Enacting Equity for Teaching and Professional Series Faculty: Appointments and Promotion in MCE

Jul 22, 2021

Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, Associate Dean and Professor

It’s hard to believe that it was six years ago when the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) first adopted a stand-alone appointments and promotion policy for our teaching and professional (T&P) series faculty members. In practice, that means it was seven or eight years ago when our talented faculty leaders began developing a policy. As a tenured faculty member, I remember voting in favor of the new policy during one of our MCE Faculty Governance Body meetings and feeling proud of the work my colleagues had done and proud that we in MCE were finally enacting what we believed was a more equitable practice in faculty promotion – affording our colleagues in the teaching and professional series lines the respect they so deserved and was so overdue.

Within just a few short years, however, our T&P faculty leaders helped the rest of the college recognize that there was a great deal more work to be done. Indeed, our great achievement toward equity in faculty promotion had created new inequities that commanded attention. For starters, while the first iteration of our new policy established a parallel process for promotion review for our T&P series faculty, it required that the review committee, which we named AP (Appointments and Promotions) be co-chaired by a tenured faculty member from our APT (Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure) committee. Thus, the tenure-track series retained some element of dominion over T&P series careers, even though the parallel process had sought to clarify and codify the differentiating roles and responsibilities of each series. Further, our senior-ranks of T&P series faculty members were too few to establish any sort of equitable rotation on/off the newly formed AP review committee. This meant that the burden of faculty advancement work fell inordinately to two senior faculty members in our Clinical series.

Recognizing this contradiction in practice with our espoused values driving the policy development, our dedicated AP Committee members pointed out that the policy itself operated from more of an equality rather than equity framework. To be more specific, we had in many ways simply copied and pasted what seemed to be the relevant pieces from the APT review process into the AP process – in some sections a literal copy and paste. The result was that we treated T&P faculty exactly as tenure-track faculty, when in fact, by design we all perform similar yet distinctly differentiated roles. In MCE this has become increasingly clear as we’ve assembled a diverse set of faculty across series; our permanent lines that constitute the MCE Faculty includes Professors of Practice (POP), Clinical, Research, and tenure-track series. Each series deserves the respect of serving as a member of the MCE Faculty – and we have established equal rights in governance as faculty members across series. However, each series is also crafted in order to best serve the diverse and increasingly complex needs of our academic programs. In the professional and applied interdisciplinary fields that make up our College (e.g., education, counseling, information sciences), even the common monikers of labor such as teaching and service end up looking very different as they are enacted by those with the appropriate expertise.

It has been an on-going process to address these three inequitable outcomes of our proud effort to establish equity in promotion across our faculty series. Working collaboratively between our AP Committee, the MCE Office of the Dean, and our college-wide Faculty Governance Body, we have made strides over the past few years. Our AP committee now stands completely independent of our APT committee; it is no longer co-chaired by a tenured faculty member. The policy and procedures documents have been redrafted to reflect more truthfully the ways that our T&P faculty members’ teaching and service (and research) take form and shape; these dimensions are no longer evaluated using exactly the same metrics and measures as tenure-track faculty. The workload still disproportionately falls to too few senior T&P faculty members, which means they either get pulled away from other important work in the College that could benefit from their talents, or they simply dedicate ever more time to these significant service commitments and leadership roles for the benefit of our College. While our T&P series faculty have certainly grown in rank through promotion, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our faculty, they remain stretched too thin, and ultimately, I suspect it is the College as a whole that loses out from over-working their talents across too many spaces of significance in our governance and leadership. The equitable faculty workload work being championed by the VPFA’s office is much needed to help us address this on-going struggle.

Enacting equity for Teaching and Professional series faculty in MCE is an on-going process. The development of promotion policy and procedures across series has certainly secured some much-needed gains in this space; it also has helped us recognize the iterative nature of faculty equity work – refocusing our attentions to new dimensions of inequity along the way. As the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs in MCE, I am grateful and honored to work with such dedicated faculty members committed to creating a more equitable academic environment wherein all MCE faculty members’ talents can thrive and contribute to our mutual and collective success. I am indebted greatly to the role modeling, mentoring, and partnership of our outstanding Teaching & Professional series faculty leaders, like Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair for Gifted Education and Clinical Professor Norma Hafenstein and Clinical Professor Paul Michalec.

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