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Increased enrollment will lead to more temporary lecturers

BY AARON WALKER | DECEMBER 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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The recent push for increased enrollment will likely cause some colleges at the University of Iowa to hire more lecturers as opposed to the tenure-track faculty they ultimately desire.

Lecturers are hired primarily to teach and often to perform specific professional laboratory instruction while tenure faculty research, teach, and participate in university programs.

UI President Sally Mason said at her last public media address in order to procure the university’s desired permanent staff, many lecturers will be hired to “plug some holes along the way.”

“Obviously, if we’re depending on savings that will come a little further down the road or new tuition dollars that will come when the students come, we need to take some steps that will be a little quicker than necessarily going out and hiring all the tenure-track faculty that we’re going to need to ultimately do this,” she said.

Mason said she personally considered this a temporary fix for what needs to happen.

“What President Mason was referring to is the push for increased enrollments over the next couple of years and … you don’t know what areas you’re going to need help in right now. We could be enrolling 400 or 500 more students in the fall,” said Kevin Kregel, the UI associate provost for faculty. The colleges themselves, their deans or department heads, manage their own faculty pool and hire staff accordingly.

Specific colleges face growing and fading rates of enrollment and respond with the necessary action to maintain their desired level of education.

“Tenure-track faculty at any major doctoral research university in the country is really a critical component to the stability of the university,” Kregel said. “The benefit of any major university like this, in terms of having tenure-track faculty, is that we have researchers who are cutting-edge researchers who can translate that into the classroom.”

Many issues do arise, though, as universities hire additional short-term staff.

The UI’s Faculty Senate commissioned a lecturers committee to address issues that hurt the lecturer community.

“The Faculty Senate appointed a lecturers committee three years ago to produce a final report this spring,” said Alexandra Thomas, the president of the Faculty Senate.

She acknowledged that there are many difficulties facing lecturers and said the Senate wants to address them and come up with solutions for any and all issues.

These issues, at universities across the United States, can range from compensation and benefit issues to hours and institutional transparency.

Twelve years ago, University of Michigan lecturers organized and created a union, the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, to acknowledge these troubles.

Group Vice President Kirsten Herold said that nationwide, around 70 percent of the student credit hours are taught by either adjuncts, lecturers, or graduate students. 

“The lecturer system was not a defined system, which is why there are so many titles and working conditions,” Herold said. “Some people think of lecturers as second-class citizens or the dirty little secrets of academia. We joke that we’re professors when we’re talking to parents but we’re not when we’re talking to employers.”


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