Lecturer, tenure tracks mean flexibility for college

Randi Anderson has been teaching in the English department for five years, first as a teaching assistant and currently as a part-time instructor on the lecture track. As a lecture-track faculty member, she is hired on a year-to-year basis.

Instructor Randi Anderson teaches students in a basic writing class in Scobey Hall. As a lecturer, she gains the necessary experience in teaching that she will need in order to obtain more full-time/tenured positions. She notes that instructors are offered opportunities to become more familiar with and trained in important instructional resources.

Instructor Randi Anderson teaches students in a basic writing class in Scobey Hall. As a lecturer, she gains the necessary experience in teaching that she will need in order to obtain more full-time/tenured positions. She notes that instructors are offered opportunities to become more familiar with and trained in important instructional resources.

“There is always a huge question of how many courses I will teach in any given semester because there is such a drastic difference in the number of sections the university offers from semester to semester.

Still, Anderson loves what she is doing. “The biggest benefit,” she says, “is that it allows me to gain the necessary experience in teaching that I will need in order to obtain a full-time/tenured position at SDSU or at some other institution.”

In addition, she notes that lecturers are offered opportunities to become more familiar with and trained in important instructional resources.

“These are nice elements to add to a resume along with the overall experience that teaching as a lecturer provides.”

Primary duty is teaching

The college boasts 63 tenured faculty, 43 tenure-track faculty, 59 lecturers and 47 temporary faculty members.

Prior to the start of the 2012 fall semester, the university and the Board of Regents made a change in job titles when hiring what used to be called term faculty with the lecture track.

Before, lecturers were hired at the rank of an instructor or assistant professor. Now, when they are hired, they are employed at the rank of instructor, lecturer or senior lecturer.

A lecturer is a faculty member whose full contractual obligation is almost entirely teaching. A lecturer is the equivalent of an assistant professor. A senior lecturer is a person
who has achieved and sustained a pattern of instructional excellence and is viewed as having a higher rank in the lecturer world.

“When someone is hired as a lecturer, they start out an instructor if they do not have a terminal degree, usually a doctorate. A lecturer or a senior lecturer is someone who has taught a number of years and has been retained,” says Dean Dennis Papini. “A senior lecturer is paid more.”

The flipside of a lecture-track hire is a tenure-track faculty hire. A tenure-track faculty member is a person who holds a terminal degree and begins his or her career as an assistant professor. They immediately enter probationary status, and, in their sixth year, they can apply for tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Papini says tenure is the most misunderstood concept in higher education. “The only thing that tenure guarantees is that a person is entitled to due process in the event your employer wants to dismiss or terminate you for cause.”

From an educational standpoint, a tenured faculty member is expected to perform the three traditional faculty missions of teaching, scholarship and outreach/service. A lecturer has minimal responsibility in research and service, because their primary obligation is teaching.

Room to maneuver

The major benefit for having both lecturers and tenured/tenure-track faculty members is flexibility, according to Papini.

“Having both lecturers and tenured faculty allows the college and the university to hire faculty who will be fully engaged in the process of teaching, research and outreach and sharing that knowledge with others, while meeting the demands for sections of courses based on student enrollment,” he said.

“If enrollment would suddenly drop in an area, we may determine that we might not need personnel here, but we may need someone over there.”

Papini agrees that being classified as a lecturer can cause for anxious moments.

“There is some anxiety involved, but some lecturers have been gainfully employed here for years,” he says.

“Sometimes the market is such that there are just no tenure-track jobs to be had, and so they take these lecture jobs to build their credentials and hopefully they can transfer into a tenure-track position when one becomes available. Other times they may be trailing a spouse or partner here or are in this area for family reasons.”

Kyle Johnson

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