As unemployment crisis rears its head, professors nationwide demand they be exempt

The petition signers cite the “anemic job market” and lack of employee healthcare if faculty jobs are not secure.

More than 2,600 professors across the country have signed a petition demanding a tenure clock extension to faculty that will help secure employment during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2,600 university professors and faculty members from more than 500 institutions, including schools like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, have signed a petition demanding employment security for academic employees during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The petitioners are specifically calling on higher education institutions to expand tenure clock extensions to all academic employees who have a fixed term of employment, such as “non-tenure track faculty” and “graduate workers.” 

According to a definition from the University of Colorado - Boulder, tenure clock is a term used to describe the countdown of time for the end of an associate professor’s probationary period that tracks when they become eligible for credit and tenure. After this period, which typically is seven years, a candidate is either promoted and granted tenure or denied and issued one year to search for other employment opportunities. 

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The authors claim many institutions have already committed to tenure clock extensions for assistant professors, but have failed to offer extensions for other faculty. 

“Whether it is the 'guaranteed' package of funded years for graduate employees or the capped terms of lecturers and preceptors, all academic workers deserve the relief of knowing that they have job security and the opportunity to complete their projects in more favorable conditions,” the petition reads. 

The professors added that the other aforementioned academic employees need this job security because they too are facing challenges. 

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“NTT faculty and graduate workers are facing the same challenges as tenure-track faculty: adapting to remote teaching, massively increased caretaking responsibilities, lack of access to libraries, labs, and archives, and the forgoing of professional opportunities,” they added. “They are also faced with an anemic job market that will only get worse as universities announce hiring freezes for the coming years.”

If higher education institutions don’t implement tenure clock extensions, the professors argue that “countless promising academic careers will prematurely end, depriving the world of knowledge they would have produced.” The petitioners also point to the loss of economic security and employer healthcare that faculty will face without the extensions. 

The signers claim they will refuse speaking engagements and workshops at institutions that do not grant employment extensions to NTT staff and graduate workers. 

“We, the undersigned, will not accept invitations for speaking engagements, workshops, and conferences at named institutions,” the petitioners claim. “By signing we commit to observing this policy for the 2020-2021 academic year. We will reassess pending future developments. We also commit to doing all we can to ensure that our own universities - wherever they are - make the most progressive and equitable possible provisions for all of their staff, graduate students and contingent faculty.”

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