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The Daily Tar Heel

Faculty calling for new lecturer position

Would increase job security, research efforts

_Correction (November 17, 2010 12:27 a.m.): Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated Anne Whisnant’s title. She is the director of research, communications and programs in the Office of Faculty Governance. The story has been update to reflect the correction.

The story also unclearly stated what committee generated the proposal. It was generated by the College of Arts and Sciences Committee to Develop Policies and Procedures for Fixed-Term Faculty. If adopted, the proposal would apply only to the College of Arts and Sciences. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the errors.

Fixed-term faculty members on Friday called for a new lecturer position which would address those who feel overworked, under-recognized for their research and uncertain in their job security.

The position would create the potential for a promotion for senior lecturers, who have contracts lasting as long as five years. Lecturers bound to one-year contracts would then be able to move into more stable senior lecturer positions, committee members said.

But the proposal, which would provide more job security and better reward research efforts, comes amid a looming state budget deficit that is placing fixed-term lecturers on the chopping block — giving the University little incentive to keep them.

“The ability to get rid of people is paramount,” said Anne Whisnant, director of research, communications and programs in the Office of Faculty Governance.

According to the budget proposal submitted to the UNC-system Board of Governors by UNC-system President Erskine Bowles, a five to 10 percent cut in the state budget next year could eliminate between 800 and 1,700 positions, most of which would be fixed-term faculty members.

Bowles was told by the state legislature to prepare for a five to 10 percent statewide budget cut. But the gains made by Republicans in the Nov. 2 elections have created speculation that the cuts could be deeper.

Committee members, who gave the proposal for the new lecturer position to administrators more than a year ago, expressed frustration over a perceived lack of response from University administrators.

“I continue to be astonished,” said Jean DeSaix, chairwoman of the committee and senior lecturer in the biology department.

With contracts lasting between one and five years, fixed-term faculty positions are often among the first teaching positions to be eliminated.

And with a more than $3 billion state budget shortfall, several fixed-term professors said they had grim outlooks for the future.

“What’s going to be happening is that departments may not be able to rehire all their lecturers,” DeSaix said.

The University uses a two-tiered system for its fixed-term faculty positions — lecturers and senior lecturers. A lecturer has a fixed-term contract of one to five years, while senior lecturers usually are given a minimum of five years.

But with constrained budgets and a growing need for lecturers to teach more classes, committee members said adding the proposed third tier might be necessary to keep compensation and benefits proportional to increasing responsibilities.

“If someone is fixed-term faculty and they are asked to teach three courses, they might have to do it and have no recourse,” DeSaix said.

“Fixed term faculty are coming forward to McKay (Coble) and me and are discussing issues in their job situation and they are being asked to do more than what is reasonable,” she added, referring to Coble, the Faculty Council chairwoman.

The proposed position would reward fixed-term faculty members, whose duties are mostly focused strictly on teaching, for outstanding research efforts.

“You have people who have two books on Yeats, and they want to be promoted to senior lecturer,” said Susan Irons, a lecturer in the department of English and comparative literature.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “You’ve been hired to teach.”

Joy Renner, director of the department of Allied Health Sciences, said the discussion of balancing research and teaching for fixed-term professors is a relatively recent phenomenon.

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“I don’t think our forefathers would have ever dreamed that we would be having this discussion,” she said.

“I think that we’ve evolved.”

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