Many tenured and tenure-track (“TT”) faculty wonder what we can do to create more equitable working conditions on our campuses.  Michael Berubé shares his account of faculty at a large, public university who have been successful at doing just that.  Penn State University faculty reimagined and restructured their system to create protections and far better pay for contingent faculty. 

This example demonstrates the power of faculty to create change where we live, providing we work together.  

If you have a model to share with us from your campus, please contact us and we will be delighted to feature it. 

In March 2016, the Faculty Senate approved the creation of “Fixed-Term Review Committees,” elected by and consisting exclusively of fixed-term (“FT”) faculty, to review FT faculty for promotions (and attendant raises). The administration signed on in September 2016, directing all designated units (that’s complicated, given our 24-campus system, but not important here) to start electing those committees in time for 2017-18. That initiative also created a third tier of promotion for FT faculty beyond that of “senior lecturer,” a category that many of them have occupied for over a decade. Since faculty can be reviewed for promotion only by people in higher ranks, temporary measures were put in place for the review of FT faculty to the third and highest rank until that rank is sufficiently populated with FT faculty.

Last year, the Senate approved a sweeping overhaul of FT faculty titles, designating the three ranks as “lecturer/ assistant teaching (or research) professor/ associate teaching (or research) professor” for people without terminal degrees, and “assistant teaching (or research, etc.) professor/ associate teaching professor/ teaching professor” for people with terminal degrees. This represented a compromise between the people who wanted a single system of designation that did not take degree status into consideration, and the people who did not want faculty without terminal degrees to have professorial titles. Each unit is empowered to determine what counts as a terminal degree, thereby leaving it open for units to consider JDs, MFAs, and LPNs (licensed nurse practitioners) as terminal degrees. (Nursing is somewhat complicated because of the RN degree.)

This year, the Senate proposed that each promotion carry with it a multiyear contract: three years upon promotion to the second tier, five years upon promotion to the third. Last week, the administration came back with language that simply allows each promoted candidate to be considered for a multiyear contract. They insist that FT faculty are paid out of “temporary” funds, and temporary funds cannot be extended beyond three years. We are not happy with that, but the administration says it is open to further negotiation, so further negotiation there shall be. We have already agreed to carve out an exception for FT research faculty funded by grants, because of course their continued employment is dependent on the grant involved.