The growing number of departing tenure and tenure-track professors and lower hiring standards is causing holes in many colleges and departments at the University of Wyoming, and many are looking for stop-gap measures for temporary solutions.

Dozens of faculty members throughout the colleges are leaving, either for retirement or other job opportunities, but teaching loads aren’t decreasing. In fact, fall 2015 had the most first-time, first-year students enrolled ever at 1,695 — about 120 more than 2014.

The English department, headed by Peter Parolin, is down several tenured positions and is turning to non-tenured educators to fill the gaps.

“We’re not replacing people anywhere near the rate we’re losing people,” he said. “That means you either offer fewer classes and academic options to students or you rely more heavily on temporary people who are hired on year-to-year contracts. That’s the choice we’re looking at here in the English department.”

The department hired five full-time contract teachers and one part-time contract teacher to handle 44 classes that tenured faculty do not have the time for, Parolin said.

“It tends to be when you bring temporary faculty in, you just ask them to teach, and that’s very valuable and they’re usually very good at it, but it does mean these are faculty members that don’t get to do a very important aspect of what a faculty member does, and that kind of scholarly research work directly benefits students.”

Price point and no long-term commitments are the most attractive reasons temporary faculty members are hired, Parolin said.

“These are people that come in — they don’t make the best salaries compared to the rest of the university,” he said. “Temporary folks tend to make less money than a tenure-track faculty does. They teach more, but a truly rich faculty member is engaged across the entire university — research, teaching and service.”

Frank Galey, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences dean, also places more emphasis on finding tenure-track faculty when available.

“In our college, we use adjuncts mainly to bridge certain areas, but we have not increased our reliance on long-term adjuncts yet,” he said. “Hopefully, with some reorganization, we’ll be able to fill the holes with faculty. But I certainly understand there’s opportunity for part-time adjuncts, but I don’t want to rely too heavily on them in the future.”

Another reason faculty can be more effective is the stability they offer, Parolin explained.

“You want students to be able to have ongoing relationships with faculty members,” he said. “If you’re just committing to a faculty member on a year-to-year basis, you’re not really creating the conditions where that faculty member can have long-lasting relationships with your students or can contribute in meaningful ways to building and nurturing a great culture here at the university.”

Even finding professors can sometimes be difficult. People in academia are not likely to move to Laramie for a one-year contract, College of Health Sciences Dean Ray Reutzel said, making it difficult to find short-term adjunct faculty.

“There are not enough people in the community right now,” he said. “It’s not possible that, if we cut a fourth of the faculty, we could find others in the community — we just do not have enough people with degrees here. If we were in Denver, sure, we could do that, but we’re not. There are not enough resident folks here to hire the adjuncts we would need.”

While some departments are struggling to find replacements, others are getting by pretty well. Karen Bartsch, chair of the psychology department, said they are actually gaining a faculty member after two people left the department this year.

“We experienced a certain amount of good fortune,” she said. “We’ve been searching for two years to replace someone that left earlier, and we were able to hire not only someone for that position but also obtained a spousal accommodation and successfully argued to hire a third,” she said.

Even though Bartsch is very fortunate, the departing professors will leave a gap in particular areas of study, she said.

“We’ll need to do some rearranging and rely a little on our graduate students, but I’m sure we will be fine,” she said.

College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Michael Pishko said the number of short term professors is likely to drop in the coming years because of termination procedures.

“If you look at tenure and tenure-track faculty, it’s really close to impossible or a very long process to terminate those positions, and the same is true for extended term lecturers,” he said. “The place you can trim are adjuncts who are on year-to-year contracts.”

While the want for tenured professors exists, short-term faculty will still have a place at UW, Galey said.

“There is a balance, and I’m not sure if anyone’s found out exactly what that is, but right now, we’re working hard to put tenure-track faculty or extended-term lecturers in front of our students,” he said.

(12) comments

Commonsense2010

The head of the UW English department is quoted in this article as saying, "The department hired five full-time contract teachers and one part-time contract teacher to handle 44 classes that tenured faculty do not have the time for...."

Don't have time for? Can't be bothered with actual, real students? Why are they there IN THE FIRST PLACE? To do research only in English? Or to teach?

waitasec

"Ivory towers"

clipper

Tenure allows the tenured to refuse work assignments.

Snowy Range

When a tenured or tenure-track professor is already teaching a full load then, that's right, they don't "have time for" teaching another class.

So, when you reduce the number of regular professors, you need to either hire contract folks to teach classes or reduce the number of classes offered.

It's not a difficult concept to understand.

freckj

Right on. I am not sure why this is such a difficult concept for people to understand, but there are many misconceptions regarding tenured faculty and higher education in general. Critics quickly jump to conclusions with phrases like "ivory towers" without engaging in critical thinking. Coincidentally, critical thinking is a pillar of higher education.

clipper

So you're saying Dean Parolin is lacking critical thinking by asking people to do the impossible, i.e. teach more than a full load?

freckj

I am honestly confused with your posting. No, I never said that.

My message was in agreement with Snowy Range's posting. And Snowy Range's posting was in response to Commonsen2010's posting:

[The head of the UW English department is quoted in this article as saying, "The department hired five full-time contract teachers and one part-time contract teacher to handle 44 classes that tenured faculty do not have the time for...."

Don't have time for? Can't be bothered with actual, real students? Why are they there IN THE FIRST PLACE? To do research only in English? Or to teach?]


After Commonsense2010's posting, someone then posted "Irvoy Towers." Sorry, but accusations of professors living in "Ivory Towers" gets more tiring with each year.

Again, I fully agree with Snowy Range's posting and that is what I was responding to.

Lastly, you must mean Peter Parolin since their is no Dean Parolin. Dr. Parolin is one of the smartest and nicest people I have met in my life. His critical thinking skills are abundant and UW is very fortunate to have him.

albert

Whats considered a full load?

danceswithdeer

If I remember correctly, a "full load" is 2-3 classes (max) of less than twenty students (if they teach upper level classes), and those classes meet every other day. I remember some profs teaching only one class. Meanwhile, the average high school teacher teaches seven class periods a day with 20-30 kids per class for half the money. It's a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

greenrock

I am not faculty so I don't have a dog in this fight but I do have a couple of comments. You forgot to mention that high school teachers are only required to have bachelor’s degrees, are not required to do any research, and are not required to do additional service. Sounds like apples and oranges to me.

A bachelors in secondary ed is easier to obtain than a PhD in any subject. Therefore, there are more of them on the market looking for jobs which drives wages down. Nobody forces anyone to choose a degree field or career path. This is as true for a PhD who teaches chemical engineering as it is for someone teaching math at a secondary level. High school teachers are often underappreciated and have a difficult job. We should work on correcting that instead of suggesting that we drag all teaching professionals down to the same level.

danceswithdeer

I'm not dragging anyone down; I'm just stating facts. These days, most secondary teachers have a Masters Degree, and quite a few have PHDs, so that's a moot argument. As far as your "additional service" argument goes, "surely you jest" (Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream). Secondary teachers are required to coach, do bus duty, do hall duty, do lunch duty, sponsor the yearbook, help with the play, break up fights, do crowd control at sporting events, and meet on their own time for IEP meetings, 504 meetings, PLC meetings, attend home visits, testify in court, as well as attending meaningless staff meetings where nothing really happens except for the roostering about of administrators. Greenrock, the truth is a tough horse to ride. Teaching two classes (or one) of 15-20 students is a real sweet deal. I had a prof back in the 80s who managed 9 holes a day before five o'clock...every day. It's a sweet deal.

greenrock

Alright, stop twisting my arm, I admit you got me on the service argument. ;) However, you did not address the research portion of the job. You are correct on the increasing number of graduate degrees in secondary education. When there are so many people in the market for a job, the bar is set higher. However, again, nobody made these people get graduate degrees to teach high school. They chose it, with their eyes wide open. Secondary teachers have been overworked and underpaid as long as I can remember. People choose this field because they love to teach knowing this. Many university professors choose their careers because they love research. Teaching is part of their job, and in some cases it is a small part. I understand that you had a lazy professor once, we have all had that professor. :) However, if you spent some time watching how hard some professors work, you would change your mind about them, as a group, very quickly. Many professors, especially junior faculty, work themselves ragged trying to do meaningful research in their fields, publish peer reviewed articles and/or books, and teach classes that are far larger than 15-20 students. It is easy to stand on the outside and begrudge someone else their easy job when you are not in their shoes. There are people who do hard manual labor who feel like 9-month K-12 teachers have a sweet deal. It is important to understand that our individual perspectives are not the only ones and that sometimes we do not have all of the information to judge the experiences of others.

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