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Nontenured-track faculty may soon be included in MU campus committees

Friday, November 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Nearly one-third of MU's ranked faculty is not allowed to serve on campus standing committees that help shape university policy.

The Faculty Affairs Committee of the MU Faculty Council is trying to change that. At a council meeting Thursday, Clyde Bentley, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and member of the committee, introduced a proposed change that would allow the roughly 600 ranked, nontenure-track faculty members to serve on the 31 campus committees.

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"Many of our best and brightest long-term faculty are in this category," Bentley said.

Nontenure-track faculty members are primarily responsible for one area from teaching, research, clinical/professional practice or Extension activities. Tenured and tenure-track faculty members are responsible for any combination of those areas. Nontenure-track, tenure-track and tenured faculty can all be ranked faculty, which includes assistant, associate and full professors.

Victoria Johnson, an associate professor of sociology and co-vice president of the MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the number of nontenure-track faculty members is increasing at institutions across the country and allowing these faculty members to serve on campus committees will help ensure that their needs are met.

"It's basic democratic principles," Johnson said. "They're part of the academic community, and they should be treated as such."

The council changed its rules of order in 2006 to allow up to four nontenure-track faculty members to serve in a nonvoting capacity.

But the council currently includes only one such member, chairwoman Leona Rubin said.

"(Nontenure-track faculty) don't have a mechanism to unite and elect someone to serve," she said.

News of the 2006 change didn't necessarily reach nontenure-track faculty, said Stephen Montgomery-Smith, a mathematics professor and co-vice-president of MU's AAUP.

"Nontenure-track faculty that I've spoken with are not even aware that they should be doing this," Montgomery-Smith said.

Harry Tryer, an engineering professor, expressed concern that nontenure-track faculty members could be pressed into service against their will and that they wouldn't be as independent as tenured faculty.

Rubin said she introduced the idea of expanding access to the campus committees in September because the exclusion of ranked nontenure-track faculty "seems grossly unfair."

She said ranked nontenure-track faculty members are "huge contributors to governance" at the College of Veterinary Medicine, whereshe is an associate professor of biomedical sciences.

"They're as permanent as I am, and therefore as valuable," Rubin said.

The committee discussed the possibility of further specifying that only benefit-eligible ranked nontenure-track faculty be included in the new designation. The council is expected to vote on the proposed change Nov. 19.

The committee also discussed:

  • Expanded e-learning across the University of Missouri System and intellectual property rights for course materials in a presentation given by Steven Graham, UM vice president for Academic Affairs, and Zac March, UM director of Distance Education and E-Learning;
  • MU's potential participation in a new English-intensive university in South Korea that features several programs taught and run by various American institutions that grant degrees from the home institution to students in South Korea'
  • A reclassification of nontenured UM Extension faculty as either full, associate or assistant Extension professionals; and,
  • The need to select a new faculty athletics representative.

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