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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Tenured positions on the decline

According to a 2009 survey given by the U.S. Department of Education, 75.5 percent of university teachers are hired on non-tenure-track positions. Meaning, these faculty members either work as adjunct faculty members, non-tenure-track faculty member or graduate students.

This number has only increased over the past three years, despite the dismay of many faculty members who wish to eventually reach the perceived job security and benefits often associated with this status. Statistics have shown that the number of full-time tenure and tenure-track positions has steadily declined from 56.8 percent since the mid ’70s.

The Coalition on the Academic Workforce released “A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members” in June detailing the issues faced by these off-tenure-track teachers.

“Part-time faculty members demonstrate a level of commitment to teaching and to the institutions that employ them, but this commitment is not reciprocated by those institutions in terms of compensation or other types of professional support,” CAW said.

“Pay-per-course is strikingly low, especially in the light of the professional credentials and length of service of many of these faculty members.”

Despite the benefits, tenure does not necessarily come with a job that a teacher can never lose.

“Tenure does not mean that faculty have (acquired) guaranteed job security. As with any job, inappropriate behavior or failure to fulfill job duties can result in dismissal. Faculty at UH are reviewed regularly throughout their careers,” said Catherine Patterson, associate dean for graduate studies.

“All faculty, undergo an annual review of their professional activity. Once tenure is granted faculty continue annual reporting of their activity, and all are also answerable to the post-tenure review process.”

Supporting the CAW study and the data from 2009, 2011 UH Tenure Faculty reports show the University had 2,485 of the 3,446, or about 72 percent, faculty members neither tenured nor were tenure-track. However, the rate reflects the process associated with gaining the position.

“The decision to grant tenure to a tenure-track faculty member is made following rigorous evaluations of research, teaching and service throughout a specified probationary period,” said Teri Longacre, associate dean of academic affairs at the C.T. Bauer College of Business.

With UH employing a mixture of tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members, it shows valuable contributions can and are made toward the missions of the university regardless of stature.

“In my opinion, the combination of faculty members pursuing scholarly achievements and possessing professional expertise can help support the University of Houston’s mission ‘to offer nationally competitive and internationally recognized opportunities for learning, discovery and engagement to a diverse population of students in a real-world setting,’” Longacre said.

While tenure may seem like it benefits only teachers, it can have a positive effect on student learning practices in regards to a professor’s research knowledge and education in the classroom. Media productions junior Kara Reyes finds tenure to be an essential title for faculty.

“I’m ‘pro’ tenured faculty. Professors have families and a life outside of the University; they need a stable and secure job,” said Reyes.

“They’re here to educate us. The least we can do is give them a guaranteed position.”

Tenured faculty and tenure-track faculty take their job very seriously, thoroughly understanding the obligations expected of them under teaching, research and service, the areas faculty are reviewed under. Faculty in those positions did not get there simply by years of teaching.

“As a tenured faculty member, my personal experience is that I worked hard to attain tenure and I have continued to pursue scholarship, enhance my teaching, and engage in service throughout my career,” said Patterson.

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