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Faculty Senate Constituent Concerns

Assessment/promotion for the NTT tracks (new 4/3 version): Consistency

The description for the Clinical subtrack includes the following statement: “As with all tracks, a career track, clinical sub-track faculty member must always be assessed in accordance with their appointment (e.g., expectations relative to research/scholarship and/or creative activity must be concordant with the percentage of the faculty member’s percent appointment assigned to these missions).” This is excellent language and I would suggest that it be reiterated in both the Scholar and Teaching subtracks, as percentage load expectations and types of activities (the second or third area) can vary quite a bit. I realize it says “As with all tracks” but if we’re taking the time to specify it for Clinicals, might as well do the same for the others.

Vote tally: 1
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Additional comments on REVISED (4/3) tracks/titles transition memo

Thank you to the FAC for addressing nearly every concern brought up by NTT faculty over the past several months in your new proposal. To create consistency, an adjustment is needed.

The minimum degree/alternative credential language has been – appropriately – removed from all NTT positions (clinical, scholarly, teaching). However, in the Clinical Faculty paragraph of the Initial Transition section of the memo, the language reads “(will) transition to the sub-track that is most appropriate based on job description, educational credentials, and workload of the faculty member.” Is this vestigial language from the prior version? “Educational credentials” is no longer a necessary criteria for determining transition since the NTT classifications, again, do not have credential requirements but are instead defined by the activities undertaken. Please strike.

Vote tally: 1
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Understanding the tracks in the proposal affecting clinical faculty

This is regarding the recommendation to approve changes to the Faculty Manual V.C.1. Titles.
(1) We want to make sure we are interpreting this document correctly. Currently, non tenure-track faculty in SES hold titles such as clinical assistant professor, clinical associate professor, research assistant professor, and research associate professor. It appears that these titles will remain unchanged if the recommendations are approved. Is that a correct interpretation? Clinical assistant professor and clinical associate professor are under the clinical sub-track, while research assistant professor and research associate professor are under the research sub-tract. For a faculty member who’s primary responsibility is teaching, what is the distinction between the clinical sub-track and the instructor sub-track – is it the requirement of terminal degree? Similarly, for a faculty member who is primarily involved in securing grant funding, conducting research and outreach, what is the distinction between research sub-track and scholar sub-track?
(2) Is there a sub-track for highly-productive individuals who are PI on grants and publish regularly, but do not have a terminal degree? The sentence ‘Alternative credentials will be approved….’ is included in each sub-track. We want to have a clearer understanding of whether this allows a unit to designate such individuals faculty status and assign them a sub-track.

Vote tally: 1
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Proposed revisions affecting NTT faculty

There are multiple faculty members across the university currently occupying ‘clinical’ positions who do not hold terminal degrees and who may thus be affected by the proposed revisions to the Faculty Manual. While efforts to align educational credentials more properly with appointments and titles are certainly understandable, the problem here is the potentially adverse impact that ‘re-categorization’ could have on the faculty members concerned. It would essentially amount to a demotion for those affected, and this would come with a measure of public humiliation. ‘Re-categorization’ could also significantly impact these faculty members’ careers, in that they’ve been granted their positions by their respective departments, some of them advancing as far as clinical associate and full professorships, and have proceeded to build their careers (e.g., publications, collaborations, participation in professional organizations, etc.) on the basis of these appointments. While proposed revisions to the Manual can certainly be applied to those appointed to clinical positions after the revisions have been adopted, it would, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, be unfair and thus unethical to strip faculty retroactively of their appointed positions and titles, subjecting them to humiliation and adversely impacting their careers. Common protocol in the adoption of new policies calls for the ‘grandfathering’ of prior cases, as opposed to their retroactive application. This is already practiced by WSU and multiple other universities in cases of changes to majors and minors as well as other cases.

Vote tally: 3
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Recommend change to tracks and appointments proposal, regarding non-terminal degree holding clinical faculty.

I am concerned about the impact that the proposed changes to tracks and appointments will have on non-terminal-degree-holding clinical faculty, who, under the proposed changes, will likely be forced to move to an instructor appointment. There are a fairly large number of faculty across the university currently in ‘clinical’ positions who do not hold terminal degrees and thus may be affected by the proposed revisions to the faculty manual. While efforts to align educational credentials more properly with appointments/titles are certainly understandable, the problem here is the potentially adverse impact that any suggested ‘re-categorization’ could have on the current faculty concerned. It essentially amounts to a ‘demotion’ as far as most/all who are affected are concerned, which includes a measure of public humiliation. It will almost certainly damage morale. It could also significantly impact their careers, in that these colleagues have been trusted these positions by their respective departments, some even advancing as far as clinical associate and full clinical professorships, and have proceeded to build their careers (cf. participation in professional organizations, publications, collaborations, etc.) on these appointments. While the proposed revisions can certainly be applied to those being appointed to clinical positions beginning from the point at which the revisions are adopted, it would, in my opinion, and the opinion of a number of others, be unfair and unethical to strip faculty of their appointed positions and titles retroactively, subject them to such humiliation and potential detriment to their careers and reputations. Standard protocol, ethics, and basic descency in the adoption of new policies calls for the ‘grandfathering’ of prior cases, as opposed to their retroactive application. I strongly recommend that individual units, in consult with faculty in question, make such decisions and present their cases to the provost. Moves should not be automatic or forced, as currently suggested in the proposed language.

Vote tally: 3
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5 of 5: Problematic language in the “tracks & titles” proposal and its accompanying memo: Lack of public comment / collegiality / clarity

To my knowledge, only one concerted effort at acquiring feedback in a public forum has been made (February’s Town Hall), despite this proposal having been in the works for years. I am not sure whether that Town Hall would have even occurred without the outcry stirred in affected sectors of the faculty in November-January. Regardless, it is staggering to think that something so wide-ranging and deeply upsetting of the status quo could ever be put up for Faculty Senate discussion/approval with such little deliberate feedback. This is not to say that we do not have confidence in our faculty reps, but something of this magnitude should have undergone planned, reiterative rounds of comments designed to capture every faculty rank, type, discipline, and location. I of course remember and acknowledge the faculty survey that was sent out to gather general concerns about working conditions some time ago. But for the proposed policy itself, the only action prior to the Town Hall (that I am aware of) was to “circulate a document” last fall – it was filtered to me from a unit head with almost no fanfare whatsoever. Perhaps a quarter of folks I talked to had heard of it. But even with the Town Hall taking place and the dozens of concerned comments about demoting clinicals and taking away unit autonomy – the policy and memo we have received have undergone very few changes to the existing text – and now has a whole new section added in (regarding working titles). I can’t help but ask – what is driving this to happen? Where is the transparency? Does it really have to be all at once? Must we add a third rank for instructors AND redefine the clinical track AND differentiate working titles AND demote a large chunk of faculty all in one fell swoop? I encourage the Faculty Senate to drill down to the driving forces behind this proposal and to be relentless in their evaluation of the potential impacts of the proposal and memo across different faculty contingencies. But under no circumstances should you allow this to go forward without specifically and deliberately protecting faculty who have earned their rank.

Vote tally: 4
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3 of 5: Problematic language in the “tracks & titles” proposal and its accompanying memo: “Working titles”

The new version of the proposal now includes language which had only been alluded to in February’s Town Hall – the notion that units may ignore appointment titles (clinical, scholarly, research, etc.) and allow faculty to use front-facing (“working”) titles that do not stipulate NTT/TT types (e.g., to use “associate professor” indistinctly). I personally have no preference as to what decisions units make for themselves regarding their front-facing titles (and many individuals do whatever they want in any case), but if this becomes policy, it would be useful to also stipulate the creation of an internal faculty database that does include correct appointment titles. Access to such data allows for research requiring knowledge of the number of contingent versus tenured faculty, confirmation of eligibility for certain grants and awards, and to correctly seek out a cohort or constituency. Hiding away the NTT/TT designation is ultimately immaterial (for me, anyway; I imagine some tenured folks are understandably protective of their rank and would prefer the distinction!) in terms of outward-facing venues (email signatures, webpages, public directories), but the information should still be accessible internally.

Vote tally: 1
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2 of 5: Problematic language in the “tracks & titles” proposal and its accompanying memo: Transitioning

The memo proposes that non-terminal-degree-holding clinicals “should” move into an instructor rank instead of a clinical or scholarly one. This is deeply concerning for the dozens (at least 45) clinicals across WSU colleges, campuses, and disciplines who would be demoted under such language. The prior draft’s wording (“may be advantageous to move”) was discouraging enough – the notion of “should” is more demoralizing than I can convey. Clinical faculty – of any degree attainment – were hired to meet their unit’s curricular needs, according to their disciplinary standards – which has always included “alternative credentials”, as per the HR definitions. Further, this “should” wording fails to recognize not only historical norms, but also the incredible achievement of many non-terminal-degree-holding clinical professors across all three ranks, who are of course held to the same internal descriptors and expectations as their terminal-degree-holding peers. It is unacceptable to propose such blanket language, even in a mere memo. Unilateral demotion cannot be the price for “clarity” in faculty tracks, and absolutely no vote on the “tracks & titles” language can take place without appropriately collegial language stipulating that existing clinical faculty may absolutely make the individual choice to move into the track that makes the most sense for them, regardless of degree attainment.

Vote tally: 7
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1 of 5: Problematic language in the “tracks & titles” proposal and its accompanying memo: Instructor definition

The memo says that the FAC wishes “to evolve the faculty track and appointment definitions and more appropriately match descriptions of work for the faculty.” This is a laudable goal, and most would agree that “clinical” as it is currently used at WSU is likely quite confusing extramurally. Breaking it out into “true” clinicals and “scholarly” divisions makes sense. However, the “instructor” definition has replaced “clinical” as the new catchall, and not only includes faculty whose primary responsibility is teaching and perhaps a bit of service (which is the definition we expect), but also faculty who have a “more balanced set of responsibilities” (i.e., what many clinicals are doing now – teaching, service, scholarship, etc.) If the purpose of the document is to clarify appointment definitions and align work descriptions to titles, having such a multifaceted category undermines this goal. Instructors should be instructors.

That said, the proposal deserves praise for establishing a third instructor rank. It was odd that a faculty member could become a “senior” instructor after five years and then potentially spend decades at that same base level of renumeration. A second opportunity at promotion and a raise will undoubtedly allow us to retain/incentivize long-serving faculty.

Vote tally: 4
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There needs to be a grandfather clause regarding the tracks.

My own position at WSU highlights the unfairness or inadequacy of this new initiative in regards to transitioning current faculty in the proposed new tracks.

I have been working at WSU for 18 years, starting at the rank of temporary instructor, then switched to the clinical assistant rank and then promoted to the clinical associate rank. I have just been promoted to Clinical Full Professor. This promotion was granted on the merit of my teaching record, service record, advising and community engagement. I have led a section of our school for over 10 years, I teach seven courses per year, I have developed new programs (a major and a minor) and new courses, and I regularly present at regional and national conferences. I currently sit on two university-wide committees, two school-wide committees and am an active member of the Teaching Academy. I do not have a terminal degree and am 54 years old. In the new system, I would be likely to be switched back or demoted to an instructor position with limited service duties and a predominantly teaching assignment. At my age, completing a terminal degree within one year, as was suggested to be reassigned to a career track position, is not feasible. There should not be transition to these new tracks for faculty who have already proven themselves in their current track. My remaining in the track which is equivalent to my current position should not have to “be approved in consultation with unit faculty, by the administrative head, and by the provost or chancellor” as stated in the proposal. Faculty in my unit, the administrative head and the provost have already evaluated my portfolio and deemed it adequate to be at the full professor level in the clinical track or “scholar career sub-track” in the proposed system.

Vote tally: 7
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