Letter to the Editor: Support Contingent Faculty Unionization

Contingent faculty — which includes all junior and senior lecturers, instructors, visiting assistant professors and adjunct faculty — have been working for over a year to form a union. Unions grant workers the legal right to democratically and collectively negotiate with administration to determine the working conditions inscribed in their contracts. At present, administration has unilateral decision-making power in determining contingent faculty working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting contingent faculty’s employment and access to crucial benefits, including health insurance, during a global health and economic crisis. 

A group of students have been working in solidarity with our contingent faculty in their effort to unionize, and we encourage unanimity amongst members of the Colgate community to sign onto the student and alumni solidarity letter to be published in next week’s issue of the Maroon-News.

Dear Colgate Community,

Since early fall 2019, a group of Colgate University non-tenure track faculty have worked together with the goal of forming a representative voice for the approximately 150 contingent (non-tenure track) faculty at Colgate. We are organizing to win collective bargaining rights by forming a union. Once we gain majority support, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will conduct a democratic election and all contingent faculty will cast a vote on whether or not to unionize. Since spring 2020, we have sponsored several Non-Tenure Track Faculty Socials to build collective power and community among non-tenure track faculty. Today, we invite you to join us.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has reported part-time, non-tenure track faculty comprise over 70% of all college/university faculty in the United States today, yet we lack a collective, cohesive voice in decisions made regarding our salary, job security, medical benefits and university governance. The global health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 has only intensified the already precarious position of non-tenure track faculty who make the university run. A union guarantees us the legal right to collectively bargain for improved working conditions such as pay increases, greater job security, better benefits and a democratic platform for our voices to be heard. 

We are greatly encouraged by the gains fellow contingent faculty members have made at nearby universities after democratically choosing union representation. Ithaca College, Wells College, Nazareth College, College of St. Rose, Fordham University, Tufts University, Georgetown University and Washington University have all won union representation in recent years. As university faculty are increasingly subject to job insecurity, greater workloads and inadequate pay and benefits, non-tenure track faculty across the country are organizing and winning the right to collectively bargain through a union. As Colgate non-tenure-track faculty have already experienced contract terminations and continue to face uncertainty about how university budget cuts following COVID-19 will impact our future employment, pay, healthcare benefits and access to childcare in the coming months and years, it is clearer than ever that we need a collective, democratic means of determining the working conditions that shape our lives. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the largest union in the U.S. representing the interests of contingent faculty. SEIU Local 200 is supporting us as we move forward with our union drive.  

According to Colgate’s mission statement, “teaching is Colgate’s first responsibility, serving not only to transmit knowledge but also to transform and extend it through a demanding, imaginative curriculum.” Non-tenure track faculty are integral to the creation of demanding and imaginative curricula that support our students’ intellectual growth and curiosity. Laboring under precarious conditions with uncertain future employment status, inadequate compensation and sparse benefits causes undue stress and siphons time that we’d rather spend teaching and supporting our students. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. 

We’re asking all Colgate University non-tenure track faculty to join together to win the right to collectively bargain! The first step is to fill out a union authorization card today.

We invite you to join our movement to reform higher education nationally and to re-establish the centrality of teaching at our institutions. You can find further information at our campaign website, seiufacultyforward.org.

By joining together, we can win a collective and democratic voice to shape our working conditions and improve our students’ learning conditions.


Ethan Bennett, Lecturer 

Antonio Bentivegna, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Ruth Berry, Teacher 

Chloe Blackshear, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Laura Campbell, Teacher and Orchestra Manager 

Michael Cleveland, Teacher, Concertmaster of the Colgate University Orchestra 

Brooke Depenbusch, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Monica Escudero Moro, Senior Lecturer 

Alexander Forte, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Marcus Haddock, Teacher 

Meg Gardner, Senior Lecturer 

Simona Giurgea, Senior Lecturer 

Douglas Keith, Jazz Accompanist 

Krista Kennedy, Visiting Professor 

Kerry Koen, Teacher 

Laura Jaffee, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Amelia Simone Herbert, Visiting Instructor 

Anita B. Humer, Staff Pianist 

Cosmin Ilie, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Elizabeth L’Arrivee, Lecturer 

Richard MacDowell, Teacher 

Marisol Fonseca Malavasi, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Jason Markins, Visiting Instructor 

Frank Meredith, Teacher 

Franziska Merklin, Senior Lecturer and Research Affiliate 

Maggie Millner, Olive B. O’Connor Fellow 

Pilar Mejía-Barrera, Senior Lecturer 

Joshua Nightingale, Teacher 

Tyler Ogilvie, Teacher 

Darryl Pugh, Teacher 

Mahadevi Ramakrishnan, Senior Lecturer 

Nagesh Rao, Lecturer 

Angela Rudert, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Glenna Ryer, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Hiva Samadian, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Patricia Sharpe, Teacher 

Jeff Spires, Senior Lecturer 

Sam Stiegler, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Zachary Sweet, Teacher 

Dawn Weleski, Visiting Assistant Professor 

Noah Wilson, Visiting Instructor