December 1, 2017

Faculty assembly forms tenure-track committee

By Shelby Brown–

U of L’s Faculty Assembly created the Ad-hoc Committee on Tenure-Track Teaching Positions Dec. 1, hoping to expand tenure-track positions in the College of Arts and Sciences.

By increasing tenure-track teaching positions, U of L hopes to gain a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Only 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have a chapter of what’s known as the country’s oldest liberal arts and sciences honor society.

Professor Karen Christopher said universities with a chapter have a much higher tenure-track percentage than U of L.

“Currently 64 percent of our classes are taught by non-tenure track faculty. We need to be at around 30 or 40 percent,” Christopher said.

The committee will examine best practices for tenure at other universities. They will also analyze structural, economic and cultural implications of tenure-track positions and create policy recommendations.

Professor Wendy Pfeffer said the motion should have some support from higher administration.

“If we don’t have that guarantee, this is a waste of time for too many faculty who don’t have time to waste,” Pfeffer said. “You’ve got to get some buy-in from higher or this is all for naught.”

A&S Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard said creating the committee was a good decision even if lack of higher administration support could mean it’s “dead in the water.”

TTTP will also seek input from professor Linda Fuselier and undergraduate directors regarding teaching evaluations.

Christopher says student evaluations aren’t enough as many are incomplete. With enough consistently-negative student evaluations, Christopher said, a faculty member should be terminated.

Faculty discussed colleagues from other institutions who are evaluated through their syllabi and teaching observations. Professor Avery Kolers suggested cross-department evaluations to protect junior colleagues and keep them accountable.

Kempf-Leonard said she hopes faculty will take the project on, calling it a middle-ground option. She also doesn’t want to add a burden on contingent faculty or risk anyone losing their research.

“I worry that someone — who we have no idea who that will be — will come in and tell us that we all have higher teaching loads. That’s possible right now. They could do that to us. But I don’t want that to happen,” she said.

Kempf-Leonard said she has been meeting with Interim President Greg Postel. Though she feels optimistic, she said U of L won’t be going for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter anytime soon.

“I think the 30,000 students is more an issue for us right now than Phi Beta Kappa,” she said.

U of L plans to increase enrollment to 30,000 students in the coming semesters. This is another reason the tenure committee was formed, according to Christopher.

The committee plans to meet in January.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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