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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tenure for Teachers

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.


Anonymous said...

LSOE is a Senate faculty title, with tenure and a well defined set of personnel policies. Those policies can't simply be unilaterally changed to make them more like Unit 18 Lecturers, any more than the policies governing appointment and promotion of other Senate faculty could be imposed on them. Your desire to simply move Unit 18 people into these titles runs into two immediate problems: first, it violates open search requirements in a wholesale way that would almost certainly raise issues for affirmative action compliance, and it would move represented employees into non-represented titles in a way that would raise all kinds of unfair labor practices charges. And since it doesn't create any additional money in the budget of any dean, I don't understand in what sense it provides more stable funding for instruction....

cloudminder said...

"that would almost certainly raise issues for affirmative action compliance"

-is that the same policy that results in: "Mr. Rodgers is the only tenured African American business professor in the entire University of California system"?


Bob Samuels said...

Just to clarify a few things. Several unit 18 members have already made the transition to LSOE. As the president of the union representing lecturers, I would never stand in the way of losing members because they got tenure. Also, we may be talking about only a small number of people. I was asked by a senate faculty member to write this up as a way of starting the conversation. There may have to be a national search for affirmative action reasons, but this has been a debated issue practiced more in the breach.

Michael Meranze said...


Bob has already responded and I am sure he will again if he wants but since I asked him to start this conversation I have to say that I am surprised that you seemed to have pushed aside what is obviously the larger question--how we could attempt to bring Lecturers greater security of employment and better working conditions while improving undergraduate education--and instead focused on problems posed by one possible route to this end. If you don't think that the SOE route would be a good one do you have another mechanism you could suggest?

It seems to me at least that these questions will be increasingly pressing at UC and elsewhere in the immediate future. As you know, and as Bob notes, student enrollments are rising along with tuition and the administration has shown no willingness to expand senate faculty numbers to meet either the rising numbers or the increased expectations that accompany increased tuition. The Academic Council has gone on record--with, I must say, no acknowledgement of the effects on temporary faculty--in favor of increasing temporary faculty to protect Senate faculty. Our graduate students also face an academic world in which tenure-track and tenured positions have been shrinking. In this situation I think that we have to think about how we can best assist those who are getting hired in non-senate positions as well as the students that they serve.

As far as Deans are concerned, one problem they face in planning is that they are never sure what their teaching staff will be year to year. Having more teaching faculty with genuine security and continuity might (I can't say it will) appeal to them although they would, of course, have to give up the power to treat them as casual labor.

But from the vantage point of faculty members I think that the real issue is whether we want to push for some solidarity with non-senate faculty or not. I asked Bob to write something to help get us talking about ideas that might help us practice that solidarity more effectively than we have in the past.

Anonymous said...

I have tried for years to convince various deans of the importance of converting a couple of our prize-winning lecturers who have been carrying a huge part of the instructional load to lecturers with security of employment.

The Deans are not interested in doing anything so sensible as providing top teachers with tenure. You're going to have to fix the administration's total disdain for teaching before anything will happen.

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