Non-Tenure Faculty Feel Neglect at GU
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 1, 2013 02:11
To the students in Oded Meyer’s statistics classes, Meyer is just like any other professor. But as a full-time faculty member not on the tenure track, Meyer’s experience is markedly different from that of many other faculty members.
“It really gave me the feeling of being a second-class citizen,” Meyer said. “Who wants to be treated like that?”
After adjunct faculty unionized in May, non-tenure-line full-time faculty at Georgetown are voicing concerns over inconsistency in their treatment.
Their positions are imbued with ambiguity, as the category encompasses 259 professors, ranging from visiting professors to heads of programs whose main focus is teaching rather than research. While these professors work full-time, they are not positioned to apply for tenure. As full-time professors, however, they are also excluded from the adjunct movement.
At a faculty town hall in mid-October, professors questioned University President John J. DeGioia on the topic. DeGioia said that Georgetown was attentive to the increasing concerns formed by non-tenure-line full-time faculty when renovating office space on campus.
“We became aware of the dynamic over the course of roughly the past six, seven years, particularly in the context of building some of our new buildings,” DeGioia said. “We weren’t even sure we had office space for everybody.”
A group of administrators and faculty working to address grievances will be formed in the coming weeks, with changes expected to be implemented by the end of the year.
“We don’t want this process to be unilateral coming from us and the provost’s office saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ We need to engage in a conversation. We need to sit together and work out solutions,” Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Adriana Kugler told The Hoya.
The professors’ concerns are based on a perceived lack of respect from the university and administrative disorganization that affects their treatment.
“We have typically much higher course loads and much less respect, so the idea is that you are ‘just’ doing teaching, so that puts teaching in a second-class position,” said Sylvia Onder, visiting associate professor of Turkish, who has been in her current role since 1989.
Non-tenure-line full-time faculty members lack the ability to vote on departmental issues and also have a wide range of salaries.
Across departments, these faculty members do not have consistent titles and are referred to as visiting professors, clinical professors, teaching professors or associate professors.
“It’s a mess. I have no idea; it’s so vague. The names are very confusing,” Meyer said.
Non-tenure full-time faculty members also face challenges within their departments. Some departments offer greater participation for non-tenure-line faculty in the decision-making process than in other departments, but according to Onder, the incorporation of non-tenure-track faculty is minimal.
“When it comes down to an important vote, non-tenure-line faculty don’t have a vote,” Onder said.
Another issue is the lack of a clear professional-development track to distinguish the performance of new professors from those who have been teaching for 20 years. As such, non-tenure full-time faculty have been left in a sea of uncertainty when it comes to contracts and salaries with The Chronicle for Higher Education’s Adjunct Project reporting salaries as low as $2,100 per course.
Other universities, like Carnegie Mellon, have a structured non-tenure track that allows for performance-based promotions under the title of teaching professor.
“I’ve been spoiled at Carnegie Mellon by being treated as an equal,” said Meyer, who taught at the university before coming to Georgetown.
Yet non-tenure full-time faculty members remain an important part of the teaching force in academia. A study conducted at Northwestern University found that students in an introductory-level course taught by non-tenure full-time faculty, rather than tenure-track faculty, were more likely to take another course in that field and were more likely to excel in that course.
“I think Georgetown realizes it’s a problem,” Meyer said. “This university has a mission ,and without the dedicated and talented teaching faculty, they cannot do it.”
Though this problem has existed for years, the university has been slow to respond, professors said.
“One of the things that concerned me about moving here was Georgetown not having a clear career path for non-tenure track,” Meyer said. “I’ve been hearing about this teaching track since I got here in 2010, and this is the first time something is being done about it.”
Some faculty thought their needs were pushed aside due to the administration’s focus on adjunct unionization last spring. DeGioia assured faculty that progress toward addres-sing the issue was under way and is a priority.
“We are very clear about the challenge of the issue and Provost Groves and our new vice provost [Kugler] are taking this on, and this is regarded as a very important issue for the campus,” DeGioia said at the town hall. “I do not believe the issue regarding adjunct faculty in any way delayed our engagement with moving into the role last year and organizing the office to be able to take on the challenges. … We knew this was one of them.”