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The Daily Tar Heel

Faculty Council resolution aims to give fixed-term members more respectability

Originally, lecturer was the only title that existed for fixed-term, non-tenure faculty. This meant those faculty members lacked a stable career track or opportunities for promotion.

In 2008, former Chancellor Holden Thorp proposed two more ranks for fixed term faculty, resulting in the formation of senior lecturer and master lecturer titles in 2011.

Three years later, in 2014, master lecturer was replaced with teaching professor due to negative connotations associated with the word “master.”

Jean DeSaix, former chairperson of the fixed-term faculty committee, said she was thrilled when she finally became a teaching professor, versus being referred to as merely a lecturer.

“All of my life I had taught and yet not been able to be called a professor,” she said. “It just felt bad to be here, as a faculty member, and not be legitimately referred to as a professor.”

Nancy Fisher, current chairperson of the fixed-term faculty committee, said the addition of teaching assistant professor and teaching associate professor as fixed-term faculty titles would align all the titles as a progression toward teaching professor.

She said it would also acknowledge the academic contributions of the teaching faculty.

“It’s a professionalism that we’re reaching for here,” Fisher said.

“The term lecturer is outdated and denotes somebody that just comes in and teaches a few classes and is not really part of the faculty ... It doesn’t necessarily carry as much clout as teaching assistant professor or teaching associate professor.”

Executive Vice Provost Ron Strauss said he supports the resolution because it recognizes that all faculty members are part of the professorate, but said the changes serve to create more parallels between the tenured or tenure-track faculty and fixed-term faculty.

“I think what they do is they help to create less of a division between our fixed-term and our tenured/tenure track faculty members,” he said.

Fisher said it is important that professors have titles that show their academic accomplishment.

“Professors, even though they have the title of senior lecturer or lecturer, are people who usually have terminal academic degrees, they have professional accomplishment,” she said.

“They’re good at what they do, they know what they’re doing. They’re not somebody that has just been plugged in to regurgitate course matter.”

DeSaix said after so many years of working for this change, she finally feels satisfied with the titles and ranks for fixed-term faculty.

“Not to compare myself to Elizabeth Warren, but she persisted,” she said.

“That’s kind of what we’ve done — we have just persisted.”

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