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Tenure, non tenure: why does it matter at MU?

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UM Curators are urged to raise tuition at the University of Missouri in Columbia by as much as 7.5 percent.

Last month, University of Missouri faculty voted to give Non-Tenure Track faculty members the right to vote at Faculty Council meetings and in campus-wide elections. At MU over the past few years, there has been an increase of Non Tenure Track faculty, or NTTs, while the percentage of tenure track members has slowly declined.

But that’s not unique, the New York Times reports in the last few decades colleges across the country have been hiring more NTTs.

To students, concerns about faculty basically have to do with teachers giving them the information they need each day in class to be successful and get a good grade.

To teachers, it is not that simple. They have to figure out the curriculum to teach, what to teach from a class to class basis, as well as taking care of other things the school requires.

It becomes even more difficult when teachers are hired and then categorized into a specific track. At MU, like other colleges throughout the country, teachers can be hired onto tenure or non-tenure tracks.

The duties the teachers have to fulfill change depending on whether they are non-tenure or tenure. There seems to be much complexity in the differences between these two types of faculty members, but the main difference gives a better idea of their separate requirements. 

“For a traditional tenure track faculty member, the university is looking for research, teaching and service as the primary determinants…On the non-tenure track side, you’re only evaluated on one or two factors,” said Ken Dean, MU Deputy Provost.

These three “lines” are broken into parts. This means a teacher on tenure devotes 40 percent of their time to teaching, 40 percent to research, and another 20 percent to service. However, a non-tenure teacher may teach a class or research, or they may ultimately do a combination of both.

“NTT faculty members are more specialized as even just the lines suggest. So obviously as a teaching faculty, research is not part of my official portfolio, though I might do some…whereas a research faculty member isn’t dong any teaching,” said Nicole Monnier, an Associate Teaching Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Russian at MU.

Monnier, who teaches many Russian contemporary literature classes, used to be on tenure but chose to switch over to non-tenure. The catch is those on non-tenure cannot go onto tenure. Monnier said she changed because she felt she was better at teaching, and didn’t think she excelled in research.

With the switch, Monnier said job security is a tradeoff.  

“For the non-tenure track, the collected rules provide that you can be given a contract of typically one year,” Dean said.

The non-tenure teachers who perform at a higher level can receive a maximum of a three-year contract, but Dean said they almost always get a one-year contract.

The tenure faculty members go through a probationary period of six years, and then at the end of that time they are considered as tenure. From there, the teacher gets a contract called continuous appointment, which runs for life unless misconduct occurs.

Also, being on non-tenure comes at a cost.

“We get paid less,” Monnier said.

However, in the School of Medicine, the 332 non-tenure members receive a higher salary than other MU teachers on tenure.

Dean said hiring non-tenure track faculty members is financially efficient and effective for MU to save money.

“The people who would fall under the category of non-tenure track faculty, that number has grown over the past several years. It’s grown really in a variety of areas, it’s grown with the teaching track faculty,” Dean said.

According to MU Institutional Research, in 2002 the non-tenure members made up less than one-fourth of the faculty on campus. They currently make up more than one-third of the MU teachers, representing 36 percent.

Monnier said a change on campus has driven the university to hire more non-tenure track members as well.

“There’s been an enormous increase in the hiring of NTT faculty in large part to respond to the exponential growth of the MU student body,” Monnier said.

In the last year, MU’s enrollment amount increased by 907 students. While more students are being accepted to MU, the school is hiring more non-tenure teachers, but it is not the same for those on tenure.

“The tenure track numbers have not grown at the same rate as non-tenure track numbers,” Dean said.

The amount of tenure track faculty currently represents a total of 1,245 members, while there are 740 non-tenure faculty at the school.