Position Paper Tenure Versus Non-Tenure

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Tenure vs. Nontenure: Two Tracks Diverge
In tough economic times, the number of nontenure-track faculty is rising. What are the implications of this trend?

By Mike Wright

In the faculty world, tenure is good. It's seen as an almost sacred concept that leads to the highest-quality instruction, ground-breaking research, and institutional loyalty in the nation's colleges and universities.

The trend over the last decade, however, is an increase in nontenure-track faculty on campuses across the country. This comes as enrollments continue to set records and economically troubled times strain resources.

Between 1992 and 1998, according to figures from the American Council on Education, across all institutions of higher learning in the United States, the percentage of tenure-track faculty declined from 41 to 38 percent. Among public research universities, the decrease was from 63.5 to 57.6 percent. Nation-wide, the presence of part-time faculty grew by 79 percent between 1981 and the turn of the century.

The issue has attracted the attention of the media, university trustees, faculty councils, and students across the country as administrators struggle to find the right balance for their campuses. Indiana University is not exempt from the debate.

IU is following the national trend in one regard — the number of nontenure-track full-time positions has increased on all campuses. But the university is bucking the national trend of more part-time positions. At Indiana, the number of part-time faculty has declined at IUPUI and has held fairly steady at other campuses. The greatest faculty growth lies in full-time nontenure-track teaching positions.

IUPUI is a good example. The Indianapolis campus had increased enrollment, but it had exactly the same number of full-time tenure-track faculty, 1,327, in the fall 2002 semester as it did in 1997. Full-time nontenure-track faculty were up, however, from 486 in 1997 to 735 in 2002. And part-time ranks declined...
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