible.

Assure, in writing, that renewal decisions will not be negatively affected by current disruptions.

Resist using the current crisis as an opportunity to exploit contingency further by hiring more contingent faculty into precarious positions.

Protecting academic freedom, intellectual property, and professional autonomy

Relax departmental supervision of individual instructors for the current semester except in extraordinary situations. Contingent faculty should not undergo supervision that tenure-track faculty do not.

Defend the academic freedom of all faculty, including contingent faculty. This means supporting faculty who face online harassment for their views, and rejecting attempts to discipline faculty expressing allegedly controversial ideas.

Protect contingent faculty ownership of course materials they create as they revise/remake courses to teach online. Contingent faculty frequently develop courses/curricula that programs take over without compensating them. As faculty redevelop courses en masse, this risk is heightened.

Compensate non-renewed contingent faculty for curriculum they have developed that remains in use after their non-renewal.

Mutual care and support for precarious faculty

Establish sick-day banks, or similar support mechanisms, for faculty who cannot meet their teaching responsibilities due to personal or family illness.

Establish systems of support for contingent faculty that can help provide food, housing, and money for other costs.

Give contingent faculty who want more credits priority when assigning teaching that would be overload for tenure-track/tenured faculty.

Include contingent faculty when assigning other compensated work (e.g., assessment), and strongly consider giving them priority. 

Prioritize the redirection of funds saved from cancelled/postponed events and travel disbursements in spring 2020 towards the needs of contingent faculty.

Agree not to contest unemployment insurance claims by contingent faculty for Summer and Fall 2020 terms.


In support of UCSC grad students

Letter from Tenure for the Common Good Executive Committee in Support of Fired Striking Graduate Students at UCSC


March 6, 2020

Dear Governor Newsom, President Napolitano, Chairperson Perez, and Chancellor Larive,

We write on behalf of the membership of Tenure for the Common Good, an association of college and university faculty that advocates for fair wages and stable employment. We wish to register our dismay at the termination of fifty-four graduate student workers at the University of California-Santa Cruz on Friday, February 28, 2020.

We do not dispute that you have a legal and contractual right to this decision; the termination letter makes the grounds clear. However, we find your decision ethically bewildering. The students have been asking, nearly begging, for help affording housing for months with no substantive reply from management. Not until the strike actually began did university leadership offer even to meet with them, though the results of that meeting, at least as reported by the students, were insufficient to call off the strike. The implicit recognition by leadership that the students have a legitimate claim makes clear that your decision to fire them has nothing to do with solving the actual problem.

The decision to fire the striking graduate students helps nobody. Doing so does not get the withheld grades distributed any more quickly. It does not bring housing prices down. It does not reduce the number of complaints to deans and department chairs. This decision, instead, actively harms the institution and the entire system. The students you fired will almost certainly leave the university; they no longer have income or tuition coverage. The students who remain have to wonder if they will be next when they dare to ask for a basic necessity. The media coverage of this situation, along with the attention it is garnering on social media, will not encourage prospective students to apply to, much less attend, UCSC–and as more campuses follow, as have Santa Barbara and Davis already, the optics will worsen.

We know that you have power to help resolve this situation in a way that advances the interests of institution and system, as well as the graduate students in your programs. Resolution is certainly better than erasing students and hoping attention dissipates. We are calling on you to use your power well. We call on you to revoke the termination letters immediately. Ideally, you would issue an apology, but call it a clerical error or whatever it takes. The important point is that the students, who were already in a terrible situation, are now being treated in a way that they do not deserve. You can fix that with a stroke of the pen.

You can easily enter good faith negotiations with the students, via their union, toward meeting their financial needs. They have done careful analysis, reaching the figure of $1412/month, the amount that they demand, and we have seen nothing that disputes the reasonableness of their calculations. Our organization represents faculty at institutions ranging from two-year/community colleges to small liberal arts colleges to regional comprehensive state universities to large research institutions. Until you agree to reinstate the students you fired and to work in good faith with them to solve the housing problem you have agreed is serious, we will actively discourage students from applying to your graduate programs, and discourage our graduate students from applying to open faculty positions; we will recommend that speakers decline invitations to appear on your campuses; we will continue to work together with graduate students and faculty across the nation to publicize your harsh treatment of the striking students; where possible, we will work with other graduate programs to offer spots to UC graduate students whose dismissals are retaliatory.

The power to fix both the firing mistake and the financial distress that caused it is largely in your hands. You have already demonstrated that you are willing to use the power you have. We call on you to use it again, but productively and ethically.


Tenure for the Common Good Executive Committee

Aaron Barlow, New York City College of Technology

Carolyn Betensky, University of Rhode Island

Rachel Sagner Buurma, Swarthmore College

Seth Kahn, West Chester University of PA

Talia Schaffer, Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center