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Shorter contracts ease tight budgets

Budget battles and interims lead to shorter contracts.

With the university facing annual budget battles, schools and colleges have relied on the hiring of non-tenure track faculty to one- and two-year contracts in order to decrease the amount of funds reserved in long-term tenure and tenure-track positions.

Beginning in 2000, the university ended a term limit on non-tenured positions called deans’ appointments that forced colleges to replace faculty members that had been with the university for more than seven years. A new Temple University Association of Professionals contract was forged that year creating a new level of positions known as special appointment faculty, in which professors and researchers who were deemed to be of exceptional quality were allowed to stay on at their respective schools for longer periods.

Prior to 2000, teachers in health sciences programs who were not involved in clinical research were also allowed to be maintained for periods longer than seven years, a system that then expanded onto Main Campus.

In 2004, a TUAP contract did away with all term limits on non-tenure track faculty, greatly increasing the ability of the various schools and colleges to fill staffs with full-time, non-tenure track faculty.

Diane Maleson, senior vice provost of faculty affairs, said that while at first colleges were open to hiring non-tenure track faculty to multi-year contracts, budget constraints forced them to shorten contract lengths into one and two-year deals that gave them more freedom in managing yearly salaries.

“There are certain budgetary realities, a person that gets tenured, assuming they behave, has a lifetime job, and that is an enormous financial commitment, and so in these incredibly uncertain times when the state is dramatically limiting the amount of money that it gives to higher education, you have to be really careful about the permanent commitments that you make,” Maleson said.

Maleson also said that the large number of interim deans running schools in recent years led to interim and acting deans becoming hesitant to leave large amounts of salaries tied up when future deans take over.

Currently, five schools or colleges are run by interim deans, an issue that President Neil Theobald has said is a top priority for the spring semester.

“I know the faculty wants [longer term contracts], many deans would like to do it, it’s not that they don’t want to do it, it’s just that they feel their hands are tied because they’re interims or they’re worried about the next budget hammer coming down,” Maleson said.

As opposed to adjunct faculty members, who are hired part-time by the various colleges to teach lessened course loads, non-tenure track faculty are hired full-time, but have to go through a contract review and renewal process as prescribed by their individual contracts.

Non-tenure track faculty must go through an annual review process when their contracts are up. Some faculty must sit before a review committee, others meet with their deans to go over performance and work with the college.

Professional schools with faculty who are not members of TUAP have separate procedures for handling non-tenure track faculty contracts.

Under former President Ann Weaver Hart, the university formed a decentralized hiring policy of non-tenure track positions that allows individual colleges and programs to each keep separate records of their hiring of contract positions. Therefore, the Office of the Provost does not keep a university-wide tally of contract positions.

“There is a positive aspect to this complement of people, that they bring a kind of rich set of ideas and background, that they may not want to have the burden sitting in a cubicle, pounding out research [involved in tenured positions],” Maleson said.

Salary levels among non-tenure track faculty range according to the schools where they are hired, as well as the subjects they teach, often due to the competitiveness of certain programs, Maleson said.

However, some faculty and groups have expressed concerns that the increased use of short-term contracts has loosened job security among members of the faculty who must work without knowing if their jobs will be retained amid budget cuts.

“The one-year contracts are very depressing for people who have proved their teaching merit.”

Susan Balée a former professor in the humanities department who resigned her position to work at the University of Pittsburgh, said the short-term contracts she worked on while at Temple were a taboo subject among the faculty, with some afraid that their contracts would not be renewed if they spoke up.

“The one-year contracts are very depressing for people who have proved their teaching merit. They enable the university to quickly liquidate a work force, and that’s why they’re in place. The administration wants to retain its power to balance a budget at the expense of job security for their workers,” Balée said in email.

The Modern Language Association, which represents the humanities, English and foreign language departments, published a 2002 statement on the process of hiring full-time non-tenure track positions to short-term contracts. The association expressed that universities and institutions should “drastically reduce” the number of classes being taught by adjunct faculty, to be replaced by full-time and optimally tenure-track positions “to ensure the educational quality of English and foreign language courses and programs, maintain the integrity of the profession, and improve employment opportunities for new Ph.Ds.”

“In the humanities, jobs have been much harder to come by. It is just a fact that there have not been the kind of enrollments that justify [new hiring]. Although we do have searches in English and various other humanities professions, that is an association where Ph.Ds have been unable to find tenure-track positions,” Maleson said.

A subsequent review in 2003 by an Executive Council subcommittee of the MLA found that while no optimal number of tenure-track conversions could be accurately and fairly decided, steps must be taken by academic institutions to ensure job security amongst non-tenure track faculty.

“Non-tenure track faculty members should be hired by means of long-term planning whenever possible, to provide for extended terms of appointment consistent with institutional needs, thereby also providing sufficient job security to encourage and support continuing involvement with students and colleagues,” the review stated.

Maleson said that while non-tenure track positions have become an increasingly popular way for schools to fill teaching positions on a budget, openings for tenure-track positions have allowed some schools to hire non-tenure track faculty into permanent positions.

Non-tenure track faculty who wish to enter a tenure-track position must first enter into the normal search process that the university sets up for all tenure-track positions.

Since 2004, the university has hired nearly 520 tenure and tenure-track positions to the university, the largest in the university’s history, Assistant Director of University Communications Hillel Hoffmann said.

“This is a time when nationally…it has been a time of stagnant hiring of tenure and tenure-track positions, even reductions at many institutions,” Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann attributed the substantial increase in tenure-track searches to an “echo boom” that is the result of the retirements of tenured faculty hired when the university expanded after becoming a state-related institution in 1965.

John Moritz can be reached at john.moritz@temple.edu or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.

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