Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Teaching Track?

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).

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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.

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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.

14 comments:

  1. Hear hear! Some people do love (or tolerate) teaching. But people who make it all the way through to earning a PhD generally love research. Most people don't get a PhD so they can teach. (some do.) With research funding the way it is now, I agree that this is perilous for women. At the school I was at, all the untenured teachers were women. We hired a man in such a position and he published his way out in less than 2 years. UGH patriarchy!

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  2. Thank you for this -- this is all exactly what I was thinking, and you've articulated it better than I could. Probably my biggest reason for leaving academia was that it was clear that I was never going to be able to get a job that would let me do meaningful research, which was what I really wanted to do. I still feel like that's not a legitimate reason to leave (because I should have loved teaching!!) and it still throws me when people assume that I must be soooo happy to be free from the requirement to do research. (Um, see, like, my whole blog...)

    Also, 1000x yes to the argument that people can't go anywhere on the market without publication. That was why I left... very heavy teaching load as an ABD lecturer, no time/energy for publication = stuck. Unless teaching becomes explicitly more valuable on the market, a "teaching track" sounds to me like potential (admittedly, potential, maybe not guaranteed) for being in the same place forever. Some people may want that; others may not.

    So, er, back to my conference paper....

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  3. I liked the balanced way you presented the sides (Berube and Ruth's and mine. Off topic -- how cool is it to be "featured" in an awesome person's blog? Very.) I agree, no, I TOTALLY agree that this "teaching" system would continue to support classism in academia and that the elites would become even more elite. Women, already in peril in academia, would be in an even worse situation. Verily, something is rotten in the state of their argument. Good intentions, yes. But we all know where they lead.

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  4. I agree. I like your gloss of Bérubé and Ruth's proposal. It's scandalous and depressing that long-term adjuncts get treated the way that they do. It's also not going to change anytime soon.

    And I agree with you about research creep. I'm experiencing it myself. I'm at a non-selective regional school in what some folks would call flyover country. My job description is officially 70% teaching. And yet, I get told that I need a book for tenure. No book, no tenure.

    It didn't used to be this way. I recall a 2004ish report from an MLA committee--chaired by Bérubé-- that decried the increased research expectations from 2nd and 3rd tier schools that don't give time off or money to support that research. Just do more work. More service, better teaching. Lots and lots more research. No more pay, no more resources.

    Excellence without money, as I think Historiann called it. I didn't sign up for this when I went to grad school. But I'm living that life now.

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  5. As a full-time contingent faculty member (4/4 load; no service or research expected, though I do a bit of both) in a research-oriented department (de facto standard load for all but a few grandfathered/mothered longtime tenured faculty members is 2/2+ substantial research expectations + (ever-increasing) service; the grandparented few do 3/3), I'm basically in favor of a teaching-oriented tenure track. However, to be reasonable, and sustainable, and genuinely supportive of quality teaching, I'm pretty sure it would need to look like the load tenure-track faculty members at my institution carried a few decades ago: 3/3 + significant service expectations + modest research expectations (which add up over time; most faculty members from this era retired with at least 1-2 books, as well as having founded programs, chaired the department or done other major service jobs for years, helped hire and mentor the other members of an ever-growing department, etc., etc.). All the plans I've seen seem to assume that 4/4 + service + maybe even a bit of research is reasonable. I'd probably take that bargain if it brought me tenure, but I wouldn't be happy about it, and my salary would absolutely have to go up enough for me to stop teaching in the summer, so I could do research (and recover a bit) then. I know many people (including Fie) teach 4/4 and do service and research, but I'm honestly not sure if I could (though, once again, for tenure, I'd do my best, and possibly die -- or at least collapse -- trying).

    Honestly, I suspect higher ed as a whole might be better off if institutions like mine (R2 that wants to be R1) reverted to the higher teaching loads, and lower research expectations, they held a few decades ago (and got rid of the Ph.D. programs that both absorb tenure-line faculty hours and produce Ph.D.s who will not find tenure-line jobs, though they may well find work). But I don't see things going in that direction. So maybe making jobs like mine (which is basically as good as a contingent job gets -- multi-year contract, health, retirement, living-but-still-much-lower-than-TT wage) into tenure-track jobs *is* an answer. At the very least, if I and and my (fairly numerous) colleagues had tenure, we'd have a bit more freedom to ask questions, inside and outside the university, about what the relative size of our salaries, courseloads, etc., etc. say about the university's commitment to teaching. That might make for some difficult conversations with our research-oriented colleagues (all the more difficult if everyone were on the same tenure track, with research/teaching/service expectations adjusted over the course of a career in response to both the faculty member's preferences *and* performance), but at least they'd take place from a position of equality.

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    1. Exacty! This, by the way, Contingent Cassandra, is much what we argue. (Even the load -- 3/3/3 +service).

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  6. One of my (tenured R1) colleagues just confided in me that she got invited to apply for a teaching track position at Princeton. She wasn't interested. Made me think more about what kind of faculty are ultimately going to end up in these jobs and what will happen to the jobs they leave.

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  7. I think you and Fie might be missing something important. Jennifer Ruth and I are proposing a path to tenure for large numbers of contingent faculty who currently have no hope of it whatsoever. It is not about grandfathering in long-serving adjuncts or hiring new PhDs so much as it is about winning job security for much of the "precariat." I wonder whether people are being thrown by the term "teaching-intensive"?

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    1. Thanks for responding, Michael. I responded below to Jennifer first. I think I'm still not quite clear about your proposal.

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  8. Michael - With all due respect, I think you are missing the point that there is no way on earth administrators are going to create tenure lines (teaching track or otherwise) that they don't have to. Ethics cannot persuade administrators to do the right thing when the very most important thing to them is the bottom line. Perhaps creating a nation-wide adjunct union that all universities would be compelled to use in order to keep their accreditation might work. But unless schools are forced to pay fair wages, offer job security, and provide insurance they will not do it. They have no reason to, despite appeals to moral principles, ethics, and whatever else. Accreditation threats might somehow work. Or a union. Or a federal law. But asking nicely with data? Nope.

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    1. You give administrators way too much power/credit, Fie. They do not run the world with a free hand -- yet. If tenure continues to erode rather than --as we'd like to see -- expand to include the majority of faculty, then yes it will be all but impossible to maneuver. We are not asking administrators nicely with data. We are asking our colleagues ramp up the pressure already on administrators from collective bargaining to refuse the creation of new adjunct appointments (forcing administrators to invest in good jobs if they want to expand) and using the many channels of shared governance to force change.

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    2. Jennifer - There's no union where I am. My administration just eliminated majors in art history, photography, French, and Economics because of low-ish enrollment in those majors. They did it without the faculty voting on it. The faculty have been scrambling to try to do something about it. The admins have said, essentially, do what you want to stall this process, but these majors are going to be eliminated. The end. Not every college is a democracy with shared governance. Ours has been a hostile take-over by the administration. Maybe we're a special case. The faculty has no power to affect change on the adjunct level. None. Not at my school. At other places there are different situations. From my limited and personal experience, administration has all the power. Faculty have been neutered. It's thrilling to know that this is not the case everywhere. How long will it last?

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  9. I believe you -- I'm learning as I hear from people across the country about their specific situations that many places are like PSU *and* at the same time that many places are not. I think the worlds Michael and I live in (a higher-ranked but by no means Ivy League big school, a lower-ranked unionized big school in a state in the bottom five for investment in higher ed) are representative enough that our ideas can be of use -- but perhaps you are right and the situation is too far gone in some places, particularly those non-unionized places where shared governance has been completely gutted and faculty are managed employees without any voice in university affairs. I hope that your and your colleagues find ways to push back and make life very unpleasant for your administrators. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for responding, Jennifer.

      I think I understand your proposal better: you propose to give adjuncts tenure-type job security, while having them teach the same number of courses as they do wherever they are. Do you imagine their pay will increase, or stay the same (I'm in a department where our adjuncts are pretty much full time and have benefits, but no/minimal job security, and they're paid less than tenure track faculty.) Would they have governance responsibilities added?

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