Innovation not Aberration
Innovation not Aberration: Full-Time Non-Tenured Faculty Represent Innovation, Not Aberration
Innovation not Aberration: By Jesse Saffron, February 08, 2016
Innovation not Aberration: It’s an interesting dilemma and I hope it resolves itself productively.
Quite simply, traditional educational organizations and traditional educators have paradigm paralysis, the inability to evolve and change with the changes in the “profession”.
Institution focused entities like to remain as institution focused entities, because change is hard and the current paradigm works for the institution, but at a high cost expense to the students, their defined reason for existence.
The question that seems to be ignored, by traditional educators, more often than not is: How do our choices directly and measurably advance sustained student success outcomes, resulting in relevant student job placements and long term student contributions to society? (How does Tenure, directly and measurably advance student success outcomes)?.
Since students = revenue, if students leave your institution, or stop coming, your revenue suffers, which is not sustainable.
With progressive educational organizations becoming student centered and measurably reflecting student success outcomes, students will choose to enroll where student success outcomes are top priority and assured.
Institution focused organizations that continually agonize on how they can remain “as is” will die a slow death.
“This sea change (which some have called the “adjunctification of higher education”) is due largely to the absence of accountability on the part of campus stakeholders—governing boards, presidents, deans, administrators, faculty—to ensure that hiring practices align with their school’s mission. It also is due to the fact that many institutions either inadequately track faculty and hiring data, or fail to use such data to inform policy.”
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The increased use of non-tenure track faculty by universities has drawn condemnation from many entrenched in the seniority system, but critics may be ignoring the more complex realities and distinctive needs of 21st Century higher education.
Sometimes the detractors blame so-called “corporatization.” Other times they allege that the culprit is inadequate state funding. Whatever their reasoning, critics tend to view the current faculty dynamic as one that allows schools to take advantage of today’s dysfunctional academic job market at the expense of student learning and professors’ well-being. For instance, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—which holds a strong pro-tenure stance—says that the rise of NTT faculty threatens academic freedom, exploits faculty, and undermines the classroom experience.
While the AAUP and others may be accurate in some instances (harrowing anecdotes from overworked and underpaid adjunct professors seem to abound), they often treat the non-tenure track as a monolith, and thus ignore encouraging developments. In many ways the rise of full-time NTT faculty is significantly benefiting schools, professors, and students. Nevertheless, institutions are slowly recognizing that—for better or worse—a new faculty paradigm has arrived. The sooner they adapt, the better prepared they’ll be for the future.
“A university that really strives to give tenure to all instructional faculty is tying its own hands and feet in terms of dealing with an ever-changing world and fluctuating economy,” said David McCord, tenured psychology professor at Western Carolina University (WCU), in a recent interview with the Pope Center. “Some agility is necessary for survival; disciplines come and go, rise and fall, and the university itself—not just the administration—must have some flexibility in adapting to changes…. [Some] substantial proportion of instructional faculty…should have more flexible contracts than those associated with tenure.”
Recently, McCord and other members of WCU’s faculty senate created a special task force on NTT faculty. The impetus came from tenured and tenure-track faculty members’ recognition of the critical instructional and departmental support provided by NTT faculty, and from a desire to find ways to reward such faculty for their often unheralded contributions.
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