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February 23, 2001

Proposed caps on non-tenured teaching draws concern

by Linda Charles
While faculty worry about temporary hirings encroaching on tenure-line positions, administrators worry about shrinking budgets and hiring the best employees. And temporary faculty worry about where they'll be next year.

These are the concerns the Faculty Senate is trying to address with a proposed policy that would provide temporary faculty longer employment opportunities, but limit the percentage of total credit hours that could be taught by non-tenure track faculty.

Proposed policy
Under the initial proposal, temporary faculty could be appointed to longer non-tenure track terms -- three years, with the possibility of renewal for a second three-year term. (Currently full-time temporary faculty receive one-year contracts, with a cap of five years' employment.) Tenure-line faculty would oversee the non-tenure track faculty, as well as teaching done by Professional and Scientific staff.

After two terms, a person holding a non-tenure track position could be appointed to a continuing position of senior "lecturer" or "clinician," with approval of the appropriate faculty. These continuing faculty would be peer-reviewed every five years, with termination possible after the sixth year.

In addition, the senate task force that prepared the proposed policy recommends that the percentage of course hours taught by non-tenure track faculty be limited to 15 percent in any department, and 5 percent in any college and the university as a whole. The task force calls for these caps to be met within five years.

The task force, after considering the input it has received over the last few weeks, is expected to present a revised version of the proposed policy to the Faculty Senate in March.

Possible job losses
The suggestion to limit the amount of teaching done by non-tenure track faculty has raised the most concerns within the campus community. Some say if the 5 percent overall cap for the university is enforced, many temporary faculty (estimates go as high as 84 percent) would lose their jobs.

"One of the primary rationales for the policy is academic freedom, which the task force says is extremely important," said John Pleasants, temporary assistant professor of zoology and genetics. "But their solution is to make all of these (temporary) people unemployed. They're saying, 'We can't assure you academic freedom, so we're giving you the boot.'"

The caps would include Professional and Scientific staff, who teach 4.2 percent of the student credit hours. Currently, 20 percent of the ISU faculty is non-tenure track. But the percentage of student credit hours taught by non-tenure track faculty is probably higher, since temporary faculty generally teach more courses than tenure-line faculty do.

Cost projections
"I'm very pleased with the initial draft," Provost Rollin Richmond said. "I have only one concern, the issue of setting limits on the percentage of student credit hours that can be taught by non-tenure track faculty."

Richmond estimates that replacing non-tenure track faculty with tenure-line faculty to achieve the percentages in the proposal would cost the university $15 million in salaries and fringe benefits, based on the "reasonable assumption" that tenure-track faculty teach fewer students than non-tenure track faculty.

"We could do that if the Legislature appropriated the resources for us or if we substantially increased tuition," he said, "but there is very little chance that would happen."

Charles Kostelnick, chair of the English department, has the same concerns.

"I'm very much in favor of the proposal," he said. "It would be a great help to our department. I'm delighted the senate is taking it up. But the big issue is the cap. Fifteen percent is way below what we would need in our department."

If the 15 percent cap were enforced, Kostelnick said that a sizeable part of the English department would have to "shut down. Just do the math."

The numbers
The English department has approximately 60 tenure-line positions. This spring, it is employing 39 temporary instructors, although the average runs somewhere between 20 and 30, Kostelnick said.

The majority of the non-tenure track faculty teach entry-level or service classes. As enrollment and programs grow, some departments have experienced huge increases in non-tenure track faculty.

From 1992 to 2000, there was a 94 percent increase in non-tenured faculty in Veterinary Medicine, a 39 percent increase in Design, a 31 percent increase in Liberal Arts and Sciences and a 30 percent increase in Business. Only Agriculture and Education had a reduction in the percentage of temporary faculty, according to the senate task force.

The university has lost approximately 75 tenure lines since 1990, reports the task force. Over approximately the same period, the university increased the number of teaching non-tenure track positions by 43. These figures don't include P&S staff who teach.

"We could use some more tenure-line faculty, obviously," Richmond said. "The numbers are down, but no one is very optimistic about our getting them."

Different needs
Perhaps not all faculty positions need to be tenured, points out Faye Whitaker, associate provost. For instance, the administration is thinking of hiring practitioners, in this case veterinarians, to work full time in the Vet Med clinics. This not only would free up tenure-line faculty to teach and conduct research, it also would allow the university to hire specialists (for example, an expert in animal ophthalmology) who do not wish to take on all the duties of tenure-line faculty, she said.

"Tenure-line faculty have a complex set of responsibilities covering scholarship, discovery and engagement," she said. "But we also have a need for people with targeted expertise, primarily in the clinical areas and in teaching."

She added that needs vary greatly at the university, and sometimes bringing in a practitioner can be a benefit to a department and its students.

"For example, in architecture they might bring in a practitioner to enhance the educational program. It's good to have people from the professional world. They bring a perspective those perpetually in faculty roles don't have."

The College of Education also uses a number of practitioners to supervise its student teachers.

Lasting situation
Not all non-tenure track faculty teach. There is a small group who are employed full time, usually at the various research centers on campus.

"While the exact number of full-time, non-tenured research faculty at ISU has not been determined," the task force report said, "the number appears to be manageable and probably small compared to that at other research universities."

Whitaker pointed out, "There always will continue to be temporary needs. We may need to hire temporary faculty to fill in for someone on leave, for example. And we can't always predict how big our freshman class will be. I expect there would continue to be a mix of continuous non-tenure track faculty and temporary faculty."

Richmond agrees with the senate task force that in an "ideal" world, nearly all faculty would be tenure-line, but he quickly points out, "I don't live in an ideal world." Even if he suddenly were handed $50 million for faculty salaries, he said he would reserve some of that for temporary faculty.

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