Letters to Editor, Opinion

Letter to the Editor: President Brown’s State of the University message left out most of BU’s faculty

Written by many faculty in the CAS Writing Program

Boston University’s lecturers publish books. We conduct research. We lead, and we innovate. Our courses have been highlighted in BU’s Annual Report. We win teaching awards — in fact, according to President Robert Brown, “Lecturers are consistently among those who win the highest (teaching) honors we offer.” 

And, yet, President Brown excluded lecturers from the list of promoted faculty in his recent State of the University report, though non-tenure-track faculty comprise more than 71% of BU’s full-time faculty (according to IPEDS data) — suggesting that lecturers, who carry much of the University’s instructional load, do not count as faculty, and further that President Brown does not recognize our contributions to the university. 

The authors of this letter teach in the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program, which serves first-year students across BU’s schools and colleges. We teach small seminars, where students learn one another’s names and create one of their first communities at the University. Our pedagogy is deeply invested in inclusive practices. Underrepresented students tell us that the care we take with inclusive language helps them to feel welcome in the potentially alienating context of a large, majority-white, majority middle and upper-class campus. It is disappointing that some of the University’s most dedicated advocates for inclusion should find themselves excluded from an important symbolic acknowledgement of faculty achievement. 

When several lecturers emailed President Brown to point out this omission, he responded to each of us with the same non-apology to — “acknowledge (our) expression of disappointment” — and justifying this inequitable practice as standard operating procedure: this is just the way announcing promotions has always been during his time at BU. Perhaps it is time for this practice to be updated to better reflect not only the contributions of our non-tenure track faculty, but also the priorities of the university on diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Indeed, BU’s Strategic Plan names diversity, equity and inclusion a top priority, declaring “a more diverse institution with equitable access, inclusive practices and opportunities for all faculty, staff and students” as “both distinctly important and necessarily embedded in all we do.” Something here doesn’t track. 

Announcing lecturer promotions along with the rest of faculty promotions may not seem very important, but it stands for something larger. As BU’s own Organizational Development and Learning team wrote in a Nov. 2 email that went out to all faculty and staff, “Feeling valued and recognized is core to our sense of dignity and belonging. It is necessary for building trusting relationships and cultivating resilience in teams.” 

We hope BU’s next president will take that statement more seriously. 

Heather Barrett 

Jessica Bozek 

Sean Desilets 

Pary Fassihi 

Sarah Hanselman 

Gwen Kordonowy 

Sarah Madsen Hardy 

Michele Martinez 

Christina Michaud 

Molly Monet-Viera 

David Shawn 

Lesley Yoder

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  1. And promotions of other non tenure-track faculty, such as professors of the practice, should get acknowledged as well.

  2. BU should also remember that more than half its faculty are lecturers–full time and part time–not professors with tenure or the possibility of tenure. That means that lecturers actually do most of the teaching, research, and administration, and not the other way round. The number of lecturers who run programs and institutes and develop curriculum would likely surprise us all. Celebrating our promotions and other achievements (which are many) is the least BU can do, given everything lecturers do to make our institution the best it can be.