The “Lecture Track” Reconsidered
Professional identity and aspiration among non-tenure-path faculty

Vialla Hartfield-Méndez, Senior Lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese;
Pat Marsteller, Director, Emory College Center for Science Education and Hughes Science Initiative, and Bobbi Patterson, Senior Lecturer in Religion

Vol. 8 No. 2
October/November 2005

Return to Contents

By A Nose
Jockeying in the Rankings Race

The Current Standings

Whither the NRC Study?

"I am not going to change our methods of calculation just in order to try and achieve a ranking higher than another institution."

"Part of the reason educational reputation is so important is because people—students, faculty, and administrators—derive much of their status from the status of their institution."

Graduate School and College Excellence
Does research reputation influence undergraduate rankings?

Peer Scorings and Rankings of Colleges and Graduate Programs and Research


The “Lecture Track” Reconsidered
Professional identity and aspiration among non-tenure-path faculty

Tales from the Lecture Track: Kristin Wendland, Music

Tales from the Lecture Track: Sheila Tefft, Journalism

Virtue and the Stewardship
of Academic Freedom

Reflections on ambition, conversation, and community



Over the last thirty years, the number of faculty not on a tenure path in American universities and colleges has grown considerably. Generally, the initial growth occurred with neither clear goals nor a place in institutions’ articulated strategic plans. At Emory, it was not until 1996 that a policy on the Appointment and Review of Lecturers and Senior Lecturers was approved by the Board of Trustees. This policy developed a template for the relationship between the university and faculty members who, through a combination of personal and institutional choices, were in long-term but ill-defined teaching positions. The result has been, university-wide, a population of non-tenure track faculty wrestling with common issues of professional identity and aspiration. This growing cadre is affecting the nature of faculty work both on our campus and in academe writ large.

In Emory College in particular, about ninety faculty members are on the lecture track, and a majority of departments and programs have at least one lecturer. Many lecturers have played key roles in the development of the college and university, but others do not see a clear path to the contribution they can make beyond showing up to teach. Departments sometimes do not understand the potential contribution of these faculty members, and the resulting lack of communication, professional development, and collaboration represent a lost opportunity.

In the fall of 2004 Emory College Dean Bobby Paul appointed a task force, with balanced representation of tenured faculty, administrators, and senior lecturers, charged with making recommendations regarding the lecture track. During the strategic planning process, as faculty members asked and answered questions about the inquiry-driven, ethically responsible practice of engaged citizenship, the Lecture Track Faculty Group of Emory College drafted a proposal to Dean Paul. Our task was to address the role of lecture track faculty as a central part of the college’s future.

An insistent theme of the Futurist Forum sponsored by the Strategic Planning Committee last April was that successful universities will be leaders, not followers, in a changing national and global reality. Emory, like other institutions, faces the challenge of forging productive partnerships with all faculty members, not just those with tenure or on a tenure path. The task force saw the possibility of creating policies and procedures that deliberately express the role of the lecture track faculty in relation to our long-term vision, establishing Emory as a leader in the area of lecture track faculty in higher education.
The task force agreed on four working principles representing steps toward a new future and intersecting with the principles of Emory’s strategic plan. These are:

1) Emory College has as a strong group of regular faculty with two subsets, tenure track and lecture track faculty, distinct from faculty on temporary appointments.

The synergy of including faculty of both subsets permits Emory to attain its vision of an institution that combines the opportunities of a premier research university with a small liberal arts college experience.

2) Emory can and should lead its peer institutions in determining how best to integrate regular faculty in positions without the possibility of tenure.

3) Emory College places value on the complementary relationship between teaching and scholarly activity. Lecture track faculty can, and do, play an important role in defining that relationship, putting into practice the broadened concepts of scholarship advanced by Ernest L. Boyer (Scholarship Reconsidered) and others. The 1996 Report on Teaching at Emory expressed the clear aspiration to “an Emory in which there is a balance between teaching and research,” but without demanding that every faculty member maintain that balance all the time. The task force acknowledged the important role of lecturers in teaching, and also the integration of professional activities that many bring to that role.

4) Any system of evaluation of lecture track faculty should be predicated on those faculty having value and voice. In Emory College, lecture track faculty are and should be highly valued, with full rights and responsibilities in faculty governance.

These principles made the specific work of the recommendations flow smoothly. To educate ourselves, the task force studied a sampling of individual annual reports provided by faculty
themselves and survey results. We consulted material from various institutions, publications by professional associations, and professional journals.

Lecture track faculty at Emory participate at all levels of teaching and administration in the college and the university. Generally they teach from one to three more courses per year than their tenure track counterparts. Some are directors of undergraduate studies and directors of programs. Many lead initiatives resulting in long-term programs in education, community relationships, internationalization, interdisciplinary studies, and campus life. They are active in committee and administrative posts at all levels. They teach everything from introductory to graduate courses, and they work with undergraduate and graduate students in myriad contexts, such as leading Freshman Mentoring and Advising Experience (FAME) groups, directing honors theses, advising students organizations, coordinating and training graduate teaching assistants, and working with Teaching Assistant Training Teaching Opportunity (TATTO) and Problems and Research Integrating Science and Math (PRISM), and dissertation committees. They frequently receive teaching awards (Language Center Outstanding Teacher Award, Crystal Apple Award, and so forth) and internal and external grants and fellowships (a Fulbright this year), and they practice public scholarship. Many are active professionally beyond Emory, as evidenced by books, translations, journal articles, conference presentations, performances, and exhibitions.

In view of Emory’s potential leadership in this area, the task force considered what other institutions are doing, looking at specific titles for lecture track faculty, contractual agreements, salary equity, governance, and other issues highlighted in the Association of American Universities’ 2001 Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Report. With unanimity, the task force made recommendations to Dean Paul that would place Emory at the forefront by causing a more concerted and intentional incorporation of lecture track faculty in the life of the university.

A salient recommendation calls for adding a third tier of non-tenure track appointments, in addition to the first two tiers of lecturer and senior lecturer. This as-yet-unnamed third tier would link teaching and scholarship through new pedagogies in and across disciplines and between the university and the community, all hallmarks of excellent teaching and research. It would provide the lecture track faculty with aspiration and a clear path, while bringing new acknowledgement to those attaining or hired at this level. The task force recommended clarity in contracts at each level of hiring. After the first six years at the lecturer level (two three-year contracts), the task force recommended five-year contracts, with ten-year contracts upon promotion to the third tier. The task force suggested a detailed procedure for evaluation and promotion and recommended that initial hiring be at any level, with all hiring requiring a national search.

The 1996 Report on Teaching states, “We want to get beyond the notion that excellence in research must preclude excellence in teaching and that universities cannot support, evaluate, and reward teaching and research in equivalent ways.” Clear advances have been made toward valuing teaching, and further steps can be taken. In view of the close association of lecture track faculty with the teaching mission, and of the principle that evaluation must be predicated on value and voice, the task force recommended that salary structures for all three tiers of non-tenure track appointment be commensurate with the value Emory places on teaching. Lecture track faculty make possible the effective implementation of many programs and initiatives not otherwise viable, making their presence particularly desirable in an institution that values a balance of activities among its faculty. The task force thus recommends close attention to salary equity and regular professional leaves.

Regular faculty members, no matter their track, should be partners in the creation of Emory’s future. Working together, we can provide a truly transformative, inquiry driven, ethically engaged undergraduate education.