Non-tenure faculty increase may hurt ISU, senate says

Laura Kennedy

Members of the Faculty Senate continued to discuss a policy on non-tenure track appointments during their meeting Tuesday.

Christie Pope, chairwoman of the task force on non-tenure track appointments, said the group was surprised by the Faculty Senate members’ vote last month. The senate had voted to eliminate a percentage cap on non-tenure track faculty in the written policy.

Pope, Faculty Senate president-elect, said there are many other universities dealing with similar non-tenure track faculty issues, and said the senate hasn’t seen something as important in years.

“If we continue having more and more non-tenure track teaching faculty, we will become a very different kind of institution,” she said.

The University of Northern Iowa has increased its tenure-track faculty by 32 percent and University of Iowa by 26 percent, said Pope, associate professor of history, while Iowa State is down 12.5 percent in the last 15 years.

Without caps on non-tenure track faculty, she said in the future they could become responsible for the majority of undergraduate courses, while tenured faculty would demand more time for research.

“It’s my feeling that without caps we are going to have a continual erosion of tenure-line faculty in favor of non-tenure line positions,” Pope said.

If the number of non-tenure line faculty grows, the reputation of Iowa State would be affected, she said.

“People are going to consider this, maybe, Ames Community College because we’ll have such a large number [of non-tenure track faculty],” Pope said.

She said the American Association of University Professors suggests caps of 15 percent for the institution and 25 percent for any department consisting of non-tenure track faculty.

David Hopper, Faculty Senate president, said his greatest concern with the issue is the long-term quality of the institution.

“We do national and international searches for every faculty member, and when we make that choice of who our colleagues are going to be, we do it on the basis of their qualifications. We are looking for the best,” said Hopper, professor of veterinary, diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Tenure-track faculty work hard to gain their status and have proven their quality to their colleagues, and Hopper said their academic freedom is protected by tenure in return.

“That is something that is very, very special in this society,” he said.

Hopper said the AAUP guidelines state “an increase in non-tenure track appointments affects the quality of education as a whole.”

Although he said he is not portraying non-tenure track faculty in a negative light, tenure faculty have the responsibility of assuring the institution’s quality.

Pope said the task force wants to see percentage caps placed back in the policy.

“I support wholeheartedly the recommendation that was made by your task force,” she said.

Anthony Hendrickson, associate professor of logistics, operations and management information systems, said he was concerned with the budget for each faculty member.

He said hiring tenure-track faculty at the lower salary of non-tenure faculty is unrealistic.

“You end up with fewer faculty. That means larger class sizes, poor education, or the only other alternative is to cut programs,” Hendrickson said.

Although he didn’t disagree with the policy philosophically, he said it could eventually lead to problems.

Mike Doran, associate professor of accounting, said Faculty Senate members should all have the chance to voice their opinions before voting on such an important issue.

“I want the same rights, as the two of you standing up there, to have my voice heard on things I want interest in,” he said.

The policy on non-tenure track appointments will be reviewed by the task force for recommendations and changes, which will be discussed during the senate’s May 1 meeting.