There may be many good reasons for welcoming a union for non-tenured faculty, but let’s set the record right about Brandeis. For example, any non-tenure-line Brandeis faculty person is currently eligible for benefits if s/he works .5FTE [a part-time workload that receives full-time benefits].
Moreover, there are two different kinds of non-tenure-line faculty positions here.
1) The university already offers multi-year contracts for two to seven years for some arts and sciences faculty members who focus on teaching, rather than research and teaching. Many long-term contract faculty members (I am one of them) are eligible for periodic paid-leave, similar to sabbatical leave for tenure-line faculty.
2) There are also year-to-year contracts for faculty, who are hired on a course-to-course basis according to student enrollment and faculty leaves. Brandeis has been raising base pay for these per-course faculty, so that it remains competitive with local universities. While I agree that the increase in the ratio of adjuncts to tenure-line faculty positions in universities is problematic, Brandeis has been moving to hire some of the per-course faculty who have significant responsibilities other than teaching into positions with salaries that reflect these additional responsibilities.
As someone who has negotiated union contracts from both sides of the bargaining table, I recognize that unions use similar language in organizing different universities. I think, however, that the work of Brandeis faculty and administrators to recognize the contributions of non-tenure-line faculty is unique and should be acknowledged. I am proud to be part of a university committed to social justice which has done and is doing what is right, with or without a union.
Marya R. Levenson is the Professor of the Practice in Education and the Harry S. Levitan Director of Education