By Bob Samuels
As the UC system increases its reliance on funding coming from undergraduate students, it must dedicate itself to paying more attention to undergraduate instruction. At UCLA, for example, a large increase in freshmen enrollments (1,200 additional students) has not been matched with a similar increase in faculty positions. As a result, classes and sections are getting larger, and fewer students will be able to graduate in four years. Other campuses are seeing similar growth. To reverse this situation, UCLA and other campuses should consider following the American Association of University Professors’ new endorsement of tenure for instructors.
By dedicating permanent funding to faculty whose primary responsibility is undergraduate instruction, the university can make sure that students are given a high quality undergraduate education, and protect the research mission of the university. Since teachers with tenure will cost less than research professors, but will increase the focus on instruction, they will able to free up money for research professors as they provide more stable funding for required undergraduate courses. This change would also create more stability for the curriculum and would end the system of treating valued teachers as disposable labor.
As Gwen Brooks of the AAUP shows in “Instructor Tenure Proposals" universities across the country are developing new positions in order to provide tenure for faculty members whose main job is to teach undergraduate students. For instance, at Rutgers the faculty senate has endorsed converting many non-tenured positions into tenured positions because, in part, it wants these faculty members to participate in faculty governance and committee work. Since most non-tenured teachers are not able to vote in their faculty senates or serve in faculty committees, tenured professors are left doing more work. Moreover, as the number of non-tenured faculty members surpasses the number of professors with tenure, the majority of faculty who teach at American universities do not have their academic freedom protected.
While the University of California already has a form of tenure for instructors, which is called “Lecturers with Security of Employment” (LSOE), there are currently only 110 in the system, and they often suffer from a lack of clear definition. If parts of the lecturer contract dealing with academic freedom, merit review, and course load protections were applied to LSOE positions, they would become a good model for granting instructor tenure. Moreover, an increase in LSOE positions and a redefining of their rights and benefits could help UCLA and other campuses to fund more undergraduate courses through the use of permanent lines for tenured instructors that teach six courses a year.
By providing tenure for those whose primary responsibility is teaching, UC could also improve its methods of assessing quality instruction. Since, these positions would be given tenure and promotion based on their expertise in education and pedagogy, they would require a robust method of assessing quality instruction. These positions, which rely on expert knowledge in methods of instruction, could also help to improve the quality of instruction across the campuses. Moreover, if lecturers with continuing appointments were simply converted into LSOE positions, it would not cost the university any money; however, it would provide more stable funding for undergraduate courses.