By Provost David Wu
I am writing to address an important topic that affects universities nationwide, including George Mason University: Work conditions among non-tenure-track faculty.
Mason’s leadership – including myself, the president, the deans and directors, and my senior staff – recently received and read a survey conducted by Mason doctoral students on this topic. We also met with the authors. While we didn’t agree with all of the survey’s findings, it raised some important issues that deserve our attention.
The mission of George Mason is to educate and prepare students for a complex and changing world. To meet that mission, we must attract and support an accomplished faculty. We are very proud of our faculty members. We are also aware of many of their concerns. Across the country, public universities have been educating more students with fewer resources. Slow economic growth has made employee morale a challenge, and Mason is not immune.
We understand that compensation is a concern for our faculty. Our challenge is to balance the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C. region with a commitment to keeping tuitions in line with our public education mission. We are also dealing with state budget cuts. Still, a top priority for Mason is to address the issue of compensation. We will not give up and will continue to find ways to improve the situation.
At the same time, it’s important not to view all non-tenure-track faculty through the same lens. For example, full-time term faculty members, who were included in the survey, receive many of the same benefits as tenure-track faculty. And, our adjunct professors capture a diverse range of professionals. Our proximity to Washington, D.C. allows the university to attract leaders at the top of their fields, including practicing engineers, scientists, journalists, policymakers, and even current and former members of Congress. Some adjuncts are graduate students starting promising academic careers. Still, others depend on adjunct positions for full-time work.
The faculty members that I have had a chance to meet have a strong passion for teaching and research. As a new provost, that is inspiring. We’ve seen that dedication reflected in a Chronicle of Higher Education survey that named us as one of the best places to work.
Nonetheless, we do believe that we can improve and are taking immediate action based on some of the survey’s findings. To start, we will invite all new adjunct faculty members to attend an orientation to make them aware of the resources at the university that can help them succeed and support students.
We will continue to actively monitor this issue and make additional changes as needed. We value our faculty and appreciate their dedication to strengthening the student learning experience at George Mason University.
S. David Wu
Provost and Executive Vice President