LETTERS

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September 21, 2021

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8:23 a.m.

An Open Letter to President Paul Alivisatos

Faculty Forward welcomes President Alivisatos to campus and highlights the most pressing changes needed.

Dear Dr. Alivisatos,

Faculty Forward, the union of instructional faculty, welcomes you (back) to campus with our warmest wishes for the new academic year and a new era of leadership. We write to share an overview of who we are and what we do, an update on our ongoing contract negotiations, and to invite you to get to know more about us.

We are more than 300 dedicated and expert instructors teaching roughly half of all courses in the College and many more across the University. For the students about to arrive on campus, we are likely to be among the first faces of a UChicago education. We have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, and we will continue to provide our students with innovative and personalized instruction during this third COVID-affected academic year.

Our members provide excellent value through our work: Collectively, we teach about 1,500 courses a year, while our total salaries comprise just over 2 percent of all academic salaries at the University. But in spite of past progress, too many of our members struggle with precarity and inequality that distract from our core teaching mission. As we negotiate a new contract with the University in order to secure the working conditions that sustain our highest level of excellence in the classroom, we are asking for the following:

- Pay parity for part-time faculty at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Crown’s motto reads, “Advancing a more just and humane society.” But the administration wants to continue to pay Crown's adjunct faculty 25 percent less per course than everyone else at UChicago, which we find neither just nor humane.

- Fair salary increases reflecting the value of our work. The administration’s proposal, below the target rate of inflation, amounts to a pay cut during a pandemic.

- A full-time workload that allows us to maintain our commitment to excellence. We are routinely assigned extra classes and duties in excess of our current contractual mandate and told to compromise by reducing the effort we commit to each student.

We are disappointed that the administration’s negotiating team does not recognize the vital connection between our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. As a union, we have a fundamental obligation to defend those conditions, including through collective work actions if necessary. We are confident, however, that under your leadership, a fair conclusion to these negotiations is within reach before the start of classes. A new contract that reflects our shared educational values will benefit the entire campus community and unite us all in difficult times. We appeal to your support as a fellow educator.

In the spirit of collegiality and listening with which you have opened your tenure, we also invite you to arrange a meet and greet with us. We are eager to share more about ourselves and our work and to build a relationship of mutual trust with you, in joint advancement of the academic excellence, intellectual creativity, and freedom of expression that make teaching at the University of Chicago so immensely rewarding.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Faculty Forward

Note: this letter was delivered to the office of Paul Alivisatos at 10am on Monday, September 20 with at least 160 individual member signatures.

Faculty Forward is a labor union of more than 300 non-tenure-track faculty members on campus formed in 2015 and affiliated with Service Employment International Union (SEIU) Local 73.