The University of Maryland at College Park is poised to embark on an unprecedented effort to improve the conditions of its faculty members who are off the tenure track.
The campus's University Senate, which represents faculty members, administrators, students, and staff members, is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on an internal task-force report that extensively documents the disparities between different categories of faculty members there and proposes sweeping changes intended to give non-tenure-track faculty members more pay, job security, respect, and clout.
A University Senate vote in favor of the report will not amount to an explicit endorsement of its recommendations, which include calls for the institution to give non-tenure-track faculty members new titles, pay them at levels commensurate with their tenure-track colleagues, shield them from extensive demands to perform work for which they are not compensated, and improve their prospects of obtaining long-term employment contracts.
However, should the University Senate approve the report, as is expected, the campus's administration, faculty members, and various shared-governance bodies will be obliged to seriously consider carrying out what the document proposes.
The report's findings, in themselves, break ground in terms of the detail and candor with which they describe how much the institution relies on non-tenure-track faculty members and how little many of them receive for their efforts.
For example, the report says that the campus's non-tenure-track faculty members are especially highly represented among the instructors in special programs geared toward the campus's best students, and are "significantly more likely to teach courses that require direct contact with students" and "much less likely to receive teaching support" from teaching assistants or other college personnel than are faculty members who are tenured or on the tenure track.
The process by which the campus's non-tenure-track faculty members are hired, the report says, varies by academic unit, creating "confusion and frustration for faculty and unit administrators alike." The semester-by-semester reappointment of many faculty members results in high administrative costs and unseen costs associated with such faculty members' "low morale and frustration."
Maria Maisto, president of the advocacy group New Faculty Majority, on Monday praised the Maryland report for gauging the views of the sorts of contingent faculty members represented by her organization. "Its ethos is really to recognize and respect the role of these faculty," she said.
Ms. Maisto added that she was especially pleased to see the report's effort to document the "hidden costs" colleges incur in relying on contingent faculty members. "People think," she said, "that contingency is a cost-saving device. This is exposing how expensive it is on so many levels."

Expecting Resistance

The task force that prepared the report was established early last year by the University Senate's executive committee and by Ann Wylie, who was then the College Park campus's provost. The panel's members studied policies and procedures both at their university and at peer institutions, engaged focus groups, and examined campus data dealing with teaching loads and research grants awarded to faculty members over the past four years. The panel surveyed administrators last July and faculty members last September, and examined who was teaching every active undergraduate course section offered on the campus last fall.
Marybeth Shea, a lecturer in English at College Park who has been working on the campus since 1987, described the report's findings as "sobering and stunning," and called the university's willingness to undertake such a self-examination "quite brave."
Mary Ann Rankin, who became the institution's provost in October, last week declined through her executive assistant to comment on the report until it had been more thoroughly vetted on the campus. Juan Uriagereka, College Park's associate provost for faculty affairs, said that the report "touches on the fundamental issues we all would like to address" but that some of its recommendations "are more realistic than others."
Devin H. Ellis, who represents non-tenure-track research faculty on the University Senate, predicted institutional resistance to some of the report's recommendations, such as a call for the university to change its academic title system and refer to all faculty members who are not tenured or tenure-track as either "professional faculty" or "professional-track faculty." The report argues that its recommendations "should not be seen as an attempt to undermine the tenure system."
Mr. Ellis, who is director of policy and research for a university program that uses role-playing simulations to teach international negotiating skills, said he expected the level of support for other recommendations to vary significantly by academic discipline because non-tenure-track faculty members in some disciplines fare much better than do those in others in terms of merit pay and other matters.
The University Senate's discussion of the report comes as the University System of Maryland, as a whole, works to carry out a set of policies intended to improve the conditions of adjunct faculty members and graduate assistants. Adopted by the system's Board of Regents in December 2010, the policies call for improvements in adjuncts' pay, job security, and employment rights, and are intended mainly to make the system's campuses more competitive with peer institutions.
The report being considered by the University Senate raises the bar by, for example, calling for the salaries of tenured and tenure-track faculty members to serve as the basis for comparison in determining whether those off the tenure track are adequately paid. "Enacting the recommendations presented here will establish the University of Maryland's leadership in creating a model for how a major research institution fully engages all members of its faculty regardless of their tenure status," the report says.
Likely to help the prospects that such recommendations will come to fruition is the additional clout non-tenure-track faculty members throughout the system gained as a result of last year's decision by its board to let them use union or other third-party representatives to voice their concerns to administrators.
Democratic state lawmakers responded by dropping a proposal to give full collective-bargaining rights to the system's adjuncts, graduate-student employees, and tenured and tenure-track faculty members. Such measures could come up again, however, if Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, and other members of his party see little improvement in the conditions of the system's non-tenure-track faculty members.

Major Players

The report slated for discussion at College Park says that, all told, the institution employs 3,000 non-tenure-track faculty members. Their ranks include more than 700 part-time instructors, about 1,800 research faculty members, and about 200 faculty members who fulfill service roles on or off the campus.
The university employs 1,600 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. They are delivering about the same number of academic credits they did 15 years ago, but the share of academic credits they offer has diminished as the institution turned to non-tenure-track faculty members, staff members, and teaching assistants to handle new course sections.
Among its key findings, the report says that non-tenure-track faculty members bring in nearly $100-million a year in research funds and play "a major role" in the university's service and outreach efforts. They hold just three designated seats on the University Senate, however, whereas tenured and tenure-track faculty members hold nearly 100.
Based on what part-time instructors earn per hour, nearly half of those working at College Park this semester would make less than $40,000 annually if employed there full time, the report says.
The task force's survey of faculty members found substantial levels of dissatisfaction over compensation, workload, access to funds for professional development, and criteria used by their superiors in weighing promotions and merit-pay increases. Many have little knowledge of their department's policies that affect them or of opportunities to participate in the university's shared governance.
The report says the task force's members extensively searched Web sites maintained by the university and its academic departments, and generally had great difficulty finding information that administrators said was available online.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for creating a new career track, with benchmarks for evaluation and promotion, for non-tenure-track faculty members who primarily teach. Noting that many such faculty members do additional work, such as advising students, for which they are not paid, it says administrators should compensate them for tasks beyond those specified in their contracts.