Competing Head-to-Head, or the Tarnished Dozen at NYU

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Congratulations to the adjunct faculty at NYU who won Outstanding Teaching Awards last week. The Outstanding Teaching Award is a sub-category of NYU’s “Golden Dozen,” competition. The Golden Dozen awards are given out by the College of Arts and Sciences and, according to this article in the NYU News, “recognize tenured professors, clinical faculty and full-time language faculty who have demonstrated exceptional contributions and services to undergraduate students. Candidates for the award must have held their current position for at least three years and are chosen based upon nominations and recommendations submitted each spring by students and fellow CAS faculty members.”

So, faculty nominate their colleagues (or themselves), and students nominate their teachers for the Golden Dozen Awards. Golden Dozen winners receive “$1,500 addition to their base salary. Award recipients’ respective departments also received a one-time grant of $500 from the university to enhance undergraduate education.” Outstanding Teaching Award winners receive—you guessed it—not a penny.

If part-time faculty ever expect to earn equal pay for equal work, they are going to have to compete head-to-head with full-time faculty for teaching awards. The Outstanding Teaching Award is akin to nice, cushy seats at the back of the bus. Riding in the back is better than walking, but eventually people like to sit where they want to, and not where they’re told they must for form’s sake. Of course, it would be a fiasco for full-time faculty at NYU if their part-time colleagues captured the majority of the Golden Dozen. However, shouldn’t the best teacher win the teaching award and get the cash?

NYU has a part-time faculty union. Union leaders could offer to pony up the money to double the Golden Dozen prize, and then bargain for part-time faculty to compete right alongside their full-time colleagues in the Golden Dozen competition. Then, and only then, will there be an honest-to-goodness competition to recognize and reward faculty excellence at NYU. As always, my money is on the part-timers to sweep any teaching award competition. Maybe that’s why the tenure-track faculty and full-time lecturers at NYU are content to participate in a rigged competition that ought to be more aptly named the Tarnished Dozen.

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