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University News

Campus Committee Delves Into Faculty Retention and Promotion

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BY PAMELA MCLAREN
From Dateline (October 14, 2004)

Life for junior faculty members is looking up.

As part of his fall convocation address, President Milton A. Gordon announced that he had “allocated $300,000 for course release time this year to support junior, tenure-track faculty as they progress through the retention-tenure-promotion process.”

The president also announced that in recognition of junior faculty research efforts, he was increasing the “allocation for junior/senior research grants by more than 100 percent to $100,000”; increasing general research grant funding; and instituting a new allocation of $25,000 to assist faculty members with research travel.

His actions, Gordon noted, came about as a result of the efforts of the Committee to Support Untenured Faculty and Diversity, a group he recognized during his address.

The committee was convened in late 2002 at the president’s direction and charged with investigating the status of junior faculty and developing recommendations on how the campus can better support faculty members working through the tenure process.

As members of the committee acknowledged, new faculty members face many challenges, not the least of which is getting in sync with the university’s operations, practices and procedures.

There’s designing course syllabi and selecting books to use, developing and teaching multiple courses, grading assignments and papers, establishing a scholarly or creative work agenda, serving on committees and working with the community, meeting peers, senior faculty members and administrators and learning what’s expected.

“Not all of our new faculty hires are fresh out of graduate school. Nonetheless, all faculty, regardless of prior experience, must face and adjust to a new community of students and scholars, and learn what their particular campus expects of them to achieve tenure,” said Ellen Junn, associate dean of the College of Human Development and Community Service, who served as committee chair.

“Achieving tenure represents a landmark milestone in an academic’s professional life – it is the final judgment by one’s colleagues as to whether or not one has met the standards set by the institution, and as such, the tenure review process may become a very stressful life event.

“On our particular campus, junior faculty members are expected to be good teachers and scholars, as well as engage in some level of meaningful service,” she added. “Not surprisingly, trying to meet all of these standards with heavy teaching loads creates even more stress for new faculty.”

The committee reviewed and compared campus data with comparable national surveys. Through their review, the committee found that the university had “made significant gains in the number of women junior faculty hired since 1998, with women comprising 41 percent of the campus faculty. . . . In spite of these gains, women faculty still lag behind men in attaining tenure at the highest ranks.” Members also found that the overall percentage of minority faculty members on campus “appears slightly higher than national norms. . . .”

Among specific ethnic groups, the campus faculty includes significantly more Asian Americans and Hispanics than the national average but significantly fewer African Americans.

In developing the report, the committee worked with new-comers to the faculty, including a subcommittee of junior faculty members. The subcommittee developed a qualitative survey that asked untenured faculty members about scholarly activity, teaching and service issues.

Some of the findings: a majority cited lack of time as their most pressing concern, in terms of meeting their research agenda, teaching well and allocating time for service activities; and two-thirds of faculty cited a variety of concerns about the tenure process. Overall, those surveyed were happy with their experience on campus.

Among the junior faculty members who served on the subcommittee was Debra G. Lockwood, assistant professor of theatre and dance, who joined the campus in 2001. “It was wonderful to be involved in this effort. I really gained an appreciation of what other faculty members in other departments have to go through in the tenure process. I felt less isolated. It was very empowering.”

In the final report presented to Gordon earlier this year, the committee made recommendations that include strategies aimed at improving the formal retention, tenure and promotion process; providing more support for faculty at an individual level; improving student understanding of their role in the faculty review process; and building in greater institutional and infrastructure support, such as release time and availability of child care.

To see the full report of the Committee to Support Untenured Faculty and Diversity, go to http://diversity.fullerton.edu/committees/president.htm.


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