Welcome to the resources page of our website, where you will find reference links and frequently asked questions.



For answers to your questions or further information, contact Associate Vice Provost William LeoGrande, avpleogrande@american.

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The following is a list of resources we have compiled to help our term faculty members stay informed about the possible unionization process at American University.





Comparison of SEIU's Description of Unionization Benefits and Current American University Policy.
What SEIU promises… What AU term faculty have already achieved…

Source for the SEIU’s promises: http://www.seiu500.org/2017/02/frequently-asked-questions-about-unionization-of-term-faculty-at-american-university/ as of 10/15/2017.

Protections against unfair discipline or dismissal;

Protection through a grievance process exists for all full time faculty;

Job security and protections on renewals;

Renewals go through multiple reviews; multi-yr. can be appealed;

Length of contracts, multi-year appointment;

Multi-year contracts already exist;

Better working conditions;

Term faculty have same working conditions as tenure line faculty;

Increased compensation and improved benefit;

$1.8 million increased compensation beyond merit pool since 2016;

Teaching load and other responsibilities;

Reduced loads available for research and administrative duties;

Pathways to promotion;

Promotion paths already exist;

Supports for research, scholarship, prof. development;

Term faculty are already eligible for research and teaching grants;

Problem-solving through a Labor-Management Committee.

Senate and academic unit term faculty committees already exist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our term faculty members received the following information from Provost Scott A. Bass.

A union is a private organization that represents a group of employees in their dealings with their employer. The group the union represents is called a “bargaining unit.” The union negotiates with the employer over terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, benefits, schedules, and promotional opportunities.

  • Typically, as a first step, supporters of the union will ask colleagues to sign authorization cards declaring their support for the union to represent them exclusively in negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment. 
  • A union representative will then file a petition with the NLRB seeking to represent a specified bargaining unit. If the NLRB finds the unit appropriate and determines that at least 30% of all term faculty within the proposed unit have signed an authorization card, it will process the petition and call for an election.

  • All members of the proposed unit would have the opportunity to cast a "yes" or "no" vote in favor of or opposed to being represented by the union. It is important to note that signing an authorization card in support of the petition does not make you obligated to participate in the election or to vote in support of or against union representation. 
  • Like many other elections, the vote will be conducted by secret ballot. If a majority of the voters cast a ballot vote to unionize, the union will exclusively represent everyone within the unit, including those who choose not to vote. It is therefore possible that a small number of term faculty who do participate in the process or the election could dictate the outcome for everyone. The university encourages all term faculty members to make their voices heard by voting.

Yes, please do so. The university’s primary goal during this process is to foster a healthy, informed discussion that allows term faculty to make a free and educated choice about union representation. Sharing your opinions and viewpoints with your colleagues will be vital toward achieving this goal.

While the university encourages open and candid conversation and diverse perspectives, you have the right not to discuss the matter. You are free to exercise your right not to engage in the discussion and to express this position to your co-workers.

You have the right to tell them so. Some term faculty have reported being approached by union organizers at night after a class or at home. Just as you have a right to freely express your views about unionization, you have the right to refuse to engage in a conversation with union organizers or anyone else about your views on unionization. If you feel that a union organizer has acted in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you can lodge a complaint directly with the union.

American University is not anti-union and it did not oppose the adjunct faculty’s decision to choose whether to be represented by the Service Employees International Union. Indeed, SEIU Local 500 represents our adjunct faculty and American University has had a constructive relationship with the union since 2013. Our term faculty, however, are very different from the adjunct faculty, are part of the decision-making process involving the curriculum, the pedagogy, and shaping the very mission of the university.

Term faculty represent an integral part of the university's academic mission and are closely involved in critical aspects of university management. As a result, there is a serious legal question about whether term faculty at American University are an appropriate bargaining unit under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Given the involvement of term faculty members at the highest levels of university administration and management, it is the university's view that term faculty do not constitute an appropriate bargaining unit under the NLRA. This legal question will need to be resolved at some point during the process.

Absolutely not. On this matter, as in all matters, the university is firmly committed to freedom of expression and freedom of association. It recognizes the right of term faculty to engage in concerted activity to advance their common interests. Under no circumstances will the university take adverse action against a faculty member for exercising those rights. In addition, as a matter of law, the National Labor Relations Act protects individuals from retaliation for their advocacy either for or against unionization.

American University believes that including its full-time term faculty in a union is inappropriate because, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, faculty that have the opportunity to participate in the shared governance of the university are considered “managerial.” We are proud of our model of shared governance, which is robust. Our full-time faculty have the opportunity to participate and share in university governance through their schools/colleges, the Faculty Senate, and/or through their appointment to strategic committees and leadership roles. As we stated before, the question of whether our term faculty are eligible to vote is a legal question that will need to be addressed at some point in the process.

American University is concerned that unionization of our term faculty would jeopardize our model of shared governance. We are also concerned that unionization of our term faculty will create a legalistic, formal division between the faculty. We have heard reports out of Duke and University of Chicago that unionization of their non-tenured faculty has fostered an “us vs. them” attitude. We are concerned unionization would change the way in which the faculty interact with each other and the way faculty participate in a model of shared governance at both the unit and university level. It could influence the composition of the Faculty Senate and the contractual terms specified in the Faculty Manual. The Board of Trustees could be required to reconsider the Faculty Manual itself. In short, unionization could create a different categorization of faculty which could look very different than it does today, more akin to our adjunct faculty just on a full-time basis.

  • Term faculty, like their non-term colleagues, are eligible to vote for members of the Faculty Senate and the Educational Policy Committee. They can also participate in voting on curricular issues at the teaching unit level.
  • Term faculty are active participants in university faculty governance; many of them chair a number of Faculty Senate committees and currently constitute almost half of the senate overall. Professors Lacey Wooton and Andrea Pearson, both members of the term faculty, are past and current Faculty Senate chairs respectively.
  • Last fall, the Dean of Academic Affairs created the new position of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and appointed term faculty member Nuria Vilanova. Additionally, Jessica Waters, the Dean of Undergraduate Education and Vice Provost for Academic Student Services, is a key leader on the provost’s academic leadership team and is a member of the President’s Council. Term faculty are represented throughout the academic administration and have a voice at the highest level of the university’s administration.

Over the last decade, American University has made enormous progress to recognize the significant role that term faculty play in helping the university achieve and maintain its excellent reputation.


  • The university eliminated the limit on term faculty reappointments, created renewable multi-year appointments, and established a path to promotion. These changes were implemented at the unit level, established as policy in the Faculty Manual, and approved by the Board of Trustees. Among the changes made to the Faculty Manual were ones that reinforced academic freedom as a cornerstone principle for all faculty ranks at AU.


  • The Faculty Senate created an eight-member ad hoc committee to review and offer recommendations regarding the role of non-tenure-line faculty. The recommendations were considered, and a large majority of them were implemented.
  • In response to committee feedback, each academic unit has now clarified and shared the processes (including posting procedures and timelines) and criteria for appointing and reappointing term faculty.
  • Additionally, (re)appointment letters more clearly define the term of the appointment or reappointment, as well as the expected academic responsibilities, including course workload and scholarship (if applicable), during that term.
  • Further, term faculty who go above and beyond their credit workload became eligible for an "overload stipend" in recognition for their efforts.


  • Since 2012, the College of Arts and Sciences has had an ongoing Term Faculty Task Force, and most of the other schools have created similar task forces and committees.


  • The Faculty Senate developed and introduced a new "continuing appointment" option for library non-tenure-line faculty in which those faculty members are eligible for continuing appointments on an ongoing basis following a six-year probationary period.


  • The university started to accelerate the timing of numerous term faculty reappointments to provide greater job security.
  • Additionally, the university allocated $1,800,000 to raise term faculty salaries in the last two budget cycles.
  • Term faculty also now have the same benefit options as tenure-line faculty and are eligible for many of the professional development and grant submission support opportunities as those received by tenure-line faculty.


  • The Faculty Senate through its ad hoc committee approved further enhancements to the Faculty Manual in the spirit of greater engagement of the term faculty. Initiated in May 2016, the ad hoc committee recommended changes to the Faculty Manual principally to provide clearer reappointment and promotion sequences. These revisions are now under review by a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees.
  • The Faculty Senate has also agreed to the establishment of a standing committee on term faculty. The Faculty Senate will call for election of their members this fall.

Today, term faculty are found in a variety of academic leadership roles on campus and influence the academic and overall direction of the university in many ways.

That depends on the outcome of contract negotiations, but typically, yes. Term faculty members would either have to join the union and pay dues, or pay a fee. Unions need to charge their members’ dues and fees to cover operational costs, including salaries and expenses for union personnel. As a point of comparison, adjunct faculty at American University, including those who did not wish to be represented, are currently required to pay SEIU dues of $14.50-$18.50 every two weeks (or approximately $377-$481per year), in addition to a one-time initiation fee for new members. Please visit https://500.seiu.org/page/signup/au-authorization for more information.

If the term faculty unionize, SEIU will become the sole representative of all term faculty for the purpose of negotiating terms and conditions of employment. These negotiated terms will be set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the university. It will not be legally possible for the university to separately negotiate issues such as appointment, reappointment, promotion, salaries, or benefits with any other entity, including term faculty committees. Since the Senate committee on term faculty and the term faculty committees in the schools and colleges were created principally for the purpose of raising these sorts of issues, it is unclear what role, if any, they would have going forward.

If the NLRB holds that term faculty at AU are employees rather than partners in governance of the university and a majority of the term faculty voters choose to be represented by SEIU, the role of term faculty in shared governance would become a matter for collective bargaining, with no assurance that it would continue, or if it did continue, how that role might change.

For example, the Faculty Senate would no longer have the same participation it currently has in proposing the terms and conditions of term faculty employment, such as rank, criteria for promotion, the promotion process, the grievance process, or the appeal process for multi-year faculty denied reappointment. All these matters would become subject to collective bargaining with SEIU, in which the Faculty Senate would have no role. If the collective bargaining process resulted in an agreement that conflicted with the Faculty Manual, the manual would have to be changed, regardless of the Faculty Senate’s views.

  • That would depend on what is included in the collective bargaining agreement. Term faculty will be represented by an outside organization (the union) for purposes of negotiating a uniform, university-wide set of employment terms and conditions. Currently, term faculty can communicate directly and individually with the administration regarding working conditions and also work with existing term faculty committees within individual schools and college to address each school and college's unique circumstances.
  • It is possible that, as a result of the collective bargaining agreement, the administration would no longer be able to negotiate pay directly with term faculty. Likewise, rules could be implemented that dictate how non-tenure-line faculty are selected. Additionally, while term faculty currently have a significant role in university governance and participate in critical aspects of university management, it is unclear how a union would affect this role.

Once a union wins an election, it remains the “certified representative” indefinitely and will represent all term faculty within the bargaining unit in the future. Unlike electing a president or mayor, an election to decide whether to remain unionized is not regularly scheduled. At a minimum, though, term faculty who do not want a union must wait at least one full year before seeking another election. The process to decertify (or remove) a union typically also requires a vote, and it is a complex process that can take years to complete.

Representatives of the university and a team of union negotiators would meet at agreed upon times and places to discuss the union’s bargaining demands. The university is not required to agree to anything; its only obligation is to meet with the union at reasonable times and places and bargain in good faith.

Typically, a union has a paid professional staffer or attorney serve as its lead negotiator. The other members of the union “bargaining committee” are selected by members of the union. The exact process is usually set forth in the union bylaws.

That depends on the union’s rules. Usually, the union bargaining committee meets with members of the bargaining unit and solicits proposals. The specific demands that are communicated to the university at the bargaining table are usually decided by the bargaining committee.

No. Collective bargaining agreements focus on term faculty as one unit, rather than as a group of individuals. No exceptions are permitted unless the labor contract explicitly includes them or the union agrees otherwise.

  • The parties are required to bargain in good faith, but there is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached. For example, the SEIU won an election in December 2015 to represent term faculty at the University of Chicago, but the parties there have yet to reach an agreement.
  • If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the university would have the right to declare an impasse in bargaining. If that were to happen, the university may have the right to unilaterally implement the terms of its last offer. Additionally, if no agreement is reached, the union may call term faculty out on strike.

The NLRB’s website, https://www.nlrb.gov, contains a wealth of information about the unionization process. The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) offers a neutral scholarly view on the subject that helpfully summarizes arguments for and against unionization. A number of other universities have faced similar decisions. At the University of Washington, for example, the SEIU posted a website in favor of unionizing faculty, while a group of faculty members explained their reasoning for opposing SEIU unionization efforts.