By Megan Zahneis, News Editor
Non-tenure-track faculty members at Miami may soon have another opportunity for advancement within the university ecosystem.
The university has been hiring more instructors who are not research-focused, often at lower salaries. But those instructors — called lecturers, clinical and professionally licensed faculty, or LCPL — have in the past had only one promotion opportunity.
A committee has been commissioned by University Senate’s Executive Committee to explore the possibility of adding a second promotion point for LCPL faculty, who currently may apply for “senior” status by submitting a dossier during or after their fifth year as an LCPL faculty member.
The committee examining the promotion process plans to present its findings to University Senate’s Executive Committee in mid-April.
Should a new promotion point be created, Senior Lecturer of psychology Peter Wessels said, the impact could be noticed in the classroom.
“The courses that are most likely to determine whether you stay in college or not are taught a lot by people in my positions,” Wessels said. “The chief departmental advisors for many departments are LCPL faculty. There’s a huge footprint on students that [people in] these positions hold..”
Miami began offering the LCPL path for faculty members in fall 2005 as an alternative to the tenure track. College of Arts and Science Associate Dean Bob Applebaum said the LCPL line was created as a response to the financial commitment of hiring tenured faculty, who often devote less time to teaching than to research.
“[In] recognizing that when you have less money from the state, if we’re not going to make up for that less money by charging students more money, which we can’t always do, [in order to] deliver the university education at a lower cost, what are the model options that we can put in place?” Applebaum asked.
One of the options, he said, is to use lecturers.
“We can get these individuals who, essentially, can teach more, and it means that it’s a more efficient model,” Applebaum continued. “The model itself, I think, makes perfect sense. And it came out of a desire and a necessity to make our educational services more efficient.”
Wessels said that his position was originally created as a stopgap of sorts.
“[The positions] were created out of necessity, not out of foresight,” Wessels explained. “[LCPL faculty] cost a lot less. I have a Ph.D., I teach in a lot of classes, I come from a research lab background. I’m not a bad investment for the money to be teaching classes with students, right? It’s a high quality thing.”
As LCPL faculty have become entrenched in campus culture, according to promotion process committee member Janice Kinghorn, the need arose for a better understanding of the LCPL experience
“[The goal was to] try to understand a lot of things about faculty welfare, but in particular, how lecture and clinical faculty were doing,” Kinghorn said. “Did they feel valued? What were their needs? Out of that came the idea that, ‘Well, given that this is a career path, maybe it should be treated in a more parallel way to other career paths, including having a second promotional point.’”
In their evaluation this semester, Kinghorn, a senior lecturer of economics, and her colleagues are taking up the work of a 2012 Faculty Welfare Committee formed with the same goals.
The committee’s work has largely consisted of a series of focus groups, conducted in March and attended by LCPL and senior LCPL faculty. Those attending the focus groups were asked to consider three questions pertaining to their involvement at Miami, such as their opinions on their most valuable contributions to their departments, students and the university. Faculty were also asked what form a second promotion point for LCPL faculty might take and about barriers they perceive in reaching their professional and career goals.
Kinghorn said the majority of faculty attending the focus groups were in favor of adding a second promotion point beyond that of a senior lecturer.
Since LCPL faculty’s areas of expertise and day-to-day work vary so widely, Kinghorn said, focus group participants were adamant that a new position be structured with the flexibility to recognize such achievements. Another wish was a concrete promotion timeline.
“It wouldn’t be something that, ‘Oh, just whenever you’re ready you could go up for promotion,’ but rather [there would be] some benchmarks,” Kinghorn explained. “After you’re here for x number of years, it would be appropriate to go up for promotion.”
Heeyoung Tai, a senior lecturer of biochemistry, is bullish on the prospect of further advancement, but expressed concern for how it might be executed.
“I’m not so sure it’s meaningful enough just to make another promotion point,” Tai noted. “I wonder, what would it include? Is it just a set of procedures that may feel a little better about our position, or will it actually have some kind of content and quality [like] we would expect from having another promotion point?”
Kinghorn said her committee will report its findings from the focus groups to the full senate body by the end of the semester, and, depending on the reception, any changes could be implemented by this fall.