From the Senate President
While the Senate was debating the membership issue this winter, I tried to adopt a neutral stance, even though I let slip in the last Faculty Herald what my feelings were. I began working with the Handbook Committee on the issue last summer (many thanks to my fellow committee members: Mark Haller, Paul LaFollette, Elaine Mackowiak, Diane Maleson, and Bill Woodward). We came up with several alternatives, after invigorating discussion in the room, which were presented to the Senate in December, after consultation with the Faculty Senate Steering Committee.
I began the process by looking at other large urban universities to see what they were doing. As you might be able to guess, faculty senates have come up with imaginative and diverse solutions to determine whom they represent. There are still many senates, like ours, who have recently voted to maintain a representation of only tenured and tenure-track faculty.
Other institutions imposed time limits after which non-tenure track faculty were eligible to vote. These time limits ranged from one semester to six years. Some included any non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty as soon as they walked on campus; others included adjuncts, part-timers, emeritus, and/or visiting professors. One institution limited voting to associate professors or full professors. In short, there is a healthy debate on campuses across the country on what representation in a faculty senate means.
I came to support the inclusion of non-tenure-track faculty, without time limits, after listening to my colleagues in committees and on the floor of the Senate. It appeared to me that one of the main reasons why people were arguing against the inclusion of NTT faculty was that tenure is under siege, and by giving a vote to the NTT faculty, we would be encouraging administration to view the NTT status as “normal.”
We all know that the numbers of NTT faculty on our campus has increased dramatically in the last 10 years—as it has nationally. Here at Temple, the numbers have increased especially in the Schools of Law, Health Professions, and SCT—for very different reasons in each school.
I value my tenure; and I especially valued it as I served my first two years as Faculty President. Tenure is a precious thing to the academic community, as we search for new knowledge and develop creative and perhaps controversial ideas. But is doesn’t seem to me that denying a faculty member the chance to vote in the Faculty Senate is the place to fight for more tenured lines.
There are other, better, places to continue the fight—including in our fundraising efforts, in our public relations with students, their parents, the city, state, and public at large. We need to explain more clearly why tenure is important to them as well as us, and why money should be spent to increase the number of tenure slots.
The second reason I heard in support of maintaining the status quo was that NTT faculty are particularly perceptible to pressure put to bear on them by the people hiring them. This one just didn’t make sense, since tenure-track employees seem much more susceptible to pressure than NTT faculty. And yes, I heard the mutterings that the “Health Sciences people” (whoever they are) would be able to bus people down to the Faculty Senate and push through whatever they want. Given the workloads that NTT faculty especially face, I really didn’t think this would be a threat, even though the numbers of senators at any given meeting would mean that “those people” would really only have to get half a bus to come to the Main campus.
I also came to believe that requiring time limits before people could serve would unnecessarily punish faculty hired within the last 6 years, when multi-year contracts were almost unheard of. Besides College of Liberal Arts (CLA), no college or school has been regularly awarding multi-year contracts. By imposing a time limit, other schools and colleges would have the voice of their NTT faculty limited severely. The Faculty Senate Steering Committee (FSSC) is still sensitive to the issue of multi-year contracts, and we would very much like to see our community built up by the awarding of multi-year contracts to our NTT colleagues.
I offer these comments only in the spirit of acknowledging the debate—on our campus and nationally. I was surprised by the lack of discussion on the Senate floor, and on the Senate listserv. I have been asked what I am going to “do” about the vote. I plan to “do” nothing—the Senate has voted. But I would ask you to remember how few votes made the difference; next time you get a reminder of an election from the Faculty Senate, please take five minutes and add your considered opinion to the vote count—whatever side of the issue you take, it is important to hear from you.