SF State Faculty Face Numerous Pressures
April 1, 2007 5:25 PM
Competition from peers, pressure to write and do research, and the stress of being graded on performance are all burdens that students are more than familiar with.
But these are actually the concerns that our teachers are dealing with year after year. And most students have no idea what it takes to be a member of the faculty on this campus.
The unpredictable life of the lecturer, difficulties attracting quality faculty to the Bay Area and disputes over inconsistent salaries all make the long process of obtaining tenure at SF State a somewhat tenuous one.
Glenn Fieldman, recently hired as assistant professor in the environmental studies department, recalled her years of lecturing at SF State. Since 1989, she has taught in the international relations, political science and environmental studies departments. She was denied a tenure-track position in international relations because she wasn’t finished with her doctoral dissertation, and the next year, after going through the hiring process again, the department lost the funds for the position because of budget cuts. Then, to add insult to injury, in 1991, she, along with the entire body of lecturers, was laid off for a full semester.
“That was the first of a series of budget cuts that hurt the university badly,” Fieldman said. “It changed the campus. The campus you see before you is not the same — it has suffered cuts over and over again.”
When hired for a tenure-track position, an instructor must take on additional responsibilities. The university-wide standards for promotion are based on teaching effectiveness, professional achievement and growth—such as research in one’s field or getting published in an academic journal—and community service.
Usually five or six years after being hired for tenure-track, a committee within each department evaluates the professor based on that criteria. Each department may place more or less emphasis on any of these requirements when evaluating faculty members. After a committee has considered a candidate, they may or may not send recommendations for tenure to the dean, who makes the final decision.
There are currently more lecturers than there are tenured or tenure-track faculty at SF State. If the university suffered another cut like the one in 1991, more than half our faculty would be gone. With no contract and no job security, the position of lecturer is basically a temporary job, said Fieldman.
“You never know if you’re going to have a full load of classes, and it’s always contingent on funding,” she said. “The budget cuts always fall first on the lecturers.”
Even if someone has worked as a lecturer at SF State, that doesn’t guarantee he or she will be offered a tenure-track position if one opens up.
Positions, once they become available, are open to candidates from all over the world. The only real advantage that those who are already employed by SF State have is that they’re already used to the Bay Area — and its high cost of living.
Jim Kohn, chairman of the English department and a full tenure professor since 1984, said a major concern for the university when trying to attract new faculty is the disparity between salaries and what it takes to live comfortably in San Francisco.
“In the English department, we don’t really have the problem of losing positions due to budget constraints,” Kohn said. “What we do have a problem with is candidates accepting other jobs elsewhere. The cost of living in San Francisco is so high that the lifestyle they can afford on a university salary doesn’t match what they can have in other places.”
This disparity has put pressure on the university to offer higher salaries to attract good candidates for faculty positions. The result of this is that a new hire could be offered a salary that is higher than that of someone who has been teaching at SF State for years.
According to Kohn, the last faculty contract negotiated by the California Faculty Association was signed in 2005, meaning no faculty members have received a raise since 2004.
“These issues are all part of the pressures on faculty to want to improve our situation,” he said. “We all want the university to succeed, but what this all means is that we need financial support.”
Kohn said the extracurricular duties combined with teaching numerous courses make for an intense workload for professors. In the College of Humanities, Dean Paul Sherwin has decreased the requisite number of courses for professors from four to three per semester. This, however, has not changed the amount of work expected of professors. Rather, it has changed the nature of the work, placing more of an emphasis on professional development.
According to the CSU and CFA Fact Finding Recommendations, the demanded workload for teachers is too much. In a report released in 2003, recommendations were made by the CFA, the CSU Academic Senate and the CSU administration that called for increased funding for the hiring of more tenure-track faculty. The hope was that an increase in the number of faculty would lighten the load for all professors, but at this point, no additional funding has yet been set aside for that purpose.
Kohn stressed the significance that the CFA contract negotiations have for all faculty members — present and future — at SF State.
“We’re all hoping to sign a contract by next week, because no one wants a strike to happen. But these problems are just getting worse,” he said. “Salaries are based on a hierarchy, and if the scale and amounts that are offered don’t change, we fall further and further behind in the competition to get faculty to come here. This would just make it that much easier to attract and keep good tenure-track faculty.”
DONT ERASE BELOW INFORMATION
INFO GRAPH: (*this info is for the 2005/2006 school year)
Criteria teachers are graded on when being considered for tenure, promotion or retention:
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