Sunday, March 09, 2014
Ask the Administrator: A New Faculty Rank?
I have a question/scenario that has come up at my college. The proposal has been made to add an Associate Instructor position. We currently have 4 levels of full-time faculty: instructor, and then assistant/associate/full professor. A faculty member moves up through the ranks by completing more graduate school and/or more years at the CC level. I believe that most early-career folks start out at instructor level. Functionally, there's no difference between what an inst. versus a prof. does. There's no tenure (we are all on 1, 3, or 5 year contracts); we all do student advising, committee/governance, and scholarship. We (most of us) teach 30 credit hours a year and have no summer duties unless we step into Asst Dean or other roles.
The Assoc. Inst. position that is being proposed, however, will be different. It will NOT have any non-teaching duties. They will have no assigned student advisees, and no on-paper expectation of committee or other college-wide work. They will teach "33 to 39 credit hours" and will be eligible for renewable contracts (unlike one-year restricted positions), and benefits. They must have the same minimum credentials as an instructor, but their pay will be less--the range minimum is about $9,000 less, the max about $15,000 less. Although not required by our state system, my college wishes to put the following additional restriction on the position, at least for the time being: they may only be hired to teach courses with a set syllabus and assessments, and only in areas with "demonstrable need." For us, for now, that largely means an Assoc. Inst. could be hired to teach ONLY developmental mathematics or development English (no higher-level classes). And they'd be teaching 16/17 to 19/20 credit hours per semester of, say, developmental math. (Which the math profs do NOT envy...)
The final pertinent piece of information: our president has offered to provide supplemental funding to any campus that wishes to take an open instructor position and convert it into 2 assoc. inst. positions.
The plan is being proposed as a way to convert adjunct-taught classes into classes taught by FT with benefits assoc. instructors. If this plan gives more PT employees access to secure employment and benefits, that's a wonderful thing. My concerns, though, are that we as a college will be institutionalizing the expectation (unwritten but not unspoken) that adjuncts and soon Assoc. Inst. advise students, serve on committees, and involve themselves in the non-teaching aspects of the college. In short, doing more than they are paid to do. If they do not, the alternative is that fewer FT faculty are advising MORE students, doing more governance, etc.
I know that it might seem like a non-problem, and perhaps it is just a molehill that I'm making into a mountain. But I can't help but think of parallels to the nationwide conversation about the role of and our increasingly reliance on adjuncts, and wonder if this proposal isn't a step in a wrong direction?
I'd very much like to know whether other community colleges have made a similar move, what the impacts have been on the other FT faculty/the institution more generally, and - most of all - what possible issues am I not thinking about? I'm sure there are many!
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
Or, to put it another way: what would happen if your administration tried to outsource all curriculum-planning and advising services, perhaps to textbook publishers and/or outside contractors, and convert the existing faculty entirely to the new positions you describe? How well would your current actions support an argument against such a move?
I am not sure about what this new faculty rank of Associate Instructor entails, in particular whether or not it actually includes non-teaching duties. I know that a lot of schools already have instructors on one-year contracts who have strictly teaching duties, freeing up the tenure-track faculty to do more research. In an R1 university, teaching is little more than an unneeded distraction for the tenure-track faculty.
This is reminiscent of the rank that I held when I started at Research-Intensive Technological Institute back in the 1970s. My initial rank was “Visiting Assistant Professor”, which was a one-year appointment. It was however a full-time appointment, with benefits. However, I had both teaching and research responsibilities. But I didn’t have any service responsibilities. Service responsibilities were restricted to tenured faculty members only, since I suppose that it was considered by the administration that it was too risky for untenured faculty members to get involved with controversial matters such as curriculum changes or administrative appointments. One of the humorous things that I remember from that time is a student who found out that I was a visiting assistant professor and asked me where I was visiting *from*.
As Contingent Cassandra says, there is a growing tendency for schools to outsource their curriculum planning and design responsibilities to outside concerns. In the pursuit of lower costs, more and more of the curriculum will be strictly online and will be designed by outfits like Pearson, with essentially no faculty input. The faculty (of whatever rank) will be reduced to facilitators, who wander back and forth in the classroom, watching students hovering over computer monitors. The joy of designing and running your own class will rapidly disappear. I wonder if in the not-so-distant future that Pearson will end up offering college degrees?