Faculty considers union vote

By Jami Peterson

With a vote for temporary faculty unionization looming around the corner, some NIU faculty members are finding it difficult to decide which way to cast their votes.

NIU’s temporary faculty members will vote on Oct. 14 whether they want the University Professionals of Illinois to represent them at the bargaining table.

Temporary faculty member Kathy Hubbard said she has no problem with the way she has been treated at NIU. But, she said, temporary faculty members need to make the administration aware of their needs.

The vote will only determine whether UPI will represent NIU’s faculty. “I think we need some type of representation, but I wish we had some choice,” she said.

Hubbard began working in NIU’s prop department eight years ago. Eventually, a position as lecturer and property director was created for her. Three years ago, Hubbard received the title of temporary faculty member.

“I see no discrimination toward me in my department. I’m treated as a tenured faculty member,” she said. “I’m treated very fairly.”

But, Hubbard said, temporary faculty members need distinct job descriptions, tighter job security and more job evaluations.

“It is important we all know what benefits we have from giving our life to the university,” she said.

Departments have different job titles and descriptions for temporary faculty members, allowing them to do a variety of things, she said. “Temporary faculty exist at the whim of the department,” she said.

Tighter job descriptions would make sure these faculty members are not taken advantage of, she said.

Temporary faculty members also need to be evaluated more often, she said. “We need to know if we’re not doing a good job.”

Temporary faculty member Karen Shearer, an instructor in the communication studies department, said the problems lie with course loads and the inconsistent “five-year rule.”

The five-year rule allows temporary faculty members to work in temporary positions for only five years. After five years, departments either do not allow the faculty member to return, allow them to return after a certain amount of time or make them full-time faculty members.

Temporary faculty work loads also need to be looked at, Shearer said. “We teach the same classes as professors, but get one-third, one-half or one-fourth the money they do,” she said. “We don’t get office space, equipment and the overall level of respect the professors get.”

However, Shearer said she is apprehensive as to whether the union should be accepted. “I teach three upper-level classes, and I don’t want the union coming in and telling me I have to teach four classes,” she said.

Theatre arts instructor Lorraine Berrett would not go into details about her stand on unionization. But, she said, “I was pleased to hear that the vote was taking place. I support a union.”

The fight for unionization began last spring when a group of faculty members passed around voting cards and claimed nearly half of NIU’s temporary faculty members authorized UPI to represent them.