What Does it Mean to be Tenured or Adjunct?

The Mount’s faculty primarily consists of tenured professors, non-tenured professors and adjunct instructors. Tenured professors have investment at the Mount, as do adjunct professors, but there are many differences between the positions.

A tenured professor has job security and more freedom of speech. Dr. Buck, Chair of Philosophy department, said that there is more academic freedom and professors are able to expand teaching in different ways. Tenured professors cannot be fired without cause.

However, the road to becoming tenured is a lengthy one and is in no way simple.

“No institution should give tenure easily,” Dr. Indrani Mitra, Chair of English department added.  There are three major criteria a professor must meet to become tenured. These are demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.  

For teaching, a professor must show commitment and communicate with students. The chairs of departments visit classes to be sure the professor is doing an excellent job. This criterion also includes getting positive reviews from students in the end-of-semester evaluations.

In the scholarship criterion, professors have to show their dedication for continuing to research and publish articles in quality academic journals.

Regarding service, professors join committees and student clubs. They advise students outside of the classroom, attend meetings and must uphold the Catholic mission to serve in many areas.  

“The university community can count upon this [tenured] person. People have completely invested themselves here,” Father Donohue, Chair of Theology, stated.  

A professor can become tenured in their sixth year of teaching at the Mount. Prior to tenure application, there are second-year and fourth-year reviews. In their sixth year, they apply for and find out if they will have tenure. To be employed six years before tenure is a long time, but students agree that this is appropriate.

“It should be that long to develop relationships and show commitment,” said junior John O’Connor.

Adjunct professors are hired differently in every department. The chairs of the departments oversee this process. In the Psychology department, Dr. Bob Keefer explained that adjuncts are hired by putting out an advertisement and having applicants send in their resumes, inviting them to campus and then deciding if they’re a good fit for the Mount.

This is different in the History department.  Dr. Steve White explained that they hire adjuncts by contacting department chairs of other nearby colleges and universities, interview the applicant and have two or three good reviews. They also hire advanced graduate students.  

There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring adjunct professors. Among students’ opinions, the professors not being readily available is the complaint compared to tenured professors having an office.

Senior Katelyn Bishop said, “They’re not as easy to get a hold of, but inside of class I think they’re knowledgeable of the material because they have experience in that field.”

Dr. Virginia McGovern, Chair of Sociology department, stated that the main disadvantage of hiring adjunct professors is that they’re being paid much less than they deserve, but they are not less qualified than full-time faculty.

“Office hours are hard to make but they’re great with communication. One of my professors had us text him,” stated junior Nadia Dewsbury about her adjunct professor.

Tenure to adjunct ratio varies in every department, and the amount of adjuncts needed per semester is different. The average ratio is 4 to 6 tenured to adjuncts over the departments interviewed.

The chairs of departments agree that being tenured or having full-time faculty is ideal and all expressed love of their job and of the Mount.

“We would like to reduce our use of adjuncts but that is not strictly just about tenured people, it is about having full-time faculty, tenured or untenured, that have a long term commitment to the well-being of our students. Your adjuncts serve an important and vital role within the institution and their work is highly valued,” stated Dr. Christine McCauslin, Chair of Science department.

All of the department chairs stated that one of the things they enjoyed most in their position was service to students and their colleagues.  

Students are encouraged to take the student evaluations seriously, as they are used by the chairs of departments to assist in the reviews of all professors.  

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