9. Change of Title and Mobility between Tracks


Reviewing the history of NTT faculty appointments at Boston University, we found that the assignment of titles and ranks has been inconsistent across colleges and sometimes even within the same college. Professorial titles, for instance, have sometimes been given for administrative or predominantly teaching positions; traditional academic positions with the same requirements as those for T/TT faculty have sometimes had NTT status. This situation resembles those at other research universities where NTT full-time faculty were appointed to solve an immediate problem without consideration of the long-range consequences (Cross and Goldenberg [2009]). The resulting inequities in rank and title must now be addressed, because they become an obstacle for achieving academic excellence and harm both individual faculty and the University. At BU, a number of NTT faculty with standard professorial titles were hired with heavier teaching loads and no expectations for active research; they were evaluated positively and renewed for many years, yet have no prospect for promotion. Lecturers at CAS have held the same rank irrespective of seniority. In both cases, there is no clear career path or incentive to spend extra effort on scholarly work, professional development, program building, curriculum reform, or other professional activities beyond the demands of the classroom.

Clearly, these issues must be addressed. The attempt to do so brings up two of the most difficult and sensitive issues a faculty and administration can face: 1) a change of title without promotion, and 2) mobility between career tracks. More specifically, the questions are:

  • When is a change of title that is not a promotion warranted, and how should it occur?
  • Can a faculty member move from one career track to another, e.g., from Master Lecturer to Professor of the Practice, from NTT to TT or vice versa?

Recently several colleges have changed faculty titles at contract renewal. In 2009, the College of General Studies shifted 17 NTT faculty from Assistant Professor to Lecturer and Senior Lecturer. The College of Fine Arts and Metropolitan College have made a similar change for a smaller number of faculty (two faculty in each college for the last two years). In 2006, the College of Arts & Sciences changed all Preceptor titles (previously carried by faculty with seniority and supervisory duties) to Lecturer, and the College of Communication is making the same change this year. These changes have intensified the already existing apprehensions about the NTT faculty’s standing within Boston University and anxiety about recognition in the intellectual community outside BU.

In principle, a change of title is warranted when the new title more accurately reflects the duties and role of the faculty. Faculty with standard professorial titles are expected to build a body of work that has a significant scholarly and research component along with teaching and service, and Assistant Professors are expected to stand for promotion after six years. At universities with an established Lecturer career track, Lecturers are expected to stand for promotion for Senior Lecturer after ten years. Most research universities allow a maximum of 10 years in an Assistant Professor (NTT as well as TT) or Lecturer rank, e.g., Harvard has an 8-year rule (Harvard FAS Appointment and Promotion Handbook) and Yale sets a 10-year limit (Yale Faculty Handbook II).

At Boston University the situation is different in that there is a long history of NTT appointments at professorial rank; there were no limits on the number of years in rank; and the Lecturer track was established only recently. NTT faculty are strong contributors to the teaching and research mission of the University and many have spent the majority of their career at Boston University.

The administration’s recognition of this situation led to the Task Force’s explicit charge to enhance the stature and productivity of NTT faculty and ensure a career path and appropriate recognition, support, and compensation. It is therefore important that the reasons for any title change be clearly stated and promotion opportunities in the new career track be discussed with each faculty member. In the case of a conversion from Assistant Professor to Lecturer, there is an additional problem—the title change causes the faculty member to lose the right to be a member of the Faculty Assembly. Without fair representation for those at the Lecturer rank, the University risks alienating and marginalizing this large percentage of its NTT faculty.


  • NTT Assistant Professors who have been in the same rank for more than 10 years and have no clear prospect for promotion to Associate Professor, in consultation with and upon recommendation of the department and the dean of the college, may transition to Senior or Master Lecturer. In exceptional circumstances and upon review, an extension may be considered. The University Council Committee on Faculty Policies should develop procedures for implementing this recommendation that take into account the history of NTT appointments and give faculty sufficient time to prepare to meet the requirements of the policy change.
  • Any changes of title, whether for groups or individuals, that are effected for reasons other than simple promotion, should be discussed in advance first with the college and departmental leadership and then with all faculty members who may be affected. This discussion should outline the principles informing the change and a clear process for the transition, and allow for faculty concerns to be voiced and answered. This procedure is essential to preserving unit morale and the professional dignity of the faculty concerned.

The second set of questions pertains to mobility between career paths. For example:

  • Can a Master Lecturer (or, in CAS, a Senior Lecturer–Master Level) become Professor of the Practice?
  • Can a modified professorial rank be transformed into a non-modified professorial rank, e.g., can a Clinical or “of the Practice” Professor transition to Professor?
  • Can a NTT faculty member move to tenure track?

As a general principle, all eligible faculty members are free to apply for an open faculty position. However, transitions between career paths are not and should not be available as part of the promotion process.

In some departments and schools (e.g., COM, CFA), however, the roles and responsibilities of NTT faculty are indistinguishable from those of T/TT faculty. The administration should consider converting some of these positions to T/TT and/or opening T/TT positions for new hires. Conversions should be done on a case-by-case basis and take into account the needs of the college and whether a T/TT position is likely to increase competitiveness for attracting new talent.

  • Can tenure-track faculty choose to transition to a term contract and retain the same rank and title?

This situation typically occurs when a faculty member is not meeting the research standards for tenure but has outstanding teaching and service credentials and the college would like to retain him/her. We recognize the legitimate business need but feel that allowing such conversions will undermine the institution of tenure. The University is exploring alternative approaches for attracting and retaining teaching talent.