The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Big disparity between tenured and non-tenured positions on campus

Some faculty members are worried about the disparity between the increase of tenured positions at the UI compared with nontenured jobs.

The number of tenured and tenure-track faculty at the UI increased by 15 positions from 2007-08 to 2008-09, while the number of nontenured teachers grew by 77, according to the latest report released by the state Board of Regents.

To acquire tenure, professors must go through a six-year period consisting of teaching and doing research or field work that can include publishing articles or writing a book. Educators going through this process are considered tenure-track and their performances are reviewed every year throughout the period.

Tenured professors have performance reviews every five years, and UI officials are considering changing the post-tenure review policy to a single-tier review process by a peer committee.

Lack of money is one reason nontenured positions are increasing, said Katherine Tachau, vice president of the UI’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

“Universities are finding it less expensive to make a shorter-term commitment to faculty,” she said.

UI tenure-track Professor Michael Moore said he thinks it’s becoming more difficult to acquire tenure because publishers have a high amount of material to sift through and may not have time to go through every submission.

“People in a tenure-track position want to get published,” he said. “But journals are in trouble because they have huge stacks to go over.”

The regents’ report also showed the total number of nontenure-track faculty at the UI, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa has increased more dramatically than tenure positions over the past nine years. The number of nontenure track positions — 3,823 total for the three schools — is the highest it has been in the past two decades. The average number of tenured faculty at the three regent institutions over the past 10 years was 2,766.

Tachau said tenured teachers are vital to universities and securing those positions should be a priority.

Tenured professors have job security, which helps them do innovative work, she added.

“The basic reason [being tenured] matters is so teachers can pursue research and have the freedom to follow through on projects even when some people are uncomfortable with the results,” she said.

UI tenured Professor Richard Valentine said having a secured job allows teachers to take risks that nontenured professors may not feel they can take.

“Tenure is about freedom of inquiry,” he said. “There shouldn’t be people excluding issues because they’re not popular.”

Nuclear energy, health-care systems and ethanol are all examples of issues that may be considered taboo for some researchers but are still worthy of funding, Valentine said.

It’s necessary to have nontenured as well as tenured positions, Valentine said, because some professors are too busy doing research to teach a large amount of classes.

“If everyone was doing upper-level research, nobody would have time to teach,” he said.

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