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Draft of letter indicates contracts may not be renewed for UM lecturers

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MISSOULA - The future for lecturers at the University of Montana is once again uncertain after a draft of a letter indicates contracts might not be renewed following the Spring semester.

The current draft of that letter indicates that the school is preparing to eliminate the position of lecturer from the school as it currently exists, instead hiring adjuncts to fill the role. The decision could impact as many as 35 lecturers. This would allow the school more flexibility in hiring, as year-long contracts would no longer exist, and teachers would be hired on a class-by-class basis.

UM Faculty union spokesperson Lee Banville worries this could drive away quality professors.

"I think what this means is if you're a good one you're going to leave," Banville said. "And really, when you look at who these people are, the people like Gary Kerr, Robert Stubblefield or Josh Slotnick from the PEAS Farm, these are like institutions within the institution, and they are like part of the reason a lot of kids come here. So the experience of undergrads is going to be really damaged by this."

Banville worries this decision could have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for the school.

"These are decisions that will change the way that the university operates. It'll change the kinds of people who are teaching here and the kinds of people that we attract in the future," he said.

A key issue for the faculty union, according to Banville, is the speed with which this decision could come down and the apparent lack of transparency that went into the process.

"For it to be made, essentially, quite suddenly and without any input from, I mean, they didn't talk to the unions at all about this," Banville said. "So it seems like we're back to where we were five months ago where I thought, maybe we were actually going to have more of a working together thing. But that appears not to be the case."

The letter has not yet been sent out, and as a draft it could change before it is sent out. Banville expects something substantial to happen by early next week, at the latest.

UM officials have not yet released a statement regarding this letter.

If contracts are not renewed, the approximately 35 positions could be eliminated by May 13, 2018.

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