By Megan Brewer —
Right now, over half of the faculty at American institutions are part-time and not on a tenure-track according to American Association of University Professors. U of L is one of these institutions.
Many faculty members at U of L are full-time, part-time non-tenure-track or part of the contingent faculty.
According to U of L spokesman John Karman, as of November 2016, 1,374 of the 2,439 faculty members are not tenure or on the tenure-track. Only 31 percent are full-time and tenured.
It costs less for a university to have more contingent faculty than having professors on the tenure-track. It makes sense for the university to go the cheaper route when hiring professors because of the current financial situation, but having so many contingent faculty members doesn’t benefit faculty or students.
For the faculty that are considered part-time, they don’t have benefits like health care and retirement plans. They are paid on a course-by-course basis and only for the hours they spend in a classroom.
Professors aren’t paid for what they do outside of the classroom to prepare for courses or the materials they need in order to teach.
Outside of this, they aren’t protected by the university as much as a full-time tenure-track faculty member. This is where things start to affect students.
When professors aren’t protected by the university, they lack academic freedom. They teach in fear of being dismissed if they touch on unpopular lessons or don’t do things exactly by the book.
Many faculty members hired are spur of the moment and aren’t given much time to prepare for the class they’re given to teach.
This can take away from students ,giving them less in-depth education than expected. However, when a tenure-track professor is teaching a course, often it’s taught with more risky and high-quality material.
This is the best way for students to be challenged in the classroom, so the university-protected professors will result in students with a more intense education.
Especially in higher level classes, students want a professor that has the freedom to teach outside of the box and provoke higher level thinking.
U of L would also graduate more well-rounded, strong students when professors feel safer when teaching.
Another issue that comes with having such a high rate of contingent faculty is the turnover rate. Professors often stay at a university for a semester or two if they aren’t on a tenure-track or full-time.
Professors also teach differently at each university. Going to two different colleges myself, I know that different learning styles work better at different schools. Professors aware of how students learn at certain universities have more success inside the classroom.
Having more professors that know U of L and the students learning style will lead to students feeling more comfortable in their learning environment. In turn, students will get more out of a course if they are learning from a familiar face.
When students graduate and are trying to get jobs, they turn to professors for recommendations. It’s not easy for students to get recommendations if most of their professors are no longer at the university or if they only had the opportunity to have them for one course.
Most of the time a student would want to get a recommendation from a professor they’ve had for multiple courses, one that knows their abilities and can write a recommendation that doesn’t sound generic.
It should be the goal for U of L to have more full-time tenure-track professors. Students should be able to feel comfortable with most of their professors.
Though it would cost the university more to hire more professors on a tenure-track, it would be better in the long run for faculty and students.
Photo by Shelby Brown / The Louisville Cardinal