Focus on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty
Growing in numbers, “a critical component of BU’s educational mission”
Two years after its formation, a task force that examined issues relating to non-tenure-track faculty on Boston University’s Charles River Campus has released its findings.
According to University Provost David Campbell, who created and charged the task force, “the intent was to examine all aspects of non-tenure-track faculty appointments, to understand how we compared with our peers in this area, and in particular to develop recommendations for enhancing the stature and productivity of these important colleagues, defining clear career paths and helping them receive appropriate recognition, support, and compensation.”
Academic appointments outside the tenure track have grown substantially in the past 30 years, both nationally and at BU, says Tanya Zlateva, an associate professor and associate dean for academic programs at Metropolitan College.
“On the Charles River Campus, 38.7 percent of all full-time faculty held non-tenure-track appointments in 2009,” she says. “This reflects a change in the nature of academic employment as well as in the academic enterprise as a whole.”
The reasons for that change, and the consequences, are subject to fierce debate. “On one hand,” Zlateva says, “the trend appears to hold out the prospect of lower costs and greater flexibility. On the other, it raises concerns about job insecurity, academic freedom, and a lack of commitment and institutional support.”
The 13-member task force reviewed non-tenure-track faculty roles, procedures, and practices at various colleges and analyzed data on faculty composition and work satisfaction. Members also met with faculty and administrators.
“We found that non-tenure-track faculty are dedicated teachers, advisors, and scholars who value their affiliation with Boston University,” says Zlateva, who led the task force. “They are highly qualified professionals. We also learned that there are no clearly defined and well-understood criteria and processes for professional advancement.”
While the salary difference between tenured and non-tenure-track faculty members is marginal, non-tenure-track professors generally have higher teaching loads. “Non-tenure-track faculty members are a critical component of BU’s educational mission,” she says. “They may not all be performing extensive research, but they nonetheless have to be at the top of their profession.”
According to the report, some non-tenure-track faculty members are concerned about unequal treatment, under-recognition, and lack of opportunities. They worry that they are considered second-class citizens by colleagues within the tenure system.
Non-tenure-track faculty members are among the longest serving at BU, staying an average of 10.5 years. The School of Hospitality Administration and Metropolitan College have the largest percentages of non-tenure-track professors (100 percent), with the College of Fine Arts (85.9 percent) and the College of Communication (82.4 percent) following closely behind. The School of Theology (none) and the College of Engineering (11.7 percent) have the smallest percentages.
The report recommends that promotion of non-tenure-track faculty be based on expectations defined by each college and approved by the provost. “The expectations should take into account the specific needs of the college,” Zlateva says, “as well as differences in the job descriptions of non-tenure-track and tenured and tenure-track faculty, such as differences in teaching loads, advisory duties, and program or curriculum coordination responsibilities.”
That may lead to different expectations for promotion for non-tenure-track and tenured and tenure-track faculty in different colleges, but tenure status should not be the sole basis for differing promotion tracks within the same college.
Additionally, the report suggests that the associate provost for faculty development, a recently created position held by Julie Sandell, a School of Medicine professor, work with schools and colleges to establish a faculty development program to ensure that non-tenure-track faculty members can produce research and scholarship.9 Comments