Letter to the Editor: Student Support for Contingent Faculty Unionization

Dear Colgate Administration,

As students and alumni of Colgate University, we unequivocally support our contingent faculty in their effort to form a union as they face higher job insecurity than ever before. As they have steadfastly supported us through our time at Colgate, now it is our duty to support them. As institutions of higher education across the country increasingly rely on the labor of contingent faculty, whom they fail to fully support, we demand that Colgate strive to better the working conditions of all members of our faculty so they may uphold Colgate values of justice, equity and inclusion.

Contingent faculty face consistent job insecurity consequent of semester or year-long contracts and receive inadequate benefits while carrying a significant teaching load. Due to the nature of their contracts, some members of contingent faculty even lose health benefits between academic years, losing vital safeguards and support when not formally teaching. Nonetheless it is the contingent faculty that show up for us — students and alumni — dedicating countless hours, both inside and outside of the classroom, and lending strength and support to student initiatives. The uncertain nature of their employment, compounded with the stress that insecurity brings, can take a massive emotional and mental toll on members of contingent faculty. With increased bargaining power and job security comes more academic freedom and an increased propensity to speak out against injustices both on Colgate’s campus and beyond, which helps us learn as students. We get a better education when our professors feel secure in their roles, and so we benefit when our contingent faculty have the right to democratically and collectively bargain the terms of their contracts. 

As a highly endowed private institution with $1 billion to its name, Colgate has an obligation to protect and justly support all members of its faculty and staff, who uphold the education it provides. Further, if Colgate wants students to “be engaged citizens and strive for a just society,” then we must combat the injustices we see on our own campus and challenge ourselves to support members of our community facing inequities in the workplace. The push for unionization is not merely about economic security. As in all industries under racial capitalism, faculty labor is gendered, racialized and classed, with higher proportions of Black and Brown and/or women workers occupying the lower, contingent ranks of academic labor.

With a stronger voice and organized protection, contingent faculty will be able to advocate for fair working conditions, a move which will bring them more security and combat the gendered and racialized inequities within faculty hiring. Improved conditions and increased security can begin to attract more LGBTQ+, BIPOC and disabled faculty, a range of identities that the Colgate administration has historically ignored at every level of this academic institution. The Colgate administration has claimed a commitment to increasing and retaining the diversity of its faculty in the Third Century Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion meant to guide the next century of this institution. This effort by contingent faculty to unionize and ensure their social and intellectual security represents a crucial opportunity for the administration to demonstrate this commitment through meaningful action.

Contingent faculty are crucial members of this community who provide invaluable knowledge, insight, and support to every individual, department, and organization on this campus. The Board of Trustees and Colgate administration must honor their often espoused commitments to justice and equity by supporting these efforts by contingent faculty to ensure their security, health, and wellbeing. As Colgate students and alumni, we will continue to strongly support contingent faculty members’ right to form a union and collectively shape this university that their work sustains.


Over 200 individual students and alumni and the following student organizations:

French Club

Colgate Men’s Soccer

Spanish Language Debate Society

Colgate Socialist Association

Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC)

WRCU 90.1 FM Colgate Radio 

Colgate Lambda

Colgate Buddies

Colgate Figure Skating

Gamma Phi Beta

Colgate Equestrian

Colgate College Democrats 

South Asian Cultural Club


Latin American Dance 

John Quincy Adams Society

Colgate Symphonic Band

Challah for Hunger

Outdoor Education

Shock Dance Group

Phi Kappa Tau

Tri Delta 

Panhellenic Council

Kappa Kappa Gamma

Colgate Dischords


Senior Honor Society

Blue Diamond Society

Colgate Jewish Union