Elevating the relationship between tenure-track and non-track faculty.
Over the past few decades, academic tenure in North America has experienced a significant shift. Across the United States in particular, post-secondary institutions are employing non-tenure-track faculty in greater numbers than ever before. Depending on the particular institution, these faculty may be on full time, multi-year contracts or paid per course and this category may include instructors, adjuncts, postdocs, TAs, clinical faculty, part-timers or lecturers.
According to data from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), nearly three-quarters of faculty at U.S. post-secondary institutions today are non-tenure track. Reasons for the increase in the non-tenure-track faculty across institutions can be linked to budget shortfalls, statewide politics, last-minute increases in enrollments, inability to garner approval for new tenure-track positions and departmental changes in hiring practices.
Consequently, the classification comes with consequences.
Though all non-tenure-track and tenure-track faculty teach, the two groups’ roles and responsibilities can be quite different. This can cause tensions at some institutions. Some potential reasons, according to the executive summary of “Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education: Theories and Tensions,” point to the fact that hiring, reappointment, compensation, benefits, work responsibilities, governance, and promotion of non-tenure-track faculty are often left out of and inconsistently carried out in many institutions’ overall faculty plans. These disparities can create challenges in a school’s culture; for example, it’s not uncommon to hear non-tenure-track faculty express that they feel like “second class citizens” in comparison to tenure-track faculty.
How can we bridge the divide?
Roughly 60% of the classes at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder are taught by non-tenure-track faculty, and they are absolutely integral to everything the business school is doing. Leeds Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research John G. Lynch, Jr. works to ensure both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty are able to succeed in their respective roles. Central to his position is the facilitation of conversations among faculty, helping them to understand what's happening more broadly at Leeds, e.g. program delivery and school-wide initiatives, and encouraging collaboration and inclusion.