Fie Upon this Quiet Life blogged today about the recent Chronicle of Higher Ed article by Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth. In their article, Berube and Ruth talk about the central argument of their new book, "as a way of undoing the deprofessionalization of the profession of college teaching, a teaching-intensive tenure track for nontenure-track faculty members with Ph.D.s and good teaching records."
What they're proposing specifically, it sounds like, is that folks who've been adjuncting somewhere for 7 years should be grandfathered into a tenured position, so that they couldn't be fired on a whim.
If someone's been in place for 7 years, then the school has basically found it necessary to rehire them again and again, so it has need of someone in a relatively permanent position. And if the school's rehired the same person, then the school's basically decided that their teaching is good enough to qualify for rehiring. So in that way, Berube and Ruth's argument makes sense.
I didn't see Berube and Ruth arguing that these people should be paid the same as regular "research" tenure track faculty, though they should get benefits.
Berube and Ruth do argue that only folks with terminal degrees should qualify.
Presumably, though, they think most teaching intensive track positions will be new hires from national searches (at least, that's the implication I get from the article, since they argue that PhD is important in re-professionalizing the profession).
Fie's take on their proposal is that we already have a teaching intensive tenure track, and that it's pretty much every tenure track job at teaching intensive schools such as her own, where most faculty teach 4/4, and yet administrators still hire adjuncts to save money in providing teachers for courses. Fie notes that her department relies heavily on adjuncts.
Fie also notes what she calls "research creep." That's something I recognize in my own department, where we're teaching intensive (11 credit hours/semester, generally) but still require and judge people based on research. And we value research on balance with teaching. Teaching is the first category in our reappointment letters for tenure track faculty, but someone without decent research is going to have a really difficult time getting tenure or promotion.
And yet, I've heard colleagues suggest that we should make a new "teaching" tenure track, where we wouldn't require research. But the implication is that the faculty member would teach 15 credits a semester and have service and advising obligations. Currently, our adjuncts count as full time with 15 credits and no service or advising obligations.
The thing is, almost all of my colleagues want to do research. We love the occasional grant to get reassigned from teaching a course to do research. We all go to conferences (often on our own dime) and most publish, some with amazing results. So even if our personnel decisions didn't emphasize research, we'd still want to recognize the work people do. (Heck, we're not legally allowed to consider research or service when we evaluate adjuncts, but we can't help noticing the amazing work some of our adjuncts publish.) And anyone who wants to move from my school (right now, pretty much everyone here) needs to have a strong publishing record to stand a chance on the market.
I have two additional concerns: one has to do with the classism I see in academia, where upper class schools with high salaries, low teaching loads, support for research and such hire almost exclusively scholars trained in a small number of very elite institutions, and those elite institutions accept graduate students almost exclusively from mostly elite private R1s or SLACs. I fear that the "teaching-intensive" track will be reserved for those of us who didn't come from the right upper class undergraduate background even more than it currently is.
The second concern has to do with gender. Women may get more undergraduate degrees than men, and may get more graduate degrees than men, but men get more jobs and more money for those jobs. Will women be limited to the lower paying, less prestigious "teaching-intensive" jobs? I bet so.