INSIDE IOWA STATE
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.
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
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.
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
The College of Education also uses a number of practitioners to supervise
its student teachers.
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
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
Guide to academic titles.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2001, Iowa State University. All rights reserved.