June 19, 2018 | ° F

Body plans new seats for non-tenures

A Rutgers University Senate proposal aims to bring non-tenured faculty into the fold by granting them additional seats.

Representatives will cast their votes February on a proposal calling for three more non-tenured faculty members to join the Senate's 84 existing faculty representatives.

Although part-time and non-tenured faculty make up 51 percent of instructors at the University, most faculty in the Senate are tenured.

Sen. Wajdi Kanj, a School of Engineering senior, said the body desires to give these instructors more of a say in meetings.

"I think it's a fair thing to do for them," Kanj said. "This is bringing them up to a fair playing field. It's the same thing that everyone else gets."

Technically, the tenured professors in the Senate are supposed to represent the faculty as a whole, said Sen. Ryan Cooke, a Livingston College junior. But only one representative each from the three campuses - New Brunswick, Newark and Camden - are actually contingent faculty members.

The proposal asks for the addition of one more representative per campus.

Cooke said the amount of non-tenured professors needs to be increased, due to their presence in University lecture halls.

"Almost 50 percent of classes are taught by these professors, so the fact that very few of them sit on the Senate itself is disproportionate," Cooke said.

The Senate report also asks the councils of academic departments to welcome more non-tenured faculty members into their ranks, said Patricia Nolfi, the associate director of Human Resources.

"There's a lot of them. There's a couple thousand of them," she said. "We want to encourage the schools to engage them more."

Involving these faculty members in faculty government will create a wider range of opinions, she said, bettering school government.

"They can bring a lot of perspective and insight," Nolfi said.

In addition to diversifying opinions in the Senate, some think the contingent faculty are already adding a new dimension to classes at the University.

"I think part-time lecturers tend to identify better with students," Cooke said. "They tend to not be as attached to the institution and their establishment, more independent in their thinking, which is good for students."

But Lecturer Donald Siegel, a member of the American Association of University Professors' executive council, expressed the hope that the Senate's proposal might help the instructors create better ties to the University because having a role in faculty government could help them become more involved.

"[The chemistry department] hires part-time lecturers to teach recitations, so they may be here once a week," he said. "They aren't as connected with the rest of the department or with the student body as a whole. If making more seats will create a better connection with the University community, that can only be a good thing."

Siegel said contingent faculty are usually fairly young or fairly old, and they tend to be either students fresh out of graduate school or people who are at least semi-retired from private industry.

Non-tenured and part-time faculty members have increased at the University since 1997, according to the Rutgers Fact Book. Meanwhile, tenured faculty members declined from 66 to 61 percent of full-time instructors, according to the Rutgers Fact Book.

Michelle Walbaum

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