Dozens of students will address Pacific Lutheran University President Thomas Krise tomorrow as they seek to pressure him into allowing a union vote for contingent faculty members. Krise has maintained his opposition to a vote, in the face of growing support from students and permanent faculty members on campus.
“President Krise calls us a ‘University of the First Rank,’ and says we’re supposed to value collaboration and democracy,” said PLU student Kenny Stancil. “Yet when our contingent faculty want to vote on whether they should be in a union, his administration takes action to prevent them from doing so. I think until this vote happens, we should all be ashamed. We’re not living up to what he says we represent.”
PLU relies on a large group of highly trained contingents, who make up nearly half the total faculty. They include lecturers, senior lecturers, instructors, clinical faculty, visiting faculty and resident faculty. Contingent faculty members, who have been asking since April 11 for a vote, earn only a fraction of what tenured professors make teaching the same course load, and their employment is tenuous. Following a series of legal objections filed by the university, the National Labor Relations Board is set to rule next week on whether PLU is required by law to allow contingent faculty to decide their own fate with a unionization vote.
“Half of our faculty is really struggling to maintain the high standard of teaching that we have imposed on ourselves, and for which PLU is well-known,” said Dr. Jane Harty, Senior Lecturer in Music. “Yet, for too long we have not been offered fair pay, job security, or access to benefits. Forming a union will help us to maintain those high standards of teaching so that we can better serve our students. It will also help us to honor our own remarkable mission statement as an institution, to serve others and our community.”
Krise has maintained that he is not required to allow a vote based on PLU’s standing as a religious organization, despite the fact that similar universities have recently allowed votes. On April 26 contingent faculty at Georgetown University, a Catholic affiliated university, for example, voted to form a union with the full support of university management.