U. should invest in part-time lecturers
We read in The Daily Targum on Oct. 19 that the Big East has increased their exit fee to $10 million.
The University could choose to leave the Big East and pay $10 million from their reserves or choose to invest this money in the individuals who teach one-third of the classes at the University, the part-time lecturers (PTLs).
There are about 1,200 PTLs teaching at the University, most teaching one or two courses for the minimum salary of $1,500 per credit. The University could shell out millions of dollars to the Big East or invest that money in PTLs, the educators who are furthering the core mission of the University — education.
The University could raise the salaries of each PTL 10 percent per semester over the next four years and still not spend $10 million – supporting professional, hard-working individuals who are proud to teach at the University. Or it could give the money to the Big East, and who knows how it will be spent. It is a matter of priorities.
While the University searches for a new president and prepares to merge with the medical school in New Brunswick, priorities are crucial. Will our new president value undergraduate education? Will teaching retain a place in our mission even as we enhance our research goals and reputation with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey?
PTLs at the University are responsible for a third of the courses here, and they are notoriously underpaid, have no job security and receive no health insurance. Even an annual eye exam is too much for them to spend on University educators. Do we believe that putting teachers in our classrooms who cannot afford to go to a doctor is the right way to go?
Other faculty and staff have also been putting up with no salary increases for almost three years now, and students go into debt regularly because of tuition hikes and housing costs. Faculty, staff and students should not be second thoughts behind the needs of the Big East – we are the University.
PTLs have been trying to renegotiate a new union contract with the administration since April 2011. The administration has been delaying negotiations and has yet to even make a salary proposal. We hear about $1.5 billion to be spent on the merger and the potential of another $10 million if the University decides to leave the Big East – so the funds are there.
Let us get our priorities straight – are we educating students and producing the next generation of civic leaders, or are we wheeling and dealing in athletic conferences?
Athletics can be an important part of the college experience, but should it be at the expense of dedicated teaching and the students’ educational process? Part-time lecturers are an important, but unacknowledged, part of the University.
Steve Peterson is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Karen Thompson is a part-time lecturer in the Department of English.