Letters to the EditorOpinion

Letter: Students should support the mission of United Academics

We, the Organizing Committee of United Academics, have officially launched a campaign to form a faculty union to put this University back on its core educational and research mission. We believe you will support our efforts once you understand our goals.

We see you sitting in the aisles.@@[email protected]@ We see you lining up, trying to get into that class you need.@@[email protected]@ We overhear your conversations about your growing student loan debt.@@stay out of my mind, [email protected]@ We saw you, confused and shaken, when our University president was fired with little recourse.@@[email protected]@

One main problem that has brought us together is the precipitous decline in our working conditions, which are your learning conditions.

To handle record enrollments, many faculty — compared with five to 10 years ago — are teaching more than 30 percent more students per year without any increase in pay or support. Your faculty need time to write the books you learn from and conduct the research that ignites a vibrant scholarly culture.

However, the available hours are fewer and fewer as a proportion of the faculty at the University, who are facing more demands for larger classes, more majors and strains on departments and programs. Our departments and programs — your majors of study — corrode even as the administration expands.

Additionally, because compensation has not remained competitive with peer universities, many beloved professors and top researchers exit the University for these other institutions, leaving not only students without mentors, but also faculty with even more work as they recruit and train new professors.

We have repeatedly urged the administration to invest in faculty hires, provide greater continuity for our programs and move our faculty salaries closer to those at comparative universities to prevent these losses; but it appears to us that the only things going up with tuition and class sizes are the number of secure administrator jobs, with hefty pay raises for current administrators. We intend to reclaim our collective voice and put this University back on track by holding bloated administrative layers and salaries accountable in order to assure that your tuition dollars and Oregon’s tax dollars are devoted to our core mission.

In addition, the management of the University has chosen to hire more temporary instructors than ever before — eroding the academic tenure system in favor of these short-sighted, often exploitative strategies. In many cases, temporary instructors are limited in the hours that they can work so the University can avoid paying for their healthcare benefits. Temporary faculty are often not available to advise students or write letters of recommendation, and students find they do not get to see some of their favorite instructors again when the instructor’s contract is not renewed. All of the faculty in our departments and programs — your learning environments — deserve greater continuity and support.

All faculty and students lose in this underfunded, top-heavy corporate model of education.

By forming a union, we will gain a strong, unified voice — in concert with the University Senate — that will be heard and not easily dismissed by the management of this University or by our elected officials in Salem. With this voice, we hope to strengthen research and restore student-centered education at the University and elevate higher education as a priority in the State of Oregon. We recognize that widespread support not only among faculty, but also among you, our valued students, will enhance these objectives.

We hope you will support us — the United Academics of the University of Oregon (http://uauoregon.org/) — and learn more at the State of the University event on Thursday, Feb. 16, 4 p.m. in 115 Lawrence.

Michael Dreiling@@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=staff&d=person&b=name&[email protected]@
University associate professor
United Academics

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