Gas station without pumps

2014 January 23

Academic Workforce Data Center

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:08
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The Modern Language Association (the main professional organization for humanities faculty) has an  Academic Workforce Data Center that let’s you look up what fraction of the faculty on a campus are tenured, tenure-track, full-time non-tenure, and part-time non-tenure.  They split off medical faculty from the rest, as many medical faculty are “clinical appointments”, where the majority of the faculty income comes from doing medicine, not teaching or research.

The data is from the 2009 surveys conducted by the US Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS), so is not completely current. They also have data from the 1995 IPEDS survey, but I did not copy that here.

I looked up the schools my son is applying to (excluding med school faculty) sorted by the % tenured or on the tenure track:

school % tenured % tenured or tenure-track % full-time non-tenure % part-time non-tenure
Harvey Mudd 64 81 7 12
UCSB 64.9 75.8 9.6 14.6
UCSD 56.4 72.0 33.0 19.7
Stanford 54.7 71 22.3 6.7
MIT 52.6 68.2 16.4 15.4
Brown 51.7 67.4 17.8 14.8
UCB 51.9 63.4 10.8 25.8
CMU 33.9 46.9 45.7 7.4

Of these, CMU relies the most heavily on non-tenured faculty, and UCB the most on part-timers.  Harvey Mudd seems to be the most traditional, relying on full-time tenure-track faculty.

I’ve also extracted the data for all the UC campuses (except UCSF, which is a med school only):

school % tenured % tenured or tenure-track % full-time non-tenure % part-time non-tenure
UCSB 64.9 75.8 9.6 14.6
UCD 59.6 74.5 27.5 13.5
UCR 52.0 72.3 11.1 16.6
UCI 54.7 72.1 8.5 19.4
UCSD 56.4 72.0 33.0 19.7
UCLA 54.8 64.7 13.0 22.3
UCB 51.9 63.4 10.8 25.8
UCSC 47.5 62.6 6.1 31.3
UCM 20.9 53.6 30.4 15.9

Merced is somewhat understandably at the bottom, because they are a new campus that has not yet managed to grow its faculty to a reasonable level. But UCSC has no excuse for relying on so many part-time faculty—we’re probably the most understaffed UC campus for full-time faculty (tenure-track or not).

2013 July 22

Seven-year postdoc

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:18
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The-Awesomest-7-Year-Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-track-faculty-life | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network:

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

The article describes a workable approach to being an assistant professor without burning out.  It is not guaranteed to get you tenure at a place like Harvard, but given the weird tenure competition at Harvard or MIT, nothing is guaranteed to achieve that.  What Dr. Nagpal’s approach provides is a way to stay sane as an assistant professor, which is a much more important goal.

Her approach was a bit different from mine—I concentrated on having fun in my research and (to a lesser extent) my life. But I had it a bit easier, as I did not have a kid until after I got tenure. (It wasn’t planned that way, as I wanted kids sooner, but that’s how things worked out.)

My approach was to act as if I already had tenure—to behave as if the tenure decision didn’t make any difference.  If my colleagues at the university liked what I was doing, then giving me tenure would allow them to get more of that behavior.  If they didn’t like it—well, industry was always out there, paying far more than the university for fewer hours of work (but less job security).

I’m not sure that my approach would work for others, nor that Dr. Nagpal’s advice would work, but I certainly recommend that grad students, postdocs, and junior faculty read her advice and decide whether it applies to them.  It is better advice than most I’ve seen on the subject.

2013 May 20

Tenure-track’s untouchables

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:26
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Ivan Evans, of UCSD, has just posted a guest post on the blog Remaking the University: When Adjunct Faculty are the Tenure-Track’s Untouchables.  In it he points out that ladder-rank faculty have be complicit in the transfer of power from the faculty to the administration over the past couple of decades, in large part because we have been unwilling to join with the contingent faculty who do not have much job security:

We—and here am I tempted to specifically include you [on the list] alongside myself in this condemnation, but won’t because there’s always a small chance that some of you/us are exempt from these generalizations—in fact appear to take some pride in treating adjuncts as an inferior caste. It is the norm for adjuncts to be excluded from faculty meetings and to be deprived of any say in the management of departments. Instead of resisting the “adjunctification” of the professoriat by incorporating these colleagues—because they are colleagues—into the university and our respective departments, we tolerate them as useful proof of our Brahmin status. They are our untouchables.

I have noted this tendency for tenure-track faculty to treat instructors as lesser beings—I think it is partly out of fear, because they themselves could easily have ended up similarly poorly paid and without job security.  I have argued for providing “lecturer with security of employment” status (essentially the equivalent of tenure) to the top one or two instructors in the Jack Baskin School of Engineering—the ones who can pave their offices with the teaching awards they have been given by the graduating seniors.  The dean and the relevant department chairs are reluctant to do this, as it means that they would have to dedicate a faculty slot to someone who teaches more and better than them, when they could hire a new junior colleague who wouldn’t waste time on teaching, but dive directly into the task of writing research grants—the only activity they admire.  (The actual research is less important than the money, so only the grant writing matters to them.)

Ivan Evans asks

I have recently asked my colleagues at UCSD questions such as: How many adjunct/contingent/non-tenure track faculty are there in your department? Can you name them? Have you met any adjuncts for coffee or lunch on campus? Are they invited to the homes of ladder rank faculty? Do they have office space? Do they have any voting rights in your department? Should they? Do you know how they are evaluated? Should they be rewarded for publishing? Should ladder-rank faculty with poor teaching evaluations be assigned to courses ahead of adjunct colleague with excellent teaching evaluations? Should campus charters be changed to extend representation to adjuncts in the Senate?

Our small department has one full-time instructor (and, yes, I can name her, though I’m terrible at names). I rarely see her, as her classes are not nearby and her office is on a different floor.  She does not have voting rights in the department and does not come to faculty meetings.  I don’t know if this is because she doesn’t want to or because she is not invited.

We used to have another part-time instructor teaching 2 classes a year, while he worked as a postdoc at a university on the other side of the hill.  He has recently gotten a permanent job and no longer teaches for us. I saw him very rarely.

We also have an extremely good researcher and teacher who should be on our permanent faculty, except that he did his PhD with us, and the university has a disinclination to hire their own graduates.  I meet with him frequently—more often than with several of the ladder-rank faculty.  Usually we meet to talk about teaching, though sometimes to discuss his research and that of the undergrad students he is supervising.  I see him less often than I’d like, because his office is in a different building.  (Our department of 8.2 faculty is spread out over at least 4 buildings, and some of our grad students are in labs in another 3 buildings—it’s very hard to maintain cohesion when no one sees anyone else.) I believe he actually gets a pay cut when he teaches classes (the instructor salary is less than the researcher salary), though it does allow him to stretch out the grants that pay his researcher salary.  He is one of the best teachers in our department, and has developed or revamped several courses.  Our department tried to get him a status more in keeping with his contributions (the title “adjunct assistant professor”), but the dean shot it down, for reasons that no one in the department understands, since the title costs the dean nothing, and he gave them out like sugar candy in other departments to people rarely seen on campus.

The lecturers on our campus have a moderately powerful union, so are better treated than at most colleges, but they have little say in the running of university, and sometimes get jerked around by insensitive bureaucrats and department chairs.  I don’t know whether giving them voting rights or adding them to the Academic Senate would make any difference in their lives—I’d be in favor of including them, but I’ve no idea how other faculty in the department feel on the matter.  I suspect that Evans is right, and that they mostly don’t think about the contingent faculty at all.

2011 January 8

Strange postcards

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:35
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Last quarter I got a couple of strange postcards from Penn Engineering.  I’ve scanned one of them in (blurring out the name and face to avoid embarrassing the faculty member, who probably had nothing to do with the mailing).

Strange postcard from Penn Engineering


This is the first time I’ve ever gotten postcard announcing someone’s promotion to tenure—someone I don’t know.  I got two of them for different promotions, but identical designs, so these must have been some sort of institutional idea of a good way to advertise.

Let’s think a moment about the message.

Would you want to work for a place where promotion to tenure is so rare that it justifies sending out 1000s of postcards to strangers?

Would you want to be a student in a program that thought that promotions to tenure were the most important thing to advertise about the program?

Why were faculty members in other institutions the target of this mailing?  Is the goal to get applications from faculty who are failing to get tenure in their current institutions?

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