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The Ballad of the NTTs

Among the research topics and performances presented at the Southern Regional meeting of the College Music Society, held on the campus of Union University in Jackson (TN) in 2002, was a panel discussion on the issues and concerns for full- and part-time Non- Tenure Track (NTT) instructional faculty and staff. Although I was aware that there were several non-tenure-track faculty at the conference, I was a little surprised to discover that I was the only NTT person attending this discussion.

We began the session by identifying the various types of NTT faculty in the typical music department including long-term part-time faculty (often performers who teach applied music); part-time directors and conductors (orchestra, chorus, marching band, opera workshop); part-time lecturers who teach the gamut of classroom courses and labs; lecturers and/or instructors who patch together a full-time career by teaching part-time at several regional colleges; and entry-level teachers (often ABDs) who are just beginning a career. We also noted the prevalence of career part-time instructors in many music programspeople who are primarily performers who also teach. Conservatories and schools of music depend heavily upon a pool of these professional artists to teach applied lessons in performance, and the reputations of many schools of music are often greatly enhanced by having these musicians on their faculty. Because of the specialized nature of the undergraduate curricula in music, reliance upon full- and part-time non-tenure track faculty has become commonplace. In reality, there may be as many reasons to teach part-time (or full-time in non-tenure track positions) as there are people to fill these positions, and the use of NTT faculty in most college and university music programs has become not only a necessity but a way of life.

Id like to suggest that CMS advocacy conduct a study of current trends in colleges and universities to determine the number of non-tenure track faculty members in various departments or what percentage of the faculty roster are NTT. This study could investigate some of these issues:

  • Identify the various NTT positions and correlate terms of service among music departments, school of music and conservatories.
  • Survey the administration of full-time non-tenure track staffing to determine limits to the number of years one can hold NTT position.
  • Identify systems for security of employment for the non-tenure track, such as Teaching Fellow or Senior Lecturer. Is there a ticking-clock, i.e., if one goes from a non-tenure track position to tenure track within an institution, does the time served count toward (or against) tenure?
  • What are the various types of temporary contracts: 12-month; 9-month, multi-year contracts?
  • Can a non-tenure track position be terminal or expire after a period of time; should non-tenure track instructors have a limited term of service, only to be replaced by others in the same position? Are there multi-year contracts?
  • Specifically for part-time faculty, what constitutes part-time (how many contact hours or units)? How many students can be assigned for applied instruction for part-time versus full-time instructors? Are part-time instructors limited to the number of hours they can teach in the system (this is relevant to transient or traveling instructors who teach at more than one campus within a system)?
  • What percent of the departments teaching load (FTE) is covered by part-time and by full-time non-tenure track faculty? What is the percentage of non-tenure track faculty moving onto tenure track in the same institution and at different schools?

Next, I suggest a survey of CMS membership, particularly those who hold non-tenure-track positions, to determine:

  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of non-tenure track positions? And what are the perks? (Here, I think there might be an important distinction between full-time and part-time faculty in terms of rights to office space, phone, computer, travel expenses, health coverage, retirement benefits, etc.).
  • Are there responsibilities outside the classroom or studio expected of the full-time and/or part-time faculty, such as attendance at faculty meetings (department to campus-wide), advising, performance, recruitment and/or outreach?
  • Do non-tenure track faculty receive remuneration or honoraria for performance or service activities outside the classroom or studio?

Finally and most importantly, the CMS leadership can propose

  • Standards for part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty, including teaching loads, course and studio equivalence, time, credit and compensation for creative work and performances.
  • Suggest standards of evaluation and equivalence for creative work and performances equivalent.
  • Recognize the significant contribution that part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty make to a department as professional musicians and as dedicated teachers.

A recent trend in many schools has been to provide junior level tenure-track faculty with mentors to help guide him/her through the process of gaining tenure. CMS could assist colleges with the design of a similar system of mentors for the non-tenure track faculty, for institutions that offer multi-year contracts and for career part-time positions, and especially for temporary instructors who seek tenure-track positions at the same institution or elsewhere.

There are no easy answers for the institution of non-tenure track, but CMS can go a long way toward helping non-tenure track faculty find a fair, rewarding, honorable and productive career as teachers and musicians.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01/05/2013

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