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November 10, 2011

Report: Tenure numbers steady except for med school spike

The total number of tenured faculty at Pitt has remained relatively stable over the past dozen years in most schools, but the number of tenured faculty in the School of Medicine has spiked considerably during the same time period.

However, the proportion of tenured/tenure-stream faculty has seen a slow but steady decline over the past half-dozen years in areas other than the six Schools of Health Sciences, where the percentage has remained stable.

Those findings as well as other trends in Pitt’s faculty composition were reported at the Nov. 1 Faculty Assembly meeting by Carey Balaban, co-chair of the University Senate’s tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC).

At that meeting, Assembly members also passed a resolution endorsing the proposed open-access policy that was articulated at the Oct. 4 Faculty Assembly meeting by Rush Miller, director of the University Library System and Hillman University Librarian. (See Oct. 13 University Times.)

Balaban presented the TAFC report titled “Tenured and Non-tenured Faculty Statistical Report, AY 2010-2011,” which compares data for faculty in five academic categories: arts and sciences, the professional schools, the School of Medicine, the other five Schools of the Health Sciences and the regional campuses.

He said that the source of the data is the University’s Fact Book, a publicly accessible document.

Tenure/tenure-stream faculty

In most of the academic categories from 1996 to 2010, “What we see is the faculty has been remarkably stable in numbers of tenured faculty since approximately the year 1999,” Balaban said. “The reason for the dip [in the mid- to late-1990s] is there was an early retirement program that was offered and a number of [tenured] faculty took advantage of that.”

A notable exception to that consistency of tenure numbers is the medical school, he said. “We’ve noticed for a number of years now that the School of Medicine has shown a remarkable growth — almost linear growth — in the number of tenured faculty since the year 2006. There were 331 tenured faculty in the School of Medicine in 2006 and we’re up now to 409.”

This spike in tenured medical faculty is tied, at least in part, to the University’s strategy to grow extramural funding, that is, grant awards to the medical school, Balaban said. “If you look at the extramural funding in 2006 — about $193.5 million — that’s gone up to $281.5 million in 2010. In terms of gaining a certain amount of cost recovery, of overhead coming into the school — that seems to be holding its own. However, we reiterate [TAFC’s] concern: We really need to ascertain, because these faculty are tenured, that the school has the long-term financial reserves to support these long-term faculty.”

In contrast, he noted, the number of tenure-stream faculty in the medical school is declining. Tenure-stream medical school faculty peaked at 241 in 2007, dropping to 203 in 2010.

Balaban described the number of tenure-stream faculty in the other four academic categories as “quite stable across all the schools.”

“If we ask the question, What percentage of the total faculty are tenured or tenure-stream? We see something we should remind ourselves of: There are two different cultures, two very different structures inside the University,” Balaban maintained.

One group includes the teaching-intensive areas of arts and sciences, the professions and the regional campuses, where 65-70 percent of the full-time faculty are tenured or tenure-stream, a proportion that has declined somewhat in those areas over the past 10 years, he said.

The other group includes the School of Medicine and the other Health Sciences schools. “These are schools with fewer FTE (full-time equivalent) students, but very much research-intensive. And these schools are dependent on many faculty members who are expected to obtain extramural funding. It’s a different pattern that we see. It’s actually the converse: 30 percent of the [full-time] faculty are tenured or tenure-stream, and 70 percent of the [full-time] faculty are outside the tenure-stream.”

A potential consequence of this dichotomy is the effect on faculty turnover because tenured and tenure-stream faculty are the people who generally stay a long time, he said. Many of the faculty in the School of Medicine and the other Health Sciences are on annual renewable contracts.

Non-tenure-stream faculty

“If we look at full-time faculty outside the tenure stream, we can see there has been a small but steady rate of increase in all of the schools,” he said.

But the number of full-time faculty hired outside the tenure stream varies considerably among academic units, a likely reflection of the specialized roles served by faculty outside the tenure stream in the different academic disciplines, Balaban explained.

Part-time faculty

“The other area we’ve been monitoring closely is the employment of part-time faculty,” Balaban said. He said most areas of the University employ relatively few part-time faculty, and the numbers for those areas has been stable. The big exception is arts and sciences.

“The arts and sciences, as we noted several years ago, has been employing more faculty part time relative to full-time faculty and to tenure and tenure-stream faculty.” The number of part-time faculty in the arts and sciences increased from 310 in 2007 to 393 in 2010, he noted.

“That increase is commensurate with the FTE enrollment,” Balaban noted. The FTE student enrollment in arts and sciences increased steadily over the same period (11,440 in 2007; 11,666 in 2008; 12,057 in 2009, and 12,184 in 2010).

Those data suggest that part-time faculty and, to a lesser extent, full-time faculty outside the tenure stream, are being employed to maintain smaller class sizes in the face of increasing enrollment, he explained.


“What are the implications here? The tenured faculty size in most of our schools is remarkably stable. Increased numbers of full-time and/or part-time faculty outside the tenure stream continues to vary with the academic unit,” Balaban said.

“The net effect is a continuing decrease in the percentage of tenured and tenure-stream faculty compared to all full-time faculty in the arts and sciences, the professions and the regional campuses, but stable percentages in the School of Medicine and the other Health Sciences.”

The full TAFC report is posted at

Also at the Nov. 1 meeting, Faculty Assembly members voted to endorse the proposed open-access scholarship publishing policy.

Senate President Michael Pinsky had lobbied for approval. “We have the option of following the lead of several major University systems in creating an open-access repository of all published scholarly materials so as to create a combined University of Pittsburgh opus,” Pinsky said.

“The specific process and details of this plan will be negotiated separately with each academic unit, because marked differences in discipline-based publishing patterns and related practical matters make the development of a unified proposal difficult although we, as the Faculty Assembly, can endorse such a proposal.”

Assembly member James Becker offered a resolution to support the open-access policy proposal discussed at October’s Faculty Assembly.

A discussion followed Becker’s resolution motion, most of which centered on language concerning whether all units would be mandated to accept the policy or whether units will be able to opt out of it.

Assembly members then voted unanimously to pass the resolution, which states:

“Whereas, the Faculty Assembly reviewed the presentation on the proposed University Open Access Policy at the meeting on 4 October 2011,

“Resolved, the Faculty Assembly was in support of the proposed Open Access policy and encourages all the University Schools and Responsibility Centers to follow this policy.”

The resolution was expected to be discussed at yesterday’s Senate Council meeting, which took place after the University Times went to press.

In other business, Pinsky reminded Assembly members of their responsibilities regarding confidentiality about issues raised at public Senate committee meetings.

“If committee members wish to raise issues which may be embarrassing to the University or misconstrued by the public on first glance, then I request that the specific committee present these items ahead of time to their respective University administrative liaison so that they too can come to the meeting prepared to discuss the issue. Furthermore, if the liaison so desires, we can hold these meetings in closed session,” Pinsky said.

“However, if after we discuss these issues in closed session there still exist clear issues or differences in opinion between the Senate and the administration, we make these matters public by expressing our opinions in the University press and at the Faculty Assembly,” he said.

Pinsky also urged care in email communications. “If you are representing the University Senate, do not send blanket emails to wide distribution lists without first [clearing it with the committee members] or at the very least discussing it with the Senate executive committee.”

He added that academic freedom allows individual faculty to express their opinions openly, “but if you are expressing these opinions as a member of the Faculty Assembly or one of the Senate committees or using confidential information from those committees, then you represent us all.”

Asked to elaborate after the Assembly meeting, Pinsky told the University Times, “I am merely reiterating a long-standing policy since we have had some specific transgressions recently. I do not want to go into details, but wanted to remind members to be sensitive when bringing up potentially acrimonious issues.”

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 6

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