UI report looks at nontenure-track faculty

UI report looks at nontenure-track faculty

URBANA — Nontenure track. Contingent faculty. Other academics. Specialized faculty.

Whatever you want to call them, the ranks of nontenure-track faculty such as lecturers and instructors have grown over the last decade while the numbers of tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois have shrunk.

Oftentimes these employees are defined by what they are not or what they do not have — tenure, job protection and other privileges granted to professors after they prove themselves during a probationary period.

In response to concerns raised by "other academics" and growing national attention in the media and by Congress, which held a hearing last year on the plight of adjuncts in the U.S., the UI's Urbana campus has released a draft report that attempts to address concerns raised over the years, including how these employees are hired and evaluated, their access to campus grievance policies and professional development opportunities and more. 

Here is a copy of the report.

The question now is how colleges and individual departments across campus will respond. Much of the implementation and timeline will be left up to them.

New terms, titles

Earlier this month, the UI's Office of the Provost, which handles academic matters on campus, shared the draft report with the Academic Senate, a quasi-legislative body of faculty, students and a handful of academic professionals.

Upon its first public airing at the senate, faculty generally described the report as a "good first step." But some cautioned against formally endorsing it without knowing whether it was a final set of enforceable rules or guidelines for departments.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the intent of the communication is "to provide guidance as well as to articulate campus expectations, some of which are mandatory." Some sections of the document state firm expectations, such as the requirement that individuals receive offer letters, annual performance evaluations, and have access to grievance processes.

Some faculty have called for more input from instructors, lecturers and other non-tenured faculty. And some took issue with the new term — specialized faculty — being applied to these "other academics."

"What strike me, of course, is people like myself, nontenure track, are more generalists than specialists," said Dorothee Schneider, a full-time lecturer in the history department. She took an nonpaid leave from teaching this spring to work on a book about how immigrants have been educated in the U.S.

"We were hired because we can cover many bases, so I think the (specialized faculty term) doesn't sit too well with me," Schneider said. Tenured faculty are the specialists, she added.

The UI's Kaler said the term "specialized faculty" was chosen because "we believe it is more celebratory and inclusive than alternatives commonly used such as non-tenure track, contingent, or adjunct faculty."

No term is perfect, she said, "but we would like Illinois to be a leader in finding terminology that is affirmative in nature and that changes how we conceptualize our diverse faculty positions across campus."

Given the confusion and proliferation of titles on campus about people not on the tenure track (there are some 40 different types of titles for people in this category), national concerns and a campus task force from a few years ago, the aim of the report or communication was "the desire to do something more, to recognize the contributions of these faculty," said Katherine Galvin, the UI's associate provost for administrative affairs.

Last year, these "other academics" taught almost 34 percent of instructional units (or credit hours), compared with almost 46 percent by tenure system faculty on campus. (The remaining 20 percent are taught by graduate students who work as teaching assistants.)

There are 363 full-time non-tenure-track faculty on campus: 240 mostly focused on teaching with a mean salary of $58,711; 65 on the research track with a mean salary of $64,793; and 58 on the clinical track with a mean salary of $76,697. (Those numbers exclude visiting professors.) Nontenure track research professors focus mostly on conducting research rather than teaching, and clinical professors can be found in veterinary medicine and similar units where the focus is on applied rather than theoretical work. In addition, there are about 300 part-time nontenure track "other academics."

At the same time, there are approximately 1,691 full-time professors in the tenure system. Their mean salaries are higher: $87,532 for assistant professors, $88,790 for associate professor and $136,719 for full professors.

Galvin said a campus task force from a couple years ago found a lot of units already do what's outlined in the report, but there was a need for "better uniformity" and "greater clarification" regarding what specialized faculty do on campus.

For example, the adjuncts title should be used for those who teach part-time. The instructor title should be used for an employee who does not hold what's called the "terminal degree," or the highest degree available in a subject area. The lecturer title should be used when the person holds the relevant terminal degree.

The document also outlines how instructors and lecturers can be promoted to senior lecturers and senior instructors.

It also proposes the creation of a new position called a teaching professor, a person who would be focused on teaching, who would be above a lecturer, senior lecturer and senior instructor, but not quite at the ranks of a tenure-track professor.

The teaching professor track would be reserved for someone with an "extraordinary record of accomplishment" in teaching, contributing to publications, working with students and other activities in their discipline, according to the report.

Kaler described this new track as for "very accomplished teachers who are also making significant contributions to pedagogy instructional research at the campus and national level." There is no presumption that a senior lecturer will automatically advance to the teaching professor track, according to the report.

The document also encourages, but does not require, departments to offer multi-year contracts with senior nontenure track faculty.

Currently there are few nontenure track faculty with multiyear contracts. The campus has about eight to 12 multi-year contracts at any given time, according to Kaler.

That security of having a longer-term appointment, of knowing when it will begin and end, has been a critical issue to lecturers and instructors, Schneider said.

Feedback

Sara Benson, a lecturer at the College of Law, said she appreciates that administrators want to recognize this group of faculty "and give us methods to be a greater part of the community at the university."

Because not many nontenure track faculty are part of the senate, which has a formal role in advising campus administration, she suggested administrators hold a forum to give nontenure track faculty "an opportunity to also voice their praise or criticism of the document."

Benson, who teaches a course in legal writing and is a faculty advisor to the moot court program, also suggested some wording changes to the document, such as replacing "should" with "shall" in some areas. For example, nontenure faculty shall have access to grievance procedures that are available to tenure system faculty. Using such language would carry more weight, she said.

Over the year and a half that administrators have been looking into issues related to specialized faculty, over 400 people on campus have provided feedback through surveys, interviews and focus group sessions, Kaler said.

However, an additional survey is now being organized and it will be released soon, she said. It will ask for input on the proposed terminology and general feedback about the draft document, she said.

The final "provost communication" is expected to be issued this semester, according to Kaler.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

The university hires a wide variety of people to teach students. A breakdown of how they're identified:

NON-TENURE TRACK FACULTY

— Instructor: Someone who does not hold a terminal degree in his or her field of study

— Senior Instructor

— Lecturer

— Senior lecturer: Someone who holds the terminal or highest degree available in his or her field

— Adjunct: Generally someone who teaches, but on a part-time basis

— Visiting professor: Typically someone who is on campus to teach for a limited amount of time, who has a position at another academic institution

— Teaching professor: This is a new track proposed by administration and would include the following: assistant teaching professor, associate teaching professor and full teaching professor in order of seniority.

— Clinical professor: Such as someone at the veterinary school, focuses on applied rather than theoretical work

— Research professor: Someone who focuses mostly on conducting research rather than teaching

TENURE-TRACK FACULTY

— Assistant professor: Someone who is hired to work toward achieving tenure, but is considered probationary

— Associate professor: Achieved tenure

— Full professor: Highest level

By the numbers

There are 1,691 full-time tenure-track professors at the UI. Their mean salaries:

$87,532 for assistant professors

$88,790 for associate professors

$136,719 for full professors

There are 363 full-time nontenure-track faculty at the UI. Their mean salaries:

$58,711 for the 240 on the teaching track

$64,793 for the 65 on the research track

$76,697 for the 58 on the clinical track

Comments

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prp wrote on February 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

What are the numbers for part time non tenure track faculty?  I bet those numbers dwarf those for full time.

How many instructional hours are taught by tenure track faculty vs. non tenure track faculty?

The numbers presented here, only counting full time faculty, minimize the true presence of non tenure track faculty at the U of I.

thinks wrote on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

In 2002, the Illinois Board of Higher Education issued a report on non-tenure track faculty. Here are some facts from that report:

Illinois Public Universities

Tenure-track faculty: 51%

Full-time non-tenture track faculty: 18%

Part-time non-tenure track faculty: 31%

These numbers don't tell the whole story. As a recent NG article stated, quoting advocate Dorothee Schneider, non-tenure track faculty teach 50% more courses than tenure-track faculty. Also these numbers do not include graduate instructors, who, in some fields, act as independent professors for courses (that is, they design and teach the course, rather than working as TAs or graders).

According to the above report, in 2000, the median salary for part-time non-tenture track faculty at a public university was $4000. Earning a doctorate, which is a usual requirement for teaching a college course at a Tier 1 Research University, often puts adjuncts in tens of thousands of dollars in debt, however -- what some are now calling lifelong debt. It is also worth noting that a higher proportion of non-tenure track faculty are women (than is the case with tenure-track faculty).

The numbers since 2002 have worsened, with more non-tenure track faculty teaching than previously and with compensation remaining flat. To get a sense of more recent numbers of all college teachers off the tenure-track (at 2- and 4- year degree granting institutions nationally), including graduate instructors, the US Department of Education's 2009 Staff Survey reports the percentage at 75.5%.

spangwurfelt wrote on February 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

Now how about the numbers for part timers without benefits? Because that's where the real problem is.

thinks wrote on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

After earning my doctorate from UIUC and returning to the area after leaving a tenure-track position out of state, I adjuncted on campus. I had won a teaching award as a graduate instructor and I won another as non-tenure track faculty. I stopped adjuncting and left academia for several reasons.

Most importantly, I could not contribute enough financial support to my family on the wages given, and there were no benefits (not just an absence of the perks of tenure-track teaching, such as a conference allowance, but more universal benefits such as health care). I didn't know from semester to semester whether I would be rehired. When I was rehired, it was either not long before the new term or as an emergency replacement after the semester had begun. Very often, I had entirely new course preps. That means I was developing a course from scratch without additional time or compensation -- something a tenure-track faculty member would get paid release time to accomplish. I developed the course as I taught it from a framework I had cooked up just as the semester got underway. I had to use my own computer and software to prep and teach (I often used a hybrid model, with an online classroom supplementing face to face interaction). I was not provided with anything other than a mailbox, a shared copier (used by everyone in the department), and access to a very over-used public computer, which would not have been nearly sufficient for my teaching load.

My students had no idea that I was so poorly compensated or equipped. They did not understand the difference between tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty. They expected the same level of service, including letters of reference and advising. When I was assigned teaching assistants for the large lecture courses I taught as an adjunct, I trained and mentored them, as I had been trained and mentored by the professors with whom I had taught. I did my best to provide these services, even though they were uncompensated, because I was teaching out of love for my field and the undergraduate students I taught and the graduate students with whom I worked.

Other, less important reasons I left adjuncting include a feeling that I was not included in department life. I was not able to participate in departmental governance in any significant way (after all, adjuncts are by their very nature impermanent and vetted much less thoroughly than tenure-track hires) and was not invited to contribute to scholarly forums, although I continued to publish. 

Finally, and perhaps the least important reasons I left adjuncting are because some department administrators and tenure-track faculty treated me disrespectfully, and the physical conditions were less than ideal. There were small moments of disrespect that I learned were part of the regular condition of adjunct labor: I was once told I had to accept a student into my class at the beginning of the fifth week of the semester, which I would not have done had I been regular faculty. I was told that the department secretary could not call in a suspicious person report on my behalf (I was on my way to class), even though I was concerned I had seen someone who posed a potential danger. I was once bullied from the copy machine we all used to photocopy for class by a tenure-track faculty member who felt she had more right to the equipment for her course. There were a small number of administrators and tenure-track faculty who showed me kindness. I remember them keenly because they stood out for their graciousness from the majority who were indifferent and the persistent minority who were openly dismissive.

As an adjunct, I was almost always housed in large group offices with ancient furnishings, which made private conferences with students and my own thought work difficult. I once had to open my desk drawer with a screwdriver because it had swollen shut with humidity, trapping a final exam. Once, I was given a department library as an office, and permitted to camp there to see students, grade, and do course prep during set hours. Even then, my hours were sometimes scrubbed when other meetings were scheduled at the same time. I had no where to store my belongings from class to class.

Hopefully, as the University considers how to better envision non-tenture track teaching on campus, the quality of work life as well as compensation for work will be addressed. This is crucial if the University hopes to retain quality teachers off the tenure track. It has already lost this one.

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

and Phyllis Wise "Visions" that she is going to attract 500 new academics

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Who vetted, and approved the hiring of James Kilgore?  Was it the Provost's Office, or the head of the Department of History? 

My inquiry is not toward Kilgore; but rather toward who vetted, and hired him.  It is a common practice at the U of I to find employment on campus for a spouse, or family member of a sought after professor. The university should be more transparent regarding it's hiring practices.  It is a public university, not an Old Boys Club.  Who made the decision? 

thinks wrote on February 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

In my experience at UIUC, adjunct hiring decisions are made at the department level, unless there is some internal program within a department that has to hire a bunch of adjuncts to cover its courses, and then the adjuncts for that program are hired by its director. In this case, it does appear that some administrators (Herman, Katehi) were also made aware of the hire, because of the controversy surrounding Kilgore's history and perhaps also because of the faculty spouse dimension. Faculty spouses are often given special consideration, and this would be discussed between with the department head and possibly also between the department head and the dean of the college in question, depending on the type of spousal hire under discussion.

This is the typical hiring process at universities. Nothing unusual in how UIUC does it.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Thanks thinks.

lecturer wrote on February 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

The News-Gazette article on Kilgore gave the impression that he has a faculty appointment.  He does not.  He's hired on an ad hoc basis to teach particular courses.  

Lostinspace wrote on February 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm

A real can of worms.

Sounds like fuel for unionization.

Local Yocal wrote on February 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm
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I suspect this article and its implications won't be in the U of I admission brochure. Families of Illinois would be surprised that for the price of ever-increasing tuition hikes, the chance your student will be taught by an actual tenured professor is slim. Not to say that part-time/full-time adjuncts or even grad students aren't capable of providing quality instruction; but the drive for the last 15 years at the U of I is to cut costs on labor. President White was heralded for it, and Phyllis' "500 new hires" initiative is to make up for all the early retirements.

The U of I will struggle getting quality faculty again for Thinks above gives us the inside conditions of our non-tenured faculty, and it is truly abyssmal. You cannot treat the talented this way, and with every raise the unions and politicians demand for themselves, academia has somehow been forgiven and unaccounted for when shorting its employees.

With over $1 billion in private donations and $700 million a year in taxes and government research grants, on top of the tuition and board it charges, the flagship university should prioritize treating its labor with respect, dignity and adequate compensation. The monies spent on the Banner computer system, the Global Campus Initiative, and all those administrative and capital improvement costs (where the frugality should be) was enormous wealth that could have gone towards ensuring the quality of its faculty, the true hallmark of a great university.

Consider too that now, MAP grants (financial aid for low-income families) are given to only half of the 144,000 qualified applicants in Illinois, and the individual grants only cover 37% of the cost of going to school; whereas before MAP awards could cover the entire cost per semester.

This article makes the $160 million for skyboxes and airconditioning at the Insurance Company's Basketball Court and the $160 million for skyboxes atop Memorial Stadium all the more insulting and frivelous.

Lostinspace wrote on February 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Here is a proposal to separate graduate and undergraduate faculty, dramatically reduce the size of the tenured faculty, and use underpaid personnel to handle the majority of undergraduate classes (with no mechanism in place for -- and no demonstrable interest in -- the evaluation of teaching and learning quality).

And here is the N-G comment page, the only forum for discussion of issues like this.  Why is there no faculty reaction to speak of?

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm

I, and I am sure others, have waited two days now for a response to your comment from the faculty.  I assume that either the faculty do not read the newspaper online, or their silence signifies fear of defending their status. 

Please keep up your comments.  I might not always agree with all of them as you might not with mine; but they are thought provoking, and pertinent.

Lostinspace wrote on February 21, 2014 at 6:02 pm

The February 10 edition of the N-G published a letter saying that 120 faculty members were "concerned" about unionization.  I took the first 20 names on the alphabetized list and checked their salaries for the current year in the "grey book."  I could not find one of the 20, presumably retired.  The average salary of the remaining 19, about half in STEM departments, is approximately $188,000 a year.

I have no objection to the salary these people earn; they doubtless deserve it.  I do wonder, though, about their reluctance to promote bargaining power for hundreds of their colleagues.

dadogg wrote on February 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Unionization will kill the University.  Your best faculty will leave.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

Seems that the "full professors" are sitting on the roof after pulling the ladders up behind them.  They must have not taken their Humanities studies seriously.  Rhetoric, History, and Social Studies seems not to be their interest. 

Maybe, they were ordered to not respond by their administrative superiors?  So much for the hypocritical "Governance" unless it is planning for the next Fish and Goose Soiree....  "Make sure to pick a good white wine with a good sherry, or port for the dessert; and put it on the departmental credit card.  Have the clerical pick it up."

dadogg wrote on February 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

They were probably spending their time working, not sitting around browsing the web.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

Oh, please..... "working from home" on the weekend.  "Working from home" is usually Monday through Friday.  I worked on campus for close to 30 years; and lived in a Ph.D. neighborhood in Urbana.  Please don't try to reply with such nonsense.  The general public might believe that hogwash; but don't try to peddle it in town on the weekend. 

I have no problem with the salaries that some few full professors receive; but the majority does not work as hard.  Hey, what are they going to do to a "tenured" full professor?  People only have to look at the Wozniak travesty to know better.  There is a great difference between those who teach; and those who research, and write.  Even after retirement, the "professor emeritus" has an office to hang out in when he wants to get away from home.  Tenure beats all in job security, and so-so work.

dadogg wrote on February 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Actually tenure track professors are doing the work and research that keeps the University funded.  While they do some teaching, much of their time is focused on keeping the U of I a well-regarded institution. All employees should be paid on merit. A professor with a terminal degree should get more compensation than one that does not have such a degree. A professor that publishes more, does more research, brings in more grants should be compensated accordingly.  

Lostinspace wrote on February 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I couldn't agree more.  In fact, if that were the way things worked, from TAs on up, rewarding teaching and service excellence as well as research, I don't think there would be much talk of a union.