Months of negotiations at Temple University have yielded a tentative contract with a rare feature: Both the faculty union and the administration can point to significant breakthroughs in university policies that they had sought for years.
At a time when many professors nationally worry that those off the tenure track are being ignored and abused, Temple's faculty union won full-time colleagues off the tenure track their first participation in the university's pension plan. At the same time, Temple administrators can point to new rules for tenure and for the selection of department chairs -- changes that officials say are critical to the university's ambitions.
Full details on the contract won't be released until the union membership formally approves it. But in interviews, Temple officials described the general outlines and why they are pleased.
"Over the last generation, the shape of the American professoriate has changed enormously and universities are using more and more faculty who aren't eligible for tenure," said William W. Cutler, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers.
At Temple, the number of such professors has been rising, too, "and Temple's treatment of them has been shabby indeed," he said. In Cutler's union, more than 300 of the 1,000-plus faculty members are full time, but ineligible for tenure. (The union doesn't represent part-time faculty members.)
Until now, the university has contributed nothing for pensions for these faculty members. Under the agreement, once someone has taught full time for a year off the tenure track, the person becomes eligible for a match by Temple of up to 1 percent of salary. After three years at 1 percent, the match increases to 4.5 percent.
"I think this contract for the first time acknowledges that these people are an established part of the university," said Cutler. "They need to be treated with respect and dignity, not just as contingent labor."
While Cutler speaks with pride about this provision, Temple's president appears most excited about other provisions. Temple had not updated its tenure and promotion policies for decades, said David Adamany, and the policies were not aligned with those of research universities.
Adamany and Cutler describe the new tenure system in subtly different ways. Adamany said that the system to date required faculty members to show that they were "outstanding" in either teaching, research or service, and "good" in the other two.
Now, Adamany said, professors up for tenure will have to show that they are outstanding in teaching and research, with service -- while still considered -- clearly in a secondary role. Cutler said that the new contract requires these professors to show that they are outstanding generally, with teaching and research given as the primary areas in which to evaluate performance.
Either way, research and teaching are elevated and service downgraded, and the tenure bar is raised. Adamany said this change will result in more rigor for tenure decisions -- and rigor of the sort that is associated with top research universities.
Both Adamany and Cutler praised the creation of a new universitywide tenure review committee to be composed of faculty members. Temple hasn't had such a committee so final decisions were made by the president and provost.
Adamany said that this committee -- similar to those in place elsewhere -- would "assure faculty support for high standards." He elaborated: "A judgment by a president or provost that a department is behaving weakly is not as persuasive as a signal sent by a universitywide faculty committee. This is a way for us to raise standards with the support of a faculty body."
Similarly, Temple is making subtle shifts in the way department chairs are being selected -- moving in the direction Adamany has been seeking, but maintaining a strong faculty role. In the past, departments had to put forward candidates and if a dean did not like a candidate, the dean had to keep returning to the department for consultation and other names. While candidates will still be nominated by departments, deans will have a speedier process to put forward their own names and to install them.
"Strong universities grow at the department level, and to do that, you have to have strong chairs," Adamany said. He also said that while faculty members could previously remove a chair, department leaders will now "serve at the pleasure of deans."
Middle Ground on Pay
On salary issues, faculty and administration also compromised. Over four years, salaries will increase by 15.22 percent. The share of that increase that will be distributed on merit, as opposed to across the board, will increase from about 20 percent to about one third.
The Temple contract -- in which both sides could point to policy changes -- is significant, said Richard Boris, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, at City University of New York's Hunter College.
Boris said that it can be problematic when only one side is seeking a policy change and the other side is seeking only money (or is being compensated for going along with a policy change only with money).
"From a bargaining point of view, culture and money are never really equivalent. They are only equivalent at the period that a contract is being negotiated," Boris said. "But once the culture has been shifted, that's hard to undo. But money is never certain in the future."
Applying that to the Temple situation, getting tenure is unlikely to get easier, but non-tenure track faculty are unlikely to return to the class of employee without significant benefits.
Boris said that the issues at Temple -- the role of chairs, the difficulty of obtaining tenure, treatment of non-tenured professors -- are "on the bargaining table all over the country."