Quick Facts: Adjunct & Non-Tenure Track Faculty

"Howard University faculty serve a vital role in our community and we respect the right of temporary faculty to bargain collectively through union representation. We remain committed to good faith efforts to reach an accord that benefits Howard instructors, but also prevents the erosion of tenure and potentially negative impacts to the fundamental research mission of our University."

President Wayne A. I. Frederick


Adjunct Faculty and Non-Tenure Track Faculty Negotiations

Howard University has been in negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, which represents two faculty bargaining units – part-time or adjunct faculty and non-tenure track  in certain schools and colleges, primarily our undergraduate schools and the School of Social Work. From the beginning, our goal has been to work with the union to achieve an equitable and sustainable solution that supports adjunct and non-tenure track faculty.

The adjunct faculty have been unionized since 2016, and the agreement currently in negotiation would be a renewal. 

This is the first collective bargaining agreement in negotiation with the temporary faculty.

Temporary and Adjunct Faculty Employment

  • Some Howard University schools and colleges offer temporary faculty positions. Temporary faculty are appointed for one year or one semester and may work full-time or part-time. Part-time faculty are commonly referred to as adjunct faculty. 
  • At Howard University, as at most comparable institutions, an adjunct instructor position is designed as a temporary, part-time teaching opportunity.
  • Whether full-time or adjunct, temporary faculty serve in instructional capacities only, with minimal, if any, expectation of conducting research and producing scholarship or creative work or of performing service – a key tenet of the Howard University mission.
  • While we recognize that some temporary faculty may go above and beyond this requirement, the distinct role of the temporary faculty member is meant to allow for flexibility on the part of the instructor as well as the University.
  • Temporary faculty are not eligible for tenure, nor may they serve more than seven years in full-time status.

Why Is the Seven-Year Rule In Place?

The union has demanded that the University eliminate the “seven-year rule” that applies to adjunct and non-tenure track faculty. The rule is in place to ensure that Howard has the correct variety of faculty to meet academic needs while also protecting the integrity of the tenure process. Under the union’s proposals, temporary faculty appointments – which are exclusively instructional roles – would be treated as permanent appointments. This undermines the flexibility given by the temporary faculty role.

Removal of the Seven-Year Rule Would Have Severe Impact on Howard University’s Research Mission

  • Currently, the union proposals would effectively grant non-tenure track faculty de facto tenure, without going through the same rigorous process – or being evaluated by the same criteria – as junior faculty on tenure track. 
  • As part of our research mission, we remain steadfast in our efforts to advance a union agreement that prevents the erosion of tenure or negatively impacts tenure-track faculty. These faculty provide scholarship, research and service in the form of mentorship, advising and voluntary leadership to the University, while also serving as instructors.
  • Keep in mind the seven-year rule also impacts tenure-track faculty who do not achieve tenure by the seventh year.   

Elimination of the Seven-Year Rule Threatens Howard University’s Financial Sustainability

  • The elimination of the seven-year rule and the union’s proposed replacement could result in significant financial harm to the University that will limit the number of temporary faculty openings moving forward.

Pathways to Permanent Employment

  • Howard University created a pathway for temporary faculty to be granted career status. The new pathway allows qualified temporary faculty to be appointed for a multi-year term that is renewable until they leave the University voluntarily. 
  • Temporary faculty may apply or be recommended for appointment to any permanent positions that become open, including those that involve tenure status. This is just one way in which the university is seeking to grow and retain outstanding faculty.

  • Issues of Compensation and Cost of Living Concerns
  • The University has given the union two economic proposals that include wage increases for both adjunct and non-tenure track faculty. We  received a counterproposal to the economic offer on March 18.
  • Howard University acknowledges the increased cost of living, and that some Howard instructors are paying a significant portion of their salary toward housing costs. In an effort to contribute to the affordable housing options available to our faculty, the University continues to prioritize projects that will improve and expand housing options available to the Howard community near campus. The blueprint for this expansion is included in the Campus Master Plan.
  • Howard is cognizant of ongoing gentrification in the District and the rising costs of housing. Our distinct location in the nation’s capital means that we often face economic challenges that are beyond our control. This requires us to remain responsive and flexible to ensure the needs of our students, faculty, and staff are met.
  • The Howard University strategic plan serves as a roadmap for continuous improvement on Howard’s campus. One of the plans key pillars, Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness, emphasizes ongoing improvements to the campus footprint.

Proposed Solutions: The Path Forward

Our commitment to the entire University, including students, faculty, staff and alumni, has remained our guiding light throughout this process, and we are confident that by working together we will become a stronger institution. To help adjunct and temporary faculty achieve more stability and security in employment, we have presented potential solutions in our discussions with the union. These include:

  • Encouraging temporary faculty to apply for or be recommended for appointment to any position in the tenured and probationary tenure track or the non-tenured renewable term track (including master instructor) for which a search has been initiated and for which they are qualified;
  • Providing for a career status appointment for instructors, after three years, which would be a board-approved appointment for temporary faculty who meet the criteria to be reappointed until they leave the University voluntarily – such as through retirement or resignation – absent a disqualifying reason;
  • Proposing specific salary increase proposals for both adjunct and non-tenure track faculty, and we will continue good faith bargaining around compensation in an effort to reach agreements with the union for the represented faculty.

Ongoing Negotiations

While the University will continue to negotiate in good faith, it is possible that SEIU has already determined to conduct a strike of adjunct and temporary faculty next week (March 23-25, 2022). This threat of a strike would be detrimental to the learning environment for our students, particularly as we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. If a strike were to occur, courses will continue as scheduled by our non-unionized faculty, and the University will implement contingency plans to lessen any adverse impact on our students.

Faculty who choose to engage in a strike will not be terminated or disciplined as it is their right to engage in this strike under federal law. When the strike ends, we expect those who participate to return to their classes.


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