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June 10, 2010

Tenured spots rise at medical school, report finds

While the total number of faculty at Pitt has increased markedly over the last 10 years, the proportion of tenured faculty here has gotten smaller, with the number of tenured faculty remaining relatively unchanged in most schools. The notable exception is the School of Medicine, which has seen a spike in the number of tenured faculty since 2006.

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

Balaban presented the TAFC report titled “Tenured and Non-tenured Faculty Statistical Report, AY 2009-2010,” 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.

“For this report we used data that are publicly available in the Fact Book so that we can track faculty inside the tenure stream and outside the tenure stream in different schools,” Balaban said.

Most of the information presented to the Assembly was in graph form, rather than actual numbers, to focus on general trends.

According to the Fact Book (the source for institutional statistics compiled annually by Pitt’s Management Information and Analysis office), the overall number of Pitt faculty has increased significantly over the last 10 years.

Pitt employed 4,106 faculty (3,353 full time, 753 part time) University-wide in fall term 2000. By fall term 2009, those numbers had risen to 5,092 total faculty (4,184 full time, 908 part time).

Of the full-time faculty (total 3,353) in 2000, 34.3 percent (1,151) were tenured; 10.5 percent (350) were in the tenure stream, and 55.2 percent were non-tenured.

Of the full-time faculty (total 4,184), in 2009, 29.5 percent (1,235) were tenured; 12.2 percent (512) were in the tenure stream, and 58.2 percent were non-tenured.

Tenured faculty

The number of tenured faculty in most schools dropped after 1999 due to the faculty early retirement program, Balaban noted.

Since 2000, however, the number of tenured faculty has remained close to the post-1999 numbers in most schools, he said. “The exception is the School of Medicine, which has grown in the number of tenured faculty rather remarkably since the year 2006,” Balaban said. “In the School of Medicine the number of tenured faculty has increased a full 20 percent, from 331 in 2006 to 395 in 2009.”

According to the Fact Book, of the full-time medical school faculty (total 1,556) in 2000, 274 (17.6 percent) were tenured; 124 (8 percent) were in the tenure stream, and 1,158 (74.4 percent) were non-tenured.

Of the 2,107 full-time medical faculty in 2009, 395 were tenured (18.7 percent); 224 (10 percent) were in the tenure stream, and 2,107 were non-tenured.

The recent rise in tenured faculty in the School of Medicine likely is due in part to Pitt attracting more medical school faculty from outside the University who bring federal research funding with them and are thus more likely to be hired with tenure here, Balaban said.

The tenure and academic freedom committee discovered a parallel between the growth of extramural research support brought in by medical school faculty and the growth in tenured faculty in the school, he said.

“Although the data do not show which of the tenured faculty are from outside and which are ‘home grown,’ we noted that the rise in tenured faculty in Medicine is probably a function of the School of Medicine’s total extramural research support, [data] which also are available in the Fact Book. We see there’s a fairly nice linear relationship since 2006 with the increased number of tenured faculty and the increased extramural support. It seems this growth is consistent with the short-term goal of increasing the stature of the School of Medicine in terms of extramural funding,” Balaban said.

But concerns about the likely evaporation of federal research support dollars raised a red flag for the committee, he said.

“If you look at the projected budgets for research coming out the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health for the next few years, the question is: Is it sustainable in the longer-term? This concern may be particularly acute in the next year or so as the [American] Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, from where the University got over $100 million in grant income, expires and may not be renewed,” Balaban said. “It may be prudent to ascertain if the School of Medicine has sufficient fiscal reserves to sustain the salary commitments to the current tenured faculty base.”

The TAFC report also included information on other faculty trends, including:

Faculty in the tenure stream

The number of faculty in the tenure stream has been fairly unchanged since 2000 in all the schools except medicine, where the number of tenure-stream faculty increased from 124 in 2000 to 224 in 2009, according to the Fact Book.

Combined tenured and tenure-stream faculty

Since 2000, Balaban said, the proportion of tenured and tenure-stream faculty combined has remained at approximately 70 percent of the full-time faculty in Arts and Sciences, the professions and regional campuses, and at approximately 30 percent of the full-time faculty in Medicine and the other Health Sciences.

Full-time, non-tenured faculty outside the tenure stream

There was a small increase in full-time, non-tenured faculty in all schools between the years 2000 and 2009. The number of full-time faculty outside the tenure stream, which varies considerably from school to school, likely reflects the specialized roles served by such faculty in different academic disciplines, according to the TAFC report.

Part-time faculty outside the tenure stream

Trends in the utilization of part-time faculty outside the tenure stream continued to vary among academic units. Since 2007, the number of part-time faculty was relatively unchanged at the regional campuses, the School of Medicine and the other Health Sciences. However, the number of part-time faculty outside the tenure stream in Arts and Sciences has increased substantially in recent years from 310 in 2007 (of a total of 1,012) to 393 in 2009 (of a total of 1,082); the professional schools showed a parallel increase from 132 part-time faculty members (of a total of 582) in 2007 to 159 part-time faculty members (of a total of 637) in 2009.

Balaban’s report prompted some discussion at the June 1 Assembly meeting.

Senate President Michael Pinsky expressed concern about the significant rise in the number of part-time faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences. “The number of part-time faculty in Arts and Sciences from 1996 has gone up about 100 percent,” Pinsky noted. “Are departments in the School of Arts and Sciences using more part-time faculty in a way that may not be commensurate with long-term quality education? Not that part-time faculty are not good teachers, but they tend not to have as much longevity on the faculty.”

Balaban responded that a number of factors impact that rise in part-time faculty utilization.

“An assessment of that trend will require a careful and detailed study of the roles, duties and full-time equivalent hours of part-time faculty within each unit,” he said.

For example, whether average class sizes have changed within a department’s offerings is a factor.

“Increasing student enrollment is also an important consideration. For example, we noted that the FTE student enrollment in the Arts and Sciences increased steadily during the period of 2007-2009. It was 11,440 FTE in 2007, 11,666.2 in 2008 and 12,057.4 in 2009,” Balaban said.

Assembly member Michael Spring recommended that future TAFC reports include benchmarks on tenure trends occurring at Pitt’s peer institutions, especially medical schools, in light of the recent trend in the TAFC report.

The TAFC report is posted on the Senate web site:

In other Assembly business, Lou Fabian, chair of the Senate athletics committee, reported on progress in the construction of athletics fields at the Petersen Sports Complex near Trees Hall. The new baseball stadium, soccer field and softball field are expected to be completed by November and be ready for competition in 2011.

Following their completion, a new facility for the track team will be built on the current baseball field adjoining the Cost Center.

—Peter Hart

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