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Tenure track positions disappearing at UI

BY BILL COONEY | FEBRUARY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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The number of tenure-track positions has decreased at the University of Iowa, but the other state public universities have experienced the opposite.

“At Iowa, were seeing a very similar trend as other Big Ten schools when it comes to tenure-track positions,” said Kevin Kregel, the UI associate provost for faculty.

According to a recent state Board of Regents’ report, the UI had 1,453 tenure-track positions in 2014, down from 1,557 in 2004.

In contrast, Iowa State University had 1,262 tenure-track positions in 2014 compared with 1,230 in 2004. The University of Northern Iowa also saw growth of tenure-track positions, from 533 in 2004 to 550 in 2014.

“Overall, we’ve actually seen an increase of 323 faculty during that time,” Kregel said.

Tenure means professors cannot be terminated without just cause.

In order to achieve tenure, professors must publish research, attract grant funding, establish a strong scholarly reputation, and teach classes.

Tenure track refers to positions that are on the way to acquiring tenure, such as an associate professor.

Kregel said the majority of the new faculty positions are for either clinical positions at the University Hospitals and Clinics or specialized teaching such as lecturers.

“The tenure track is stable, which is good, because that’s a hallmark of a research institution such as Iowa,” Kregel said. “By bringing in clinical positions and lecturers, we’re reflecting the needs of the students and making sure we keep a lower student-teacher ratio in the classroom setting.”

Iowa State plans to add 130 more tenure-track positions this year because of increased enrollment, said Rob Schweers, the ISU director of communications.

That university has grown by thousands of students over the past decade.

“It’s really a variety of factors, including a growing interest in the research of big data and business analytics on campus,” Schweers said. “In order to keep the student-to-faculty ratio down in these new classes, we’ve had to, and will continue to, hire new tenure-track positions to fill that need.”

The UI is taking steps to grow enrollment as well.

Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Education, said he thinks fewer tenure-track positions are being created nationally.

“It costs colleges a lot less to hire non-tenure-track faculty, such as an adjunct professor, than it does to hire tenure-track faculty,” he said.

He said course offerings by semester have a lot to do with fewer tenure-track positions.

“This also gives them the ability to hire and fire at will, which you cannot do with tenured faculty,” Jaschik said. “These adjunct professors may not be on campus as much, which may make them less available to students. This can get in the way of students developing academic relationships with their professors.”

He thinks tenured positions provide a lot of benefits to students during their time at college.

“[Hiring non-tenure-track faculty] also takes away the experience of taking an introductory class with a certain professor as a freshman and taking more advanced courses later from the same professor,” Jaschik said.

How universities manage their faculty resources is becoming an increasingly important topic, Kregel said.

“This is going to an important topic of discussion going forward for all universities in the future, not just Iowa,” he said.


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