Monday, October 31, 2005

A primer on faculty ranks at American University

Last night over Faculty Resident’s dinner a student asked we whether income from my books could provide me with enough money to live on. I had to say “no” but this lead to a more general discussion of the tenure process and the responsibilities of a faculty member, None of the eight students who were my guests, ranging from freshmen to seniors, knew much about the tenure process or the different categories of faculty who teach at AU. I explained that the basic categories were:

Adjunct faculty – Adjunct faculty teach one or two courses on a per-course fee basis, with relatively little support from the institution and no benefits.

Temporary faculty – Temporary faculty normally teach three courses per semester on a year to year contract, with no expectation of permanent employment. They do receive benefits. According to limits set by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) which the AU administration accepts, they their maximum term of employment is five years.

Faculty on a continuing contract, but without tenure. Faculty members who teach in the Washington Semester Program and the College Writing Program can be employed for more than five years, but are not eligible for tenure. Included in their professional obligations are teaching, research and service, but the emphasis on teaching is greater and the standard of research they are required to meet are less rigorous.

Tenure Track Faculty. A tenure track faculty member is hired with the expectation that if their professional work achieves national prominence, their teaching meets a high standard and they perform a reasonable amount of “service” they will, after a six year probationary period be promoted to Associate Professor and be guaranteed full-time employment by AU. At some institutions, there are only a limited number of tenure “slots” which makes for draconian competition among tenure track colleagues. AU’s system is demanding, but more humane. Every faculty member hired in a tenure track position can expected to be granted promotion and tenure if he or she does well. Research and/or other significant professional contributions are given the greatest weight. It is part of a faculty member’s job, both before and after having been granted tenure, to publish articles, especially in peer reviewed journals and books. The quality of a faculty member’s work is judged by outside referees who, typically, do not know the faculty member. About half of the faculty members hired as tenure track eventually win tenure (I think).

Library Faculty. Some Library staff members also have a faculty rank and are granted tenure. In granting tenure, much more weight is given to their in carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities and to participation in activities such as professional meetings. Library faculty, too, are evaluated by outside referees, normally other librarians.

Faculty ranks. The principal faculty ranks are Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor. Mostly, Assistant Professors are untenured thought on rare occasions, an Assistant Professor has been given tenure but not promoted. I believe about a third of Associate Professors’ at AU are ultimately promoted to Full Professor (it might be a larger per-centage). Promotion to Full Professor is based almost entirely on scholarly productivity (the criteria of what constitutes a high standard differ from discipline to discipline). A very small number of AU faculty (three at the moment, I believe) are given the rank of University Professor.

Faculty administrator. Some positions at American University require faculty rank. These include President, Provost, Dean of Academic Affairs, Deans and a few other positions. Normally occupants of these positions will be Full Professors, though occasionally and Associate Professor may be a Dean. Some Associate Deans are Tenured Faculty members, but others are not. My own position, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence is a Faculty Administrator position, mostly because includes major technology management responsibilities.

Department Heads are always faculty members – almost always tenured – however these are part-time positions at AU that are not normally categorized as “faculty administrator.”

This is the gist of what I described last night and probably more than enough for one blog. Don’t hesitate to contact dormgrandpop (with a comment) if you have questions about faculty ranks and related matters.


Blogger Blog World said...

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.
Maya Angelou- Posters.

10:08 PM  

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