DePaul faculty breakdown: Professors and adjuncts are just the beginning

Just as any complex hierarchical system, DePaul University’s faculty tiers are more than a simple categorization. There are several components that make up a faculty member’s classification.

The first distinction of faculty is between full time and part time. Part-time faculty are adjunct instructors, although ‘adjunct’ is a term DePaul doesn’t really use, according to Kelly Johnson, Associate Vice President for Academic Administration.

If an instructor doesn’t have the ‘professor’ title or their PhD, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an adjunct instructor. In fact, there are several levels of faculty under the full-time category: tenure-track, non-tenure track and long-term teaching professionals.

“How we define our faculty is both a combination of sort of industry standards, but there’s also room within an institution to give their own categorizations,” Johnson said. “I believe that we are, as an institution, currently engaged in that process to try to perhaps expand upon some of our categories of faculty to better serve the institution and our students.”

Titles aside, Johnson stressed that DePaul is a teaching institution and that is the university’s first priority.

“We don’t have a set matrix that says this program should have ‘x’ number of full-time versus ‘x’ number of part-time, it’s more of an organic nature of understanding the program and making the decisions that make sense at the time,” Johnson said.

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, which employs the most faculty members, also has the highest number of tenured faculty of 28 percent. The College of Business follows with 27 percent of their total faculty tenured, according to the 2012-13 teaching report. Tenured faculty is a concept at all places of higher education and provides lifetime employment.

Tenured faculty at DePaul are responsible for teaching, scholarship (research) and service. Johnson explained one difference that separates tenured faculty: they must have a “scholarly agenda.”

Tenure-track faculty are those anticipating being tenured at some point. The standard probationary period for tenure track faculty is six years, according to Johnson.

“When you get hired onto a tenure track, you’re looked at not only what you’ve achieved to date, but what your scholarly agenda will propel you towards,” Johnson said. “Hired onto a tenure track, you have to have evidence and continued evidence of teaching.”

Although, some areas of study may “preclude that individual from having a scholarly agenda,” which is where non-tenure track faculty come in, Johnson said. “Non-tenure track faculty are predominantly hired to teach,” Johnson said. “We don’t require them to provide us with any kind of scholarly activity.”

Non-tenure track faculty are hired on one-year contracts, but based on standards from the American Association of University Professors, the university must limit their one-year contracts to no more than 6 years.

Johnson said that one-year non-tenure track instructors come and go and are often opportunities to invite visiting faculty from other institutions.

The creation of the long-term teaching professional position was a way for DePaul to work around those limiting factors created by the AAUP. Long-term teaching professionals can begin with a maximum of 5 one-year contracts. Then, they are eligible for 5-year contracts “in perpetuity,” Johnson said.

“So it’s not tenure, but there is some continuity promise, recognizing that they’re giving us what we need and we’re not imposing arbitrary requirements that their career path doesn’t allow them to do,” Johnson said.

Part-time (or adjunct) faculty are instructors who are not under contract and are hired for a specific period of time to teach only one or two courses. The positions do not guarantee continuation or any long-term commitment.

Due to the nature of the industry and programs, The School of Music utilizes the largest percent of part-time faculty at the university.

“We have such a large group of part-time faculty because of the extraordinary credibility they bring to their teaching,” School of Music Dean Donald Casey said. “Many are very long-serving on our faculty and have full-time jobs playing with the Chicago Symphony or the Lyric Opera.”

At the same time, employing more part-time faculty makes sense for the school financially.

“It’s also true that schools of music aren’t money-makers for the university, and we temper the cost to the university of having a school of music by employing part-time faculty instead of full-time faculty, because the cost is lower,” Casey said.

Kim Amer, associate professor for the School of Nursing, explained that the nursing program aims for no more than 50 percent of the courses to be taught by part-time faculty.

“The more full-time tenured or tenure track faculty, especially in theory and research courses, the better,” Amer said. “The long-term nursing professors who aren’t out practicing may have a different perspective. So it’s good to get exposure to multiple perspectives.”