MU prepares for vote on non-tenure track faculty representation

Feb 20, 2013

MU’s non-tenure track faculty are lobbying for improved representation within the university.

A proposed change to the Collected Rules and Regulations was discussed at a faculty forum Tuesday afternoon. The amendment would redefine “faculty” in order to give voting privileges to non-tenure-track professors. 

Nicole Monnier is associate teaching professor of German and Russian Studies, and one of four non-tenure track representatives on the Faculty Council.

“We all have concerns that are the same as tenure-track faculty: curriculum, governance issues, grievance issues, policies that affect how we do what we do at the university,”  Monnier said.

Enrollment at MU approached 35,000 as of last fall – growth that drives demand for more instructors. But fewer professors are on the tenure-track, which means the tenured to non-tenured ratio is changing. At Tuesday’s forum, a perceived cultural shift between the two groups emerged.

Marc Linit, associate dean of research and extension and associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, put it this way:

“I think some of the resistance that you get from the tenure-track faculty is kind of a historical perspective of, ‘We are the true holders of the light.’” With fewer and fewer tenured faculty, Linit said, that’s a hard argument to make.

Monnier said she understands tenured faculty’s concern that the rise of non-tenured faculty feels threatening, but that empathy does not negate her desire for representation.

“I would say to that, well, that doesn’t mean you should discriminate against us when we are fulfilling faculty roles," Monnier said.

Monnier was not surprised that opposition to the measure was delivered mostly by proxy at Tuesday’s forum. Comparing the topic to diversity, she said many people are not comfortable voicing their opposition to it in public.

One concern was that tenured faculty’s representation would be diluted by giving a vote to non-tenure track faculty. Others expressed fear that non-tenure track faculty may be more susceptible to pressure from university administration, given their shorter contracts and lesser job security. The suggestion previously had been made that their scope of experience somehow limits non-tenure track faculty’s ability to understand the broader mission of the university – a proposition that evoked particular ire when it was brought up Tuesday.

If the rule changes are adopted, they would apply only to “ranking” non-tenure track faculty, not to adjunct or part-time faculty or to coaches. Non-tenure track faculty would not vote on any matters relating to tenure.

The proposal is scheduled for a full vote of tenured faculty in the first week of March. If it passes, it will go to the Board of Curators in mid-April.