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Penn State Recognized For Faculty Promotion Reforms

In a recent article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Penn State was highlighted for its recent restructuring of the rewards and classification system for non-tenure, full-fixed tenure teaching faculty. The article mentions the university in September won the Delphi Award when it was recognized by the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California.

The article states these tenure track overhauls came to a head beginning in 2015 when non-tenure track full time faculty became over 50 percent of university teaching staff. The former two-tier promotion system was described as inconsistent and confusing leading many teaching personnel to articulate dissatisfaction with compensation and titles.

Across the 24 Commonwealth campuses, the majority of the 9,000 faculty members are not on the tenure track even though many are full-time and teach a significant number of student courses. Significant numbers of faculty in this category felt inadequate and unappreciated for the work they put in compared with full professors with tenure.

Out of deliberations in the Faculty Senate came the three-tier promotion system which the article described that now, all the Penn State campuses offer fixed-term, full-time faculty members a three-tiered promotion ladder that largely mirrors the tenure track, and titles that include the word “professor.”

The revised rankings system which is available on the university website lays out the non-tenure fixed term academic rankings system. Starting out as a lecturer/instructor, the next step is from Assistant to Associate Teaching Professor then eventually full Teaching Professor. These restructured progressions led to the promotions of 187 fixed term faculty members in the 2017 to 2018 year according to the Chronicle Article.

Onward State was able to speak with one of the faculty members affected by the recent changes to promotions for non-tenure fixed term faculty. Dr. Heather McCoy, a Teaching Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Director of the Basic Language Program was one of the first faculty members promoted under the new system of advancement.

“The changes had been overwhelmingly positive,” she said, expressing satisfaction with the raises in compensation attached with the new changes. “Most people were happy [with the changes], but growing pains are still to be expected.”

While the university had made strides in first addressing the problem one issue left unresolved was contract negotiations and how faculty members were evaluated for promotions. Addressing the concerns of her faculty peers Dr. McCoy said, “people are still trying to figure out what the criteria to be promoted is based upon in other departments at the university.”

In the Chronicle article it was mentioned that specific academic college’s would be the ones to establish this criteria for evaluation. Dr. McCoy liked the College of Liberal Art’s criteria for non-tenure fixed term teaching faculty, going on to say, “they made teaching excellence the baseline plus contributions to the undergraduate program and publications.”

While students may not understand the intricacies of internal faculty politics, the quality of their education is heavily impacted by the treatment of teaching professionals at the university. While much work is yet to be done it’s encouraging Penn State has taken some steps to move in the right direction.

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About the Author

Andrew Woodman

Andrew Woodman or "Andy" as his friends don't call him is a senior majoring in Political Science and Business hailing from the enchanting land of DELCO. When he isn't reporting on stimulating UPUA meetings Andrew can be found at Canyon Wings the best wing place in State College. Forward all correspondence to his myspace account @woodrowwW97

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