Unions and Unity — Loyola’s Fight for More Light

Natalie Battaglia | Loyola University ChicagoLoyola's Lakeshore Campus glows underneath a full moon.

Although striking may seem like a radical action to take, it is absolutely necessary to demand that our work as instructors be valued by the administration. We would rather be teaching but must take this opportunity to raise our voices together. In the absence of a fair contract, the value of our hard work goes unrecognized. In the absence of a fair contract, we must strike. If our last bargaining session with administration on Monday, April 2 goes well, we will not have to.

I have been teaching at Loyola since 2005, when I was hired as an adjunct directly after moving to Chicago to pursue my Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I already had a Master’s of Art in English/Creative Writing and had been trained as an English instructor, so I was thrilled and ready to be given the opportunity to teach at Loyola.

Being hired as an adjunct often feels like the university is taking a chance on you by giving you a chance. Being contingent faculty is a precarious position. Like all of my colleagues, I worked extremely hard for my degrees, but the position is on a semester by semester basis, so it feels uncertain what one’s worth is at the university as a whole.

Nevertheless, I have always made my students my first priority, and I’ve always received high marks on my evaluations. Being a poet, I apply creativity to my curriculum, and my students appreciate that. I pay attention to what they need and ask them to articulate how we can work together. I’ve stayed at Loyola because the atmosphere of collaboration with both students and faculty is stimulating and challenging.

In 2012, I was hired as a full-time non-tenure track (NTT) instructor and have only felt more involved at Loyola. It has felt like a great gift. At the same time, I have seen brilliant adjunct faculty come and go. I’ve seen brilliant adjunct faculty hang on without a living wage or benefits.

Am I one of the lucky ones? It sure feels like it. Why shouldn’t a path toward full-time be provided to every adjunct hired by Loyola? It’s obvious this is possible. Instead of hiring a slew of adjuncts in the fall and then firing them or giving them only half their course load in the spring, why not just responsibly hire enough full-time faculty to teach the necessary courses for the current student population? This way, part-time faculty can stay on to be more involved with the rest of us. Our goal is that year after year we have consistent, strong classes for our students while supporting the development of our faculty.

As full-time faculty, I’m thrilled to have been asked to be more involved in Loyola’s programming, which is a stipulation of my contract. As a result, my workload has grown and grown. From talking to other full-time NTTs, I’ve learned workload requirements are often uneven from department to department.

Work is added for us, but course releases, the ability to teach one less class because of other responsibilities at Loyola, are hard to come by, and sabbaticals, a regular paid year off for tenure-track and tenured faculty to pursue their scholarship, research and publications, are completely off the table for us. In order to ensure a high quality of work in all areas of our jobs, we must be able to make a case for reasonable and equitable workload at the full-time level.

We currently don’t see the Loyola administration creating conditions for a work environment where the actual nature and outcome of our work is recognized, respected or responded to. Since I’ve become full-time, I’ve had more time to focus on my Loyola students and more time to make crucial decisions about my teaching, in addition to becoming more involved in the community at large. However, I’ve also been asked to do more than I possibly can.

We need to address this situation as it affects all NTT faculty at Loyola, and we deserve a contract which makes the expectations and compensation surrounding our work fairer and clearer.

I’m committed to striking because of the issues I’ve grown to understand are crucial to the well being of individual instructors: a living wage, benefits, job security and path to promotion within the Loyola community, and being valued equally with other faculty. It’s absolutely necessary the conditions we’ve come up with as a group are recognized and implemented as they are.

We’ve spent 21 months deliberating and collaborating on specific contract areas that the administration has only recently begun to listen to. We must show that despite the trend of universities across the country using the same tactic of saying, “well, everybody else is doing it,” we are actually merely demanding fair treatment.

I ask other faculty at Loyola to take a minute and think about their reasons for not striking. Have you invested your own idea of self-worth and entitlement in what the status quo has determined for you? Do you believe we all should just accept what we’ve been given within an institution that is making decisions mostly for profit? In my classes, I teach how the fight for civil rights has affected various groups throughout history. I teach how to read literature so it awakens us to the diversity of human experience, and I teach creative students to find a unique voice within that can be spoken and valued within a community.

What do you teach? Come stand with us.

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