The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Non-tenured hirings up as part of plan

Over the past decade the number of tenured professors at SMU has remained constant. But the number of non-tenured professors has risen dramatically.

In the fall of 1995, SMU employed 313 tenured professors and 52 lecturers, instructors and others not on the tenure track. By the fall of 2003, SMU had 311 tenured faculty members and 128 professors not on the tenure track, according to research conducted at SMU.

These statistics show that while the number of tenured professors declined over the past eight years, the number of faculty members not on the tenure track increased by almost 150 percent.

Why the increase?

“This has been part of a [conscious plan], but not necessarily as a preference by the administration and tenure-track faculty,” said Ellen Jackofsky, the associate provost for faculty affairs. “The schools make the decisions — the dean’s office with the department chairs.”

Tenure is beneficial to a professor because then he or she cannot be fired unless there is evidence of unprofessional or incompetent behavior. Tenure provides them with a respected status that demonstrates years of hard work and achievement.

Jackofsky said that tenured professors do not necessarily cost SMU more money.

“It depends,” he said. “In some schools they do and in some schools it is the opposite.”

Thomas Barry, vice president of executive affairs at SMU, has a different view.

“Generally, the more productive a tenured faculty member is, along with the attractiveness of that professor to competitive institutions, coupled still with the ability of her or his present university to keep her or him, and assuming he or she can draw a total salary higher than a newly hired non-tenured professor, the more costly that tenured faculty member will be,” he said.

Barry said the inverse is also possible, leading to the hiring case of new non-tenured faculty who are hired at the market price. “That price could be higher than the salaries of the less productive tenured faculty at a given university,” he said.

At SMU, those faculty members who follow the non-tenured track tend to carry a heavier course load than tenured professors and are judged solely on their teaching evaluations. Tenured and tenure-track faculty must teach and publish regularly in scholarly journals, which takes up time that could be spent teaching.

“I thought that [one of my English teachers] was brilliant, but I’m not sure how much he cared about us learning the material,” said Stefanie Smithey, a junior English major. “I always found it suspicious that everyone did well in that class, like maybe he had some sort of incentive to hand out good grades.

Others disagree.

“I have had a few tenured professors,” said junior English major Katherine Bilton. “[One of my teachers] still puts a lot of effort into the curriculum and updates the reading lists so that the students are interested…[Another teacher] isn’t lazy in the least bit. He tried to find ways to make the reading relevant to the class.”

Faculty members have their own views on the productivity levels of tenured versus non-tenured teachers.

“I believe that the [tenure] process is a good one, as long as the criteria are made clear when a faculty member is hired and their criteria do not change during their pre-tenure period,” said tenured professor Alan Brown of the psychology department. “In my 31 years at SMU, most of the faculty that have been tenured in psychology have remained productive.”

But tenure does not mean a professor’s job is entirely secure. If a questionable act is committed, a professor can be fired and not have his or her contract renewed. Also, there must be years of research, publishing and teaching done before tenure can be granted.

Many students believe the common myth that most professors at colleges have tenure. In reality, few do.

According to national statistics from the National Education Association, fewer than one-third of all college and university faculty members are tenured, due to colleges relying more and more on non-tenure track professors to teach. Non-tenured professors constituted about 38 percent of the professors in 1987 and grew to 43 percent by 1992.

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