2. Problem Statement, Underlying Principles & Issues Under Consideration, and Report Organization


Both nationally and at Boston University, academic appointments outside the tenure track have grown substantially in the last thirty years. At BU’s Charles River Campus, 38.7% of the full-time faculty were holding non-tenure-track positions in 2009. NTT appointments do not conform to the tradition of continuous employment through tenure that was established by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to guarantee academic freedom and was also endorsed by faculty associations and university administrations (AAUP [1940, 1958]). The growth in NTT numbers reflects a change in the nature of academic employment as well as in the academic enterprise as a whole. The reasons for this change and its consequences for students, faculty, academic institutions, and the society in general are subject to fierce debate. On the one hand, the trend appears to hold out the prospect of lower costs and greater flexibility; on the other hand, it raises concerns about job insecurity, the weakening of academic freedom, and a lack of commitment and institutional support.

The Task Force reviewed NTT faculty roles, procedures, and practices at the different colleges of Boston University’s Charles River Campus and reviewed data on faculty composition. In addition, we met with faculty and administrators to discuss their expectations and concerns about non-tenure-track appointments and how they should be handled in the future. We found that NTT faculty are dedicated teachers, advisors, and scholars who value their affiliation with Boston University. They are highly qualified professionals, most with terminal degrees and active research records in their fields. Some are among the longest-serving BU faculty. We also found that there were no clearly defined and well-understood criteria and processes for professional advancement. In some colleges, detailed statements of duties, responsibilities, and evaluation for reappointment do not exist. This situation creates several problems—some real, some perceived. Many NTT faculty members are concerned about unequal treatment, under-recognition of their work, lack of opportunities, and apprehension about being considered second-class citizens by colleagues within the tenure system. Such problems can undermine BU’s commitment to the values of equity and fairness and pose an obstacle to creating a great university.

We chose the following principles to guide our discussions. We believe that they should apply across the University:

  • Fairness
  • Transparency
  • Incentives for excellence
  • Administrative and fiscal flexibility

Based on the above principles, this document makes recommendations on the following issues:

  • Faculty roles and titles
  • Initial appointment process—searches, job descriptions, contract length
  • Reappointment at the same rank—procedures and contract length
  • Career paths and promotion—evaluation criteria, procedures, mobility between career paths
  • Change of title and mobility between tracks
  • Faculty development—mentoring, travel funds, course releases, sabbatical leave, research funds

While addressing these problems we consistently confronted a specific difficulty to which we draw particular attention: schools and colleges have their own needs and cultures, but an integrated view of the University is needed for achieving interdisciplinary cooperation and transparent decision making. Moreover, the Strategic Plan of Boston University calls for a “culture and philosophy of One BU.” There is an inherent tension between proposing University-wide solutions and allowing different units reasonable latitude to chart the course that makes sense to them. We have tried to steer a middle course, formulating principles that are applicable across the University while providing flexibility for individual colleges to design their own processes.

This report is organized as follows: We start by outlining the appointments under consideration and the work process (Task Force meetings, presentations and discussions with faculty committees and administrators, data sources, etc. in Section 3). A brief review of non-tenure-track faculty in the national discussion (Section 4) sets the stage for the review of faculty composition and job satisfaction and faculty roles at Boston University (Sections 5 and 6). Section 7 deals with initial appointment and reappointment at the same rank. Section 8 addresses career path and promotion, and Section 9 addresses changes in title and mobility between career tracks. The report ends with recommendations for NTT participation in shared governance and establishment of a faculty development program (Section 10).