Sept. 2016 Advocate: Should non-tenured faculty serve on screening committees?


Skyline AS Governing Council splits vote on whether non-tenured faculty should serve on screening committees

by Rick Hough, Skyline, Mathematics Professor

It’s been many years since I sat on the Academic Senate Governing Council, so I decided to join again this year as SMT co-rep. The first meeting was a great introduction with the general business items followed by an online scavenger hunt designed to familiarize the committee both with the State Academic Senate website, but more specifically with the many awards that are available to faculty through the Academic Senate. “How nice!” I thought.

Non-tenured faculty appointed to initial VPI screening committee

One of the points that was briefly discussed was the forming of screening committees for the two administrative positions: Dean of ASLT and Vice President of Instruction. There were some questions about some of the non-tenured faculty appointments on the committee for the VPI, so this topic was put on the agenda for the next meeting.

When the topic was brought up again at the meeting on September 1, the discussion started with background information. Back in May, the AS had charged President Kate Browne with conducting business in their absence during the summer months.  Both Screening Committees were formed during that time, so the President attended to those faculty selections and gave the committees an initial AS stamp of approval so that the work could begin while many of the faculty were away for summer break.  The questions about faculty selection criteria and the inclusion of non-tenured faculty on screening committees had been researched and were presented.  Although the criteria appeared understood, and the fact that non-tenured faculty were allowed by selection protocol, concern about non-tenured faculty membership surfaced again by several faculty in the audience as well as a question by one governing council member regarding the process of summer update.

Concerns about non-tenured faculty on screening committees

The two main concerns were that the institutional memory of a “new” faculty hire might not be sufficient for such an important position as the VPI, and that a non-tenured faculty member might feel pressure in general if they were interviewing or paper screening their immediate supervisor, particularly if the supervisor were chair of their tenure committee. As the discussion progressed, the latter concern became the priority.

The intention of the people forming the committee – to have a broad set of committee members with skills and expertise across a wide spectrum of the college, including counseling, career tech [CTE], GE /Transfer and expertise in the different initiatives on campus – was explained, as well as that the policies for screening committees of VPIs did not prohibit non-tenured faculty. Also brought up was the fact that this is a screening committee charged with finding good candidates, not a hiring group. As the clock was ticking and motions were passed to extend the time allotted for discussion, it was brought up that we should separate out discussing the approval of this particular committee from a discussion of a policy revision.

Finally it was time to vote. The cacophony of ayes, nays and abstentions was too difficult to wade through, so instead each individual had to call out their vote clearly one at a time. The result? Split vote – motion to approve the committee failed.

President proposes revised committee

At the following Governing Council meeting on September 15, President Regina Stanback Stroud came to discuss the issue of the VPI selection committee. She stated that although she believed that the original selection committee members that had been proposed by the administration were highly appropriate, that a revised set of names for the committee was being proposed which replaced the names of the two non-tenured (tenure track) faculty members with two tenured faculty members.  The Governing Council then proceeded to approve the revised committee.

Possible policy revision to be discussed

A discussion of a possible policy revision that might exclude non-tenured faculty members from serving on selection committees was agendized for an upcoming meeting.