We, the undersigned members of the Duke University Graduate School, are writing to express our support for Duke Teaching First and its decision to form a union with Faculty Forward. We share their view that adjuncts and other contingent faculty employed at Duke and other universities deserve a living wage, supportive working conditions, medical benefits, job security, opportunities for professional advancement, and the ability to exercise their collective bargaining rights.
The majority of instructional positions at American universities are now non-tenure track. Many of the people who fill these positions barely earn enough to support themselves and their families. As graduate students, we understand that we might one day find ourselves in these positions and therefore recognize current contingent faculty members at Duke and elsewhere as our future colleagues. Indeed, many of us encounter firsthand the conditions of adjuncts and non-tenure track faculty as we finish our dissertations, taking on multiple low-wage jobs and assuming an onerous teaching load in order to cover living costs and Duke's disproportionately high continuation fees. We know from our own experiences how relying on overworked and underpaid employees can have an adverse impact on the classroom environment and undermine the goals of higher education.
We would like for you to follow the example of the administration at Georgetown University and maintain a fully neutral stance as our non-tenure track faculty build their union. We firmly believe that our community will be best served by your administration’s decision to not interfere with Duke Teaching First’s campaign to form a union with Faculty Forward.
By allowing Duke Teaching First to move forward with their efforts without administrative interference, Duke will set itself up as an example to other universities and colleges throughout the country. We call on you to lead the way in recognizing the rights of adjuncts and non-tenure track faculty in higher education. This is a struggle that not only concerns undergraduates and current employees but all the scholars-in-training at the University.