Task force considers ISU reputation

Manni Balignasay

Preserving the academic reputation of Iowa State is a key concern of a new Faculty Senate Task Force.

Christie Pope, president-elect of the Faculty Senate, is the leader of the task force that was formed earlier this semester. She said the university employs faculty that are on both tenure and nontenure tracks.

“The task force was formed to educate the faculty concerning the issues raised by a two-track system,” she said. “Some instructors are on rolling contracts so that faculty will be able to respond to initiatives coming from the administration.”

Pope, associate professor of history, was appointed by the David Hopper, president of the Faculty Senate, to lead the group, which is composed of one tenured faculty member from each college and two from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, due to its size.

“The goal of the task force is to gather information and to evaluate the perspectives of all affected constituencies to suggest to the Faculty Senate how best to communicate this information to the general faculty, and to make a recommendation on the issue for consideration by the Faculty Senate,” Pope said.

A report is being readied for the Faculty Senate meeting Dec. 12.

Pope said the committee meets once or twice a week, and meetings are open to all. Information on dates and times are available through the Faculty Senate office.

Neil Harl, distinguished professor of economics and agriculture, is another member of the task force.

“A significant amount of nontenure activity [is occurring]. The perception is that it might increase as a way to deal with fiscal problems,” he said. “This increase could transform the university, making research and extension more vulnerable.”

Several major universities, including Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., have gone to a predominantly nontenure track faculty, Harl said.

“If a substantial part of the institution doesn’t have [tenured faculty] it makes it more vulnerable,” he said.

The task force has not spent a lot of time looking at other universities, but it is in the process of determining what percentage of the ISU faculty is nontenure.

“Nontenure track teaching appointments have been seen as a method of undermining academic freedom for many years,” Pope said.

She also said numerous essays and studies have been published on this topic by such groups as the American Association of University Professors.

“There has been considerable discussion on filling more positions with nontenure faculty. There is substantial discussion concerning academic reputation,” Harl said. “We are looking at the long-term implications and the economic pressures of becoming predominately nontenure.”