Letter to the Editor: Visiting Assistant Professors at Bucknell Demand Equal Pay and Fair Working Conditions

Dear Editor,

Bucknell University hires scholars as visiting assistant professors typically “for the purpose of leave replacement” of tenure-track faculty. The visiting professors teach more classes than tenure-track professors but get paid less for doing so. Bucknell made additional cuts to the starting salary for visiting assistant professors by $5,000 as a pandemic response in 2020, and now the newly hired visiting faculty in 2023 will earn at least $13,000 less than the starting tenure-track faculty. No other full-time faculty position received this pay reduction. Although Bucknell received millions of dollars from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund the salary for visiting faculty has not been restored. With temporary contracts, visiting assistant professors are at a disadvantage in fighting for equality. We are hired on a 1-year contract, with a maximum of 4 renewals, and have no representation in university governance meetings that dictate our wage and working conditions.

The visiting assistant professors at Bucknell are essential in fulfilling the educational goals of the university. As artists, scholars, engineers, and scientists, we devote our substantial expertise and
scholastic strengths to best serve your interests. We mentor student research, provide educational and career guidance, write letters of recommendation, and our creative and scientific work promotes the Bucknell brand. However, Bucknell does not award our labor and dedication fairly—and we are expected to be thankful for the opportunity. We hope that some of you find this as frustrating as we do.

In November 2022, we delivered an open letter to Provost Mermann-Jozwiak to express our concerns. In the letter, we identified immediate actions that Bucknell can take to alleviate some of the unequal working conditions of VAPs. No attempt has been made to improve our situation. Therefore, we are organizing as a single voice and demand Bucknell University of the following:

1. Increase the starting salary of VAPs to the level of the starting tenure-stream assistant professor salary.
2. Pay the health insurance coverage for three months after the contract expires.
3. Proactively offer H-1B visas to foreign-born scholars and pay for attorney fees associated with filing the petition.
4. Contribute to the retirement fund from day one of employment without any conditions.
5. Offer minimum of two-year VAP contracts in the beginning, instead of the default one-year contract.

We delivered our demands to the Bucknell administration on April 19, 2023, and asked them to take action to meet our demands within a week. Provost Mermann-Jozwiak indicated that Bucknell will not take any actions within the week. We still expect the Bucknell administration to make meaningful and good-faith efforts to meet our demand. Should Bucknell University not meet our demands, we, the visiting assistant professors will be compelled to consider other avenues for advancing our collective needs.

On behalf of Visiting Assistant Professors at Bucknell

Jigjidsurengiin Batbaatar
James T. Pearson
Ximing Lu
Ted Hamilton

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