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September 28, 2017

Senate Matters

Non-Tenure-Stream Faculty: From Ad Hoc Concern to Emergent Faculty Affairs Committee


Non-tenure-stream faculty (NTS) can be found in every school and unit. Faculty, both full-time and part-time, working outside of the tenure stream have been and continue to be essential to the growth and successful operation of the University of Pittsburgh. The percentage of full-time NTS faculty has increased in all but two of Pitt’s schools over the past decade. NTS faculty now represent more than half of the full-time faculty in eight of the University’s 16 schools, and comprise about 60 percent of the overall full-time faculty total.

NTS faculty perform essential tasks. These duties vary, from teaching introductory level to highly specialized classes; conducting research as a PI or other support role; performing clinical duties; engaging in administration at all levels; and providing service at the departmental, school and national levels. Many NTS members are active in shared governance, serving as Senate officers, members of Faculty Assembly or chairs or members of Senate committees. NTS faculty, including part-time NTS faculty, often provide special expertise that enhances programs throughout the University.

The University has been working proactively on issues affecting NTS faculty for many years. NTS faculty issues were part of formal Faculty Assembly and Senate Council meetings as far back as November 2012. In September 2013, the ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream issues was formed and began its work. That work, originally conceived to focus on the increase (at Pitt and throughout U.S. institutions of higher education) of non-tenure, adjunct, part-time and new types of faculty appointments, took the next four years to address fully.

Early work of the ad hoc committee surfaced and articulated many of the inequities and complexities facing NTS faculty across the University. Policies and procedures varied widely across schools and departments, and few of these policies were formalized or even written. The scope of the job at hand for the committee seemed to grow with each meeting, each document reviewed and each discussion of practice and policy.

The committee, chaired in its efforts across all four years by Professor Irene Frieze, worked in partnership with the Office of the Provost from the start. Assistant Provosts Carey Balaban and Laurie Kirsch served as active liaisons as the committee waded through a growing quagmire of issues. Committee membership included faculty — tenure and non-tenure-stream, broadly — from across the professional schools and departments. The committee served as a catalyst for University-wide efforts to create a culture that appreciates the increased role, presence and contributions of NTS faculty.

As a result of this partnership of effort, the Office of the Provost has taken a series of steps in recent years to address concerns of the NTS faculty, including extending contract lengths, providing promotion pathways, granting emeritus/emerita recognition to NTS faculty and adjusting salaries.

The committee realized early in its deliberations that part-time faculty (both tenure stream and NTS) were especially vulnerable to informal or nonexistent policies and procedures. In February 2017, the committee made its final report to Senate Council, recognizing the same variability related to part-time faculty that had been noted earlier regarding full-time NTS:


“Given that variability, it is difficult to make universal recommendations. It should be possible, however, to make some general changes that will allow the university an opportunity to model best practices, safeguard finite resources, provide students and colleagues with high-quality instruction and research, and offer benefits and resources to allow PT NTS faculty to better help to accomplish the various missions of the university.”


The Office of the Provost continues to work with the academic units to review faculty positions to ensure faculty number and distribution are aligned with the University’s strategic plan. As part of this review, there is an ongoing effort to combine part-time positions into full-time non-tenure-stream positions and to ensure the mix of tenured/tenure-stream faculty and non-tenure stream faculty is appropriate.

In the past weeks, Faculty Assembly and Senate Council approved the formation of a new faculty affairs committee. This committee is, in part, an outgrowth from the issues considered across the four years the ad hoc NTS issues committee deliberated. Many issues (as outlined here) cut across part-time and full-time faculty and apply to both TS and NTS faculty. This new committee, building on the work of the ad hoc NTS committee, can help to create and sustain a culture that appreciates the roles, presence and contributions of all faculty as a vital component of the University community. It can continue the established partnership with the Provost’s Office to assure that recommendations are put into practice across units, monitored and calibrated appropriately. The history of collaboration that has marked the work on NTS issues serves as a strong foundation for this continued work in the spirit of shared governance.


(Portions of this Senate Matters are taken from official minutes and prior reports of the NTS issues committee over various dates and are available at the NTS Ad Hoc Committee webpage on the University Senate website.)

Cindy Tananis is secretary of University Senate; associate professor, Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, School of Education; and director, Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity.


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