Temple awards teachers for excellence, but tenured professors have an advantage.
As a non-tenure track professor in the political science department, Alistair Howard knows he’s in good company.
Howard said he believes that the professors Temple provides for its students are well-qualified, and he has good reason.
“For example, the political science department has some extremely highly qualified, prolific political scientists. They publish a lot, they research a lot, and they’re publishing in top-quality journals, like Oxford Press, Cambridge Press,” Howard said. “Once you start getting a few of those people then you get more, because people like that want to be around other people like that.”
To compensate employees for these types of achievements, Temple provides monetary incentives of approximately $600, distributed by the Provost’s office, which makes the distribution decisions with teacher evaluation sheets in mind.
Merit units are handed for teacher excellence in three categories: teaching, service and research. Essentially, the better a teacher performs in at least one of those three areas of teaching, the more merit units that teacher is awarded.
Still, the logistics of merit distribution has left many with a slew of unanswered questions.
According to information published by the Temple Association of University Professionals, between 2010 and 2011, tenure-track professors received 81.8 percent of all merit units, which equals approximately $1,945. Non-tenure track teachers, in comparison, received 18.2 percent of all units, which equates to approximately $1,110.
Institutional Research data from 2010 shows that, last fall, of the 1,930 full-time faculty, 813 were tenured, 211 were tenure-track and 906 were non-tenure track.
Tenured-track professors are expected to, in addition to teaching, take on various researching endeavors, such getting a book published by a publisher or journal in their field, and to partake in a variety of community service projects.
On the other hand, non-tenure track professors only receive compensation for their work in the classroom, although they can apply to become tenure-track.
To some, the difference in merit distribution may suggest the university places more emphasis on tenure-track teachers than those on a non-tenure track.
Since 2008, tenure-track teachers have received at least 81 percent of total merits.
Although that number has dropped each year since 2008, from 86 percent in 2008 to 81 percent as of last year, the gap between the number of merits tenure-track professors receive versus non-tenure track professors is still vast.
As of the 2010-11 year, 17.5 percent of all merits were handed out for service, 16.5 percent were issued for teaching, while 66 percent were issued for research.
In most of the colleges within the university, except for the School of Education, the School of Computer Technology and the School of Pharmacy, merits awarded for research takes up at least half of all of the merits handed out.
Diane Maleson, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development, doesn’t quite take the statistics at face value.
“One can look at data in lots of ways. Different colleges have different cultures,” Maleson said. “Some colleges might value research more than others. I think it’s hard to make generalizations on the matter.”
In some schools, such as the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Technology, the percentage is more than 80 percent, leaving single-digit percentages for both service and teaching merit awards.
“Temple is seen as a major research university because of the output: publishing books and scholarly articles,” said Arthur Hochner, president of TAUP. “[Research] attracts other professors and it attracts students. In a way it brings in money, but so does teaching. Good teaching makes a big difference. So if you only reward the people, as in CLA or CST, who do research, you’re ignoring the people who bring in most of the money.”
“Good teachers aren’t a dime a dozen, they aren’t easy to find. It does the students a disservice, I think, to look at it that way,” Hochner added.
Howard offered another point of view.
“I think it’s harder to attract top-notch researchers than it is to attract teachers who only teach,” Howard said.
Hochner said much of research funding goes to the medical school, with less being apportioned to other schools, with the exception of CLA and CST.
The difference in merit distribution should not be considered an indication of the “value” of teachers, because certain teachers are privileged with certain capabilities that others are not privy to, Hochner said.
“The ones who are hired just to teach, aren’t even given the opportunity to do research, they aren’t even given the opportunity to apply for merit for research even if they do research. In CLA or CST, they are essentially shut out of the competition,” Hochner said.
Hochner said that, even if a non-tenure track teacher does do something to qualify for research, he or she still cannot receive compensation in the form of merits for their service.
“In lower level courses, I’m not saying you’re getting a worse education from people who are not treated as well, but they are more likely to leave…it’s human nature. If you get paid less, you get rewarded less, you don’t put as much as yourself into it,” Hochner said
“Teaching’s important, but it’s not the top priority for the top professors,” Hochner added.
Hochner said merit for research is demonstrative of one of Temple’s strategies.
“The research awards are clearly the most important, and they reflect the university’s strategic decision to become a major research institution, and in some regards we already are,” Hochner said.
While Howard said research is a high priority for Temple, he said he believes it does a good job teaching, as well.
“It’s reflected in other things like the fact that we have a really good Teaching and Learning Center,” Howard said.
Howard proclaims that if Temple wants to break away from being a “tuition driven university” then issuing merits for research is necessary, because, “there are all sorts of benefits to having top-notch researchers,” he said.
“You have to bring in money. And there’s no one giving buckets of money for teaching,” Howard said. “They give you buckets of money for curing cancer.”
Khoury Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.