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Tenure for the Common Good

It’s no secret that college campuses have a range of labor relations, which can create a sense of competition and scarcity among divisions and even within departments. Bucknell relies on the labor of more than 1500 employees—ranging from non-tenure-track, tenure-track and tenured faculty, a wide range of staff positions, student employees, and subcontracted workers like those employed by Parkhurst Dining Services. With the exception of tenured faculty, all these workers are at-will employees who can be fired at a moment’s notice.

In 2017, a group of tenured faculty members from across the US founded “Tenure for the Common Good” which seeks to raise awareness about how increasing casualization devalues academic labor and to promote ways that tenured faculty can act with and in support of adjunct and graduate instructor activists. More than just an organization, Tenure for the Common Good has become an organizing tactic that  reconceptualizes the rights and responsibilities of university workers with relatively secure employment. 

I want to use my tenure for the common good! How do I start (or deepen my existing commitment, action, and solidarity)?

  • Learning & Listening: What are your non-tenured friends and colleagues telling you or speaking around in departmental meetings or social settings? How has increased casualisation across higher education impacted their work and life? Broader research can tell you more about how this is impacting research, pedagogy, and employment in your field. What are you hearing from colleagues making $15/hr or close to? What are at-will staff confiding in you that they are afraid to bring up to their managers? 
  • Using your voice: Whether in a departmental meeting, a committee you serve on, the V Forum, or a one-on-one with an administrator, how are you amplifying the voices and ideas (with consent- a conversation beforehand of “You mentioned…. I was hoping to discuss it with… if you agree that is a good idea. What would you recommend I say or avoid here?) of those not able to be in that room or in a position where they don’t feel comfortable speaking up. 
  • Meaningful service: For issues you care about or see impacting your colleagues, what is the work you can do or the rooms you have access to? How does your service work align with your solidarity work, from shared governance to freeing up time for contingent faculty to work on their CV to serving on an AAUP committee?

Speaking personally, as someone who will never have tenure at Bucknell, it is sometimes challenging to navigate bravery strategically. I must consider not only what I want to say but the contexts and framings that are least likely to impact my employment. Over my time at Bucknell, I have been incredibly grateful for the tenured faculty members who have been willing to use their voice, connections, and relative safety to amplify my ideas, work, and concerns. As we continue to create a campus more deeply rooted in solidarity, I hope that tenured faculty  will consider how you could connect with others and use the privileges of job security and academic freedom fight for a campus community where we all have job security and academic freedom, health care, decent working conditions, and a livable wage.

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