Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Testimony to the Board of Regents against PIG (sic)


Dear Chair Moore and Members of the BOR:

I write as a recently retired Professor of English. I taught at UHM for 31 years. When I started my job in 1990, there were, as I recall, over 80 tenured and tenure track professors; by the time I left this past June, there were fewer than 30. Especially since the financial crisis of 2008, job hires have often been frozen, meaning that when professors retired, they were replaced by adjunct labor. These adjuncts, many of them with Ph.D.s from reputable institutions, teach more students, make less money, and have no job security. This in a state where the median cost for a single-family home is now over a million dollars. The high cost of living means that even a tenure-track professor cannot afford to buy a house on O`ahu, let alone an adjunct instructor. To make it onto tenure track depends on publications and conference papers; to be an adjunct means you don't have time, energy, or resources to make that happen.

Why am I writing about precarious, adjunct labor? Because a loss of tenure means a loss of job security, and a decent wage, secure health insurance, and all the rights of employment that now qualify as "perks." I propose that the problem is not that too many faculty/researchers in the UH system have tenure, but that too many do not. You'd do better to spend time figuring out how to expand job security in the system, not how to render it more fragile. And who are we kidding? Take tenure from researchers and full-time instructional faculty are next. Not only will you lose yet more faculty to opportunities elsewhere, either in academe or elsewhere, but you will also see even higher levels of mental health distress than you have now (and they're high).

What I loved about teaching in the English department was that my classes were small and I had the ability to become an editor, a publisher, and to write. All of these aspects of my job fed into the others. I won two teaching awards (LLL and Chancellor's) on the strength of the synthesis of my roles. The tenure system permitted me that freedom. You chisel away at it at your peril, and that of our immensely talented student body.

Yours truly,

Susan M. Schultz
Professor of English (retired)
University of Hawai`i-Mānoa
Founding Editor, Tinfish Press

_I Want to Write an Honest Sentence_ (2019)

to bor.testimony,


Scott Hallal-Negishi said...

These are issues I am addressing and that is wonderful that someone speaks out as nobody ever likes to think about the civic duty of a poet.

susan said...

Scott! How are you these days? aloha, S