Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Long and Winding Road II: A Response to Craig Smith; or, Elaborating the Model

It strikes me that Craig and I have been unpacking everything about the "two out of three ain't bad" tenure model except for the model itself. Sure, I've noted that it's really a 4-tiered and not a 2-tiered model, but that's just a correction to my original fragment of a post.

So let's elaborate what, for lack of a better name, I'll call the Meatloaf model (because you can play it on your 4-track?):

Track 1: The traditional tenure-track job, in which you need varying degrees of excellence in varying weightings of the traditional triad to get tenure at a variety of institutional types among the 4000+ colleges and universities in the U.S.

Track 2: The research-teaching tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a lower teaching load, higher research expectations (or vice versa), and no service responsibilities, you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 3 and 4).

Track 3: The teaching-service tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a lower teaching load, higher service expectations (or vice versa), and no research responsibilities (outside of course design and class prep), you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 2 and 4).

Track 4: The research-service tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a higher service load, higher research expectations, and no teaching responsibilities, you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 2 and 3).

Of course these aren't the only ways of elaborating my Meatloaf model. But for now, let's leap into some possible applications of it....

Are we imagining it as something strictly limited to conversions of non-tenurable positions into tenure-track jobs? There are pros to this version of the model, as some of my colleagues on a UUP activists' listserv have noted: 1) it prevents administrators from converting already-existing pretty-darn-good jobs to worse ones; 2) it prevents administrators from doing the same thing over time by making all newly-created positions fit Tracks 2-4 and further reducing the number of Track 1 positions offered; 3) it provides a clear way for people already doing a great job at an institution to compete with outside candidates on the (nearly-)inevitable national search that's involved for (most) any tenure-track position, as it provides something of a disincentive for those who really want to aim for Track 1 to apply for any other kind of position; 4) it provides both greater flexibility and clarity to the people in the non-tenurable positions (as well as to departments) in terms of workload expectations than the current system, not to mention better salary and benefits, security, and advancement opportunities.

Are we imagining it as something imposed from above or proposed from below? This question is implicit in the reasons why it might be a good idea to "test-drive" it, as it were, on tenuring the non-tenurable. Or to rephrase the question, how and at what level are decisions made as to which kind of track a formerly contingent faculty member gets on? I can imagine several models: 1) the administration chooses the track, in consultation with the department, before the position is advertised; 2) the candidate chooses the track, in consultation with the department, after beating out everyone else who applied for the position; 3) the administration, department, and candidate work within ground rules negotiated with the faculty union or AAUP chapter, or, in their absense, the university senate or other faculty governance body, or, perhaps guided by principles set out by national professional associations like the MLA and AAUP and faculty unions like the AFT, NEA, CWA, and SEIU.

But why imagine it only for this limited purpose? Why not start with general principles at the national level and negotiations at the campus level, and then, within the rules hammered out, give administrators, departments, and individual faculty members the widest range of choices they can agree to? For instance, under what circumstances can you jump tracks--or be involuntarily transferred from one to another? Think of the institutions that can't afford to offer sabbaticals all that often--why not have the option of switching from Track 1 to Tracks 2 or 4 at teaching-intensive institutions for those faculty who wish to focus more on research for a set period of time? Why not use it to give teeth to post-tenure reviews? Tenured free rider who's been boycotting service for a decade? Boom--Track 2 for her! Tenured deadwood when it comes to developing new courses and doing any other kind of scholarly activity in living memory? Boom--Track 3 for him! The budding administrator who's been getting course reductions for chairing departments, senates, and chapters? Boom--Track 4 for her!

Hey, why would we need an administration if we had this system? Could the Meatloaf Model lead to the withering away of the administration-faculty divide that Marc Bousquet so vehemently denounces over at How the University Works--or "the administration" itself?

Hold on a second, isn't this moving way too fast? Hey, nobody here but us bloggers.


Craig @ AFT said...

Okay, fair enough that you want to get back to your model! I am going to try to summarize a bit where we are before heading into other factors I think we need to consider, but I promise to take up your proposal a bit more head on soon.

One question--you say "teaching intensive" here, but I wonder how community colleges fit into the model, which seems a bit 4-year oriented (although that might just be my reading as a former CC faculty member). This seems like a key issue in the discussion since so many contingent faculty are in CC's and tenure is such a different thing there.


The Constructivist said...

Yeah, there's probably more than an aftertaste of cuatrocentrism in all my writing on these topics. Have some friends who have done the cc thing, but not me.

My first thought, though, is that you might see a different mix of tracks there. You'll note the way I set up Tracks 2 and 3 could lead to more jobs in the future, as a school that wants more of research or service from someone would have to give them fewer preps/classes and/or smaller ones.

But, yeah, I have to think about that some more.

Got a post cooking on ideals/visions that comes back to the assumptions we've been unpacking so far....

Professor Zero said...

We have such a system where I am. In practice though we can't afford to implement it right. Depending on what the university wants a given department to be doing, it puts those faculty members on that track. If it only wants to hire one person and has 1.5 people worth of courses that need to be covered, it puts them on the teaching track. Etc. And very few people take the time to actually understand the system - they just apply it in whatever way benefits them or serves their purposes at the moment.

And the causes people to over specialize in the wrong ways: "important service" about teaching gets done by people who don't teach, etc. In sum, very abusable ... sort of like trying to heal the black/white divide by getting more categories, bringing back old words like quadroon and octoroon. !

The Constructivist said...

Ah, brilliant analogy. Yeah, a badly-implemented version of this system would be worse. But you know how Marc Bousquet criticizes tenured faculty for basically thinking like (and often becoming) administrators? I'm beginning to think that's an acknowledgment that we already have this system in place in more places than yours, but typically like yours in its being done in an unreflective, ad hoc, on-the-fly, easily abused way.

I guess my question is whether formalizing it and funding it would make it better (my pragmatism and incrementalism) or whether we should be working to do away with it (my radicalism and abolitionism) and replace it with something better.

In any case, thanks for the comment. Hope you join in at your place with some thoughts on what ought to replace the current system!

Dr. Crazy said...

I could see where the system that you propose *could* work, but I suppose on a purely personal level, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that I would be "tracked" in a particular way throughout my entire career. One might say that I would be a great person for a track one job, then, but one potential consequence I see in a field like English is that most institutions would only hire English faculty in track 3 because our research a) doesn't typically bring in grant money and b) doesn't do much to raise the profile of an institution. I then wonder whether within the discipline this would further exacerbate the divide between people who work at research universities and elite slacs vs. people who work at regionals and/or CCs, which I don't think is a good thing. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see how #2 in your list of pros is true. I'm also not certain how, in glutted fields, there is any disincentive to apply for all but track 1 kinds of jobs if that is what one aims for... in that any f-t job using one's degree would still be better than no job for many.

I like the idea that tracks could change based on performance, but if one is tenured as track 1, how can you take that away from them? And if somebody is tenured as track 2 through 4, could they be bumped to track one after tenure? I suppose that if we *really* value all tracks as equal, then all of that is possible. But if that's true, then they should all be paid equally. I'm very cynical about how people would regard the different tracks, and I think that track 1 would be perceived as "real" jobs vs. tracks 2-4, and I think the pay differential would validate such perceptions.

Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. Thanks for commenting over at my place and directing me over here!