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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

December 10, 2004

Policy's working, but room for improvement

by Linda Charles

Some say the policy for non-tenure-eligible faculty is working, but others say there's room for improvement.

The policy, which took effect in 2002, is intended to provide additional job stability and advancement opportunities for faculty in temporary positions. It also is intended to regulate the number of non-tenure-eligible faculty in classrooms, limiting their work to 25 percent of the teaching in a department and 15 percent at the university overall.

The policy created four new positions for non-tenure-eligible faculty: lecturer, clinician and senior lecturer and clinician. Lecturers and clinicians may be hired for up to three years at a time, and their contracts renewed up to a total of six years. Those who have advanced to senior positions may be hired for five years at a time and their contracts renewed indefinitely.

Some, like department chairs Justin Peters (math) and Charles Kostelnick (English), say the policy allows departments to plan ahead and provides job security for non-tenure-eligible faculty.

But Faculty Senate president Sanjeev Agarwal is concerned that some non-tenure-eligible faculty still are hired on a semester basis and have little representation. He also is concerned that the university is making only marginal progress toward meeting the teaching caps.

Senior lecturer Michelle Tremmel, English, is pleased with the policy and says she has more status in her department. But senior lecturer Elizabeth Schabel, also English, is not as impressed with the new policy, noting it has not improved her paycheck.

Greater stability

Peters likes the policy. "Now we can have multi-year contracts, which is good for the department and good for the employees. We can rely on certain people and not have to hire at the last minute," he said.

Peters said some classes probably are better taught by non-tenure-eligible faculty. For example, departmental lecturers teach math for elementary education majors, many of whom have math anxiety. "I don't see the tenure-track faculty doing a better job or wanting to get as involved," he said.

Kostelnick likes the stability the policy offers. "It's working well. It certainly has given non-tenure-eligible faculty a sense of stability that they didn't have before."

Peters said his department, like many departments, always will have some non-tenure-eligible faculty. During fall semester 2003, the mathematics department reported 30 percent of its class sections were taught by non-tenure-eligible faculty.

That same semester, the English department hit the 34 percent mark, but Kostelnick said the department may be very close to 25 percent in a couple of years. That's because a new Ph.D. program in the department will add 15 to 20 graduate students who can serve as assistant teachers.

Elizabeth Schabel

Senior lecturer Elizabeth Schabel (back, left), English, loves teaching, but isn't happy with the payscale for non-tenure-eligible faculty. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Budget causes problems

Fall semester 2003, 40 of the 56 teaching units were below the 25 percent cap. In the remaining 16 departments, 25.7 to 61.3 percent of class sections were taught by non-tenure-eligible teachers. At Iowa State overall, slightly more than 24 percent of the classes were taught by non-tenure-eligible faculty.

Associate provost Susan Carlson said she's not surprised the university hasn't made progress toward reaching the cap. "It's really a budget issue," she said, citing state budget cuts totaling $58 million during a four-year period. "It's an issue we do discuss when the hiring is going on and we encourage the hiring of tenure-eligible faculty when possible."

Sometimes temporary conditions can raise the percentage of class sections taught by non-tenure-eligible faculty. For example, the department of community and regional planning went from 26 percent in 2002 to 42 percent in 2003 when three of the department's nine tenure-track positions were vacated. Those positions were filled with non-tenure-eligible faculty while searches were conducted.

Department chair Timothy Keller said the department always will have some non-tenure-eligible faculty. "We want our students exposed to practicing professionals," he said.

More students to teach

Sixty-one percent of computer science class sections were taught by non-tenure-eligible faculty in fall 2003.

Department chair Carl Chang attributes part of that percentage to a sharp increase during the past decade in the number of students the department teaches. Not only has the number of computer science majors risen, but the number of computer science classes required by other departments has grown too, he said. For instance, the department teaches about 1,000 students a semester in one of its service courses.

Five faculty positions have been added to the department, although three still need to be filled.

Semester contracts still given

This year, the university has 247 lecturers, 20 clinicians, 14 senior lecturers and two senior clinicians, according to information supplied by the provost's office.

Of the lecturers, 35 have two-year contracts and 13 have three-year contracts. Another 118 have contracts of at least one-year and 81 have one-semester contracts (some may have had multi-semester contracts that end this year).

Agarwal says the semester contracts are "exactly what the policy was intended to prevent."

"Many departments know their longer-term needs. Sometimes they know them for multiple years," he said. "If a department sees it needs to fill a position with a non-tenure-eligible faculty member for three years, then it should give that faculty member a three-year contract. That provides stability and treats that faculty member with respect."

But sometimes the departments are not sure if the need or the money will be there for a second semester. Kostelnick said part of the need for teachers in his department is based on the number of students who enroll in English 104 and 105, and that fluctuates from semester to semester.

Representation not uniform

Representation for non-tenure-eligible faculty at the college and departmental levels is a matter of concern for Agarwal.

"The senate intended that representation be decided in each department," he said. "Some departments and colleges give excellent representation and others very little." (Non-tenure-eligible faculty may serve in the Faculty Senate.)

Kostelnick said the English department recently took action to let senior lecturers vote on everything but matters pertaining to promotion and tenure. Lecturers, however, have no vote in departmental matters.

Pay an issue

Schabel, who has worked off and on at the university since 1981, said she doesn't see much difference in the new policy, except in the name. She said becoming a senior lecturer meant that she received about a $300 raise. "I still don't make $30,000," she said.

James Gilchrist, senior English lecturer, also is concerned about pay.

"I'm involved in scholarship, same as the tenured faculty," he said. "I'm doing much the same as the tenure-track faculty, but the pay is not equitable. I think they need to review the pay scale.

"The last almanac edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education listed the nationwide average for lecturer salaries at $43,000. We are considerably below that average," he said.

Pay aside, Schabel said the application process to become a senior lecturer was "such an affirmation for me because I received so many positive comments about my teaching from so many faculty members."

"While I do feel underpaid, I also feel appreciated," she said.

Change in status

Senior lecturer Tremmel also worked at the university before the new policy went into effect. While the policy has made no big changes for her ("I'm still teaching the same courses as before"), she said she feels she now has more status. "Temporary sounds so marginal," she said of the previous title of "temporary faculty."

Since the policy went into effect, she said she has been invited to sit on some committees and feels the tenured and tenure-track faculty in her department "recognize I have something different to contribute."

"I think the policy was a good idea," Tremmel said. "It makes us a more valued part of the university."


"Now we can have multi-year contracts, which is good for the department and good for the employees. We can rely on certain people and not have to hire at the last minute."

Justin Peters, chair
mathematics department