Faculty Growth Also on ‘Track’
October 28, 2016
More students and additional academic programs mean more teachers are needed, and this fall ASU has added 15 new tenure-track faculty, increasing the total number by 10 percent over fall 2015.
“Starting a new engineering program, you’re going to add faculty there, that’s a given,” said Dr. Don Topliff, ASU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We’ve also added faculty across the campus. I don’t think there is any college that hasn’t seen an increase in tenure-track faculty. It’s an indication that our growth is across the entire university.”
The ASU faculty is comprised of adjuncts, instructors, tenure-track and tenured members. Adjuncts are temporary faculty hired to fill unexpected gaps. Instructors are full-time faculty who normally have master’s degrees but are not what is called “terminally qualified,” meaning there is a higher degree that can be achieved in their field, like a Ph.D. or other doctorate.
Tenure-track faculty have achieved the highest, or terminal, degree in their discipline, in most cases a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.). At ASU, they start as assistant professors on a track toward tenure.
“The next step is to gain tenure and be promoted to associate professor,” Topliff said. “That happens after six years of time in rank as an assistant professor. At the end of their fifth year, their credentials are vetted by their peers, their department chair, the dean of their college, the provost, the president and ultimately the board of regents. The board of regents is the only body that can confer tenure.”
After four years as an associate professor, a faculty member can apply to become a full professor. So the tenure track runs from assistant professor to associate professor to professor, with tenure granted upon promotion to associate professor.
“We actually get paid a premium by the state in our formula funding for having a terminally prepared, tenure-track person teach a course,” Topliff said. “So from a funding standpoint, it’s advantageous for ASU to have as many courses as possible taught by tenure-track faculty.”
In addition to teaching, tenure-track faculty are required to do scholarly activities like research, presentations and performances, and there is also a service component. That encourages them to stay up to date in their particular field so they can continue to meet the criteria for tenure.
“When (faculty) see that we are adding tenure-track lines, we are adding academic programs and the monetary gifts to the university are at an all-time high, those are all indications that ASU is somewhere they might want to be.”
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better teachers than instructors,” Topliff said. “It means that they have demonstrated the ability to teach, conduct research and perform service at a high-enough level that ASU is going to make a long-term commitment to them and do what we can to retain them on our faculty.”
“Gaining tenure also doesn’t mean that they can’t be dismissed or that they have a lifetime contract,” he added. “But the bar to terminate someone who is tenured is much higher than for someone who is not tenured.”
One of the indications of the health of a university is the number of tenure-track faculty on the payroll. There have been times over the years when, due to budget constraints, ASU replaced departed tenure-track faculty with instructors. But the recent influx of new tenure-track faculty signals that ASU is enjoying renewed financial stability.
“Our budget is public information available to anyone,” Topliff said. “If we were struggling financially, then potential faculty would be able to find that out. But when they see that we are adding tenure-track lines, we are adding academic programs and the monetary gifts to the university are at an all-time high, those are all indications that ASU is somewhere they might want to be.”
“With the growth in our enrollment,” he added, “the addition of the engineering program and adding new tenure-track faculty; that should give everyone a lot of comfort that Angelo State University is on the right track.”