The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate voted unanimously last week to approve a 64-page report on the status, pay and conditions of nonladder faculty in the FAS.
The report, which was produced by a seven-person committee of senators and nonsenators on and off the tenure track, is scheduled to be distributed in the coming days, pending the incorporation of some brief paragraphs proposed at the meeting. It examines the standing and treatment of nonladder faculty — the just under 40 percent of faculty members who are not on the tenure track and hold titles such as lector and lecturer — after months of gathering statistical and holistic feedback and compiling a list of recommendations. The recommendations include improvements in compensation and benefits, career advancement and recognition and inclusion and faculty governance.
“We have written this report because we are convinced that a two-tier faculty system, reinforced by a culture of invisibility and the de facto exclusion of an entire group of faculty members from faculty governance, both in departments and in FAS-wide committees, is an obstacle to faculty excellence,” the report reads.
The report was prompted by the senate’s two other reports last year on college expansion and diversity and inclusivity, which concluded that Yale College’s eminent expansion will significantly impact nonladder faculty in writing courses, languages and laboratories and require the hiring of additional nonladder faculty, whose “relative invisibility and second-class status” currently make them feel less included in their departments.
Dean of the FAS Tamar Gendler confirmed that the increased size of the student body will translate into higher demand for introductory courses in English, math and foreign languages. She added that the University has made 13 incremental full time equivalent hires to meet this need.
According to the report, the work of nonladder faculty members is central to the University, as these faculty are heavily engaged in teaching undergraduates — through language classes five days a week, writing courses, labs and special programs like Directed Studies — and serve as their advisors and mentors.
“Although we are a diverse population in terms of what we do, for many of us our primary work is teaching undergraduates,” physics professor and committee member Rona Ramos GRD ’10 said. “Time and time again, survey respondents said that they endured inequity and job insecurity because of their love of teaching and dedication to their students. Nonladder faculty take great pride in their interactions with students and the impact they have on students’ growth as academics and professionals.”
The main findings of the survey — which was circulated to 418 members of the faculty in February — focus on compensation and benefits, as well as more intangible elements of recognition and appreciation. For example, the report’s recommendations call for a review of compensation and transparency of the salary scale, as the survey found that “for nonladder faculty, length of service at Yale does not correlate to higher salaries.” The report also recommends enhanced opportunities for paid leave, automatic eligibility for paid leave — which is currently on an application-only basis for nonladder faculty — and a standardized parental leave policy for both ladder and nonladder faculty.
The report recommends improving opportunities for career advancement, awarding additional prizes to recognize nonladder faculty excellence and providing funding and departmental support for conference travel. It also advocates for reviewing terminology of teaching ranks and eliminating the term nonladder, which it calls “inimical to inclusion,” ensuring voting rights in Yale College faculty meetings and clarifying the policy on voting rights in FAS departments and increasing nonladder faculty inclusion in department life, University governance and campus life.
“[The report] is significant because none of this information was out there prior to this report,” said Charles Schmuttenmaer, a chemistry professor and senator who served on the committee. “One of the main recommendations is that there be better record keeping. The survey provided insight that was simply not available through standard channels. I hope that the administration uses the report as a barometer and a guide to deciding which issues are the highest priority.”
Better record keeping is needed, said Ruth Koizim GRD ’77, a French professor and senate member who served on the committee, as there were many nonladder faculty members whose names were not even on the email list they used for the survey, meaning that “there are people laboring faithfully for this University, and they’re not on anybody’s radar.” She said the response rate — 57 percent with an average response time of 28 minutes — underscores the importance of this topic
“I was most blown away by the large response rate,” Ramos said. “Many nonladder feel isolated, so you don’t realize what a large population this is. Clearly, this population has needed a way to express itself for a long time and I am proud of the role our committee played in giving this population voice.”
Koizim said one of the most “heartwarming and heartbreaking” aspects of working on the report was the reaction from the nonladder faculty members who were asked to take the survey, as many were touched that they had been approached. She added that there are faculty members who have been working at the University for 15 or 20 years but still feel as if their department chair does not know them.
Ramos said she feels strongly that a change is needed in the faculty culture to make it more inclusive of nonladders, who are often not featured in department faculty directors or in the hallways of their buildings. She added that the work of this senate committee marks a step in the right direction by making the University aware of this demographic’s concerns.
Shiri Goren, a Hebrew professor and senator who co-chaired the report, pointed out that students do not seem to distinguish between nonladder faculty ranks, although these faculty members are largely responsible for students’ exposure to Yale through their frequent interactions and close relationships.
Koizim agreed that for students, whoever is at the front of the classroom is their professor and the specific distinction of ladder rank or title is irrelevant.
“Obviously, issues of salary equity are more difficult to address,” said committee member and statistics professor Jonathan Reuning-Scherer DIV ’00. “However, the Yale administration has stated a commitment to being the best teaching institution among research institutions. I suspect this goal might be more attainable if there is a tacit understanding that strong teaching and strong research don’t always reside in the same person; Yale might do well to recruit and retain ‘world class teachers’ and not just ‘world class researchers.’”
Classics professor Emily Greenwood, chair of the Senate and co-chair of this report, said many of the recommendations — especially the ones that pertain to a shift in culture, such as revisiting nomenclature and adding nonladder teaching prizes — will cost very little to implement. She added that she hopes the Senate can work with department chairs and people in FAS leadership positions to make these changes possible and to speak with the Provost’s Office to get a clear breakdown of how much certain changes would cost.
“I’m grateful that the members of the committee took the time to come up with some proposals, a number of which can be implemented without redirecting resources from something that we do now to something that is being proposed,” Gendler said. “I’m eager to work with the committee to find ways that we can execute some of these recommendations.”
Still, she noted some of the recommendations require the redistribution of resources, which would necessitate careful deliberation, adding that she is happy to speak with individual chairs to make clear the importance of making every faculty in the department feel included.
Koizim said any “respectful” response from the administration would be a good one, adding that a lot of what nonladder faculty want is simply awareness.
“We just want to know how many we are and how many jobs we’re doing and how we want to make this University run,” Koizim said. “We’re so proud of what we do and thrilled to be able to do it — it’s a great privilege, we don’t feel entitled. We would just kind of like for that to be acknowledged, which I think is a very normal human desire.”
The FAS is comprised of 53 programs and departments.
Clarification, April 20: This article has been updated to clarify that the faculty meetings are within Yale College rather than the entire University.