On Nov. 26, 2018, the Service Employees International Union Local 205 withdrew its pending petition to unionize non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Science. The request was approved by the National Labor Relations Board Dec. 7, which means the faculty unionization effort on Vanderbilt University’s campus is officially closed.
“This has been an incredibly long process, and I am thankful to all for communicating openly during this time and carefully considering the significance of such decisions for our community,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente wrote in a message to faculty Dec. 7. “We continue to be dedicated to ensuring transparency and collaboration through shared governance with Vanderbilt faculty, and we remain fully committed to doing so in the future. Together, we work to ensure our excellence in teaching, research and service.”
Wente outlined several new initiatives that will continue to address recommendations that came from a Faculty Working Group analysis of the 2016 faculty COACHE survey. Each of these initiatives has an emphasis on shared governance, faculty development and research support for NTT faculty. For example, they include the Faculty Insight and IMPACT Series, the University Faculty Development Committee, and research and travel grants.
The union’s latest decision to withdraw from Vanderbilt comes after it abandoned its petitions to unionize full-time and adjunct NTT faculty in the Blair School of Music, the Divinity School and Peabody College following the June 2017 election. There was high voter turnout in each of the four schools on the ballot in the election. Robust participation by faculty eligible to vote and transparency about the rationale of the university’s response to the petition were the university’s primary goals throughout this process.
“The union’s withdrawal marks a significant moment for the college. NTT faculty are a critical part of the Arts and Science community, yet the SEIU petition blocked us by law from addressing some of the problems facing NTT faculty,” said John Geer, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “With the petition withdrawn, I look forward to working together to find solutions.”
In a message to Arts and Science faculty that followed Wente’s, Geer announced two College of Arts and Science non-tenure track faculty town halls, which will be held Jan. 14 and Jan. 17. The focus of the discussions will be to invite conversation and identify next steps to enhance and improve representation of NTT faculty, as well as their overall experience in the college. At the same time, Geer also announced an advisory group of Arts and Science NTT faculty that will be developed based on the discussion from the town halls.