Professors’ Views on Tenure and Pay Grade

When the words “pay grade” or “tenure” are mentioned to a professor at Marist College, you can physically feel them cringe.

Tenure is a long, drawn out process that entails review by both the department a professor belongs to and the dean of the school. Professors are evaluated based on their knowledge of their specific field, teaching ability, scholarship and published works, and service to the discipline. All of these categories are taken into consideration when evaluation time rolls around.

“Tenure is a way of making sure you have proved yourself to be a worthy member of the college community and offer some form of job security,” said JoAnne Myers, associate professor of political science.

At the collegiate level, tenure is renewed every 6 years. The dean writes a report and provides a professor ranking to show each professor where they stand compared to their fellow colleagues. Academic affairs back up the review process conducted by the dean and the individual departments of study.

A mid-tenure review is conducted every 3 years to review professors and make sure they are on track before the 6-year tenure renewal review begins. This gives professors the chance to know where they stand and make changes in the way they conduct themselves and their classrooms if necessary.

“Most full-time faculty are tenured,” said Myers. “Most professors begin teaching at Marist when they are in their mid 30s and are eligible to work here until they are 80 years old.”

Cuts are rarely made unless a professor is not meeting the standards set by the college. Failure to continue producing research, publishing works, taking part in community service, or not conducting the classroom setting in the most beneficial manner to the student are the most common reasons for termination.

The tenure process presents itself as more of a challenge for adjunct professors than full-time faculty members.

“Professors who have tenure are guaranteed work and a contract which makes them more permanent,” said Joan Perisse, adjunct instructor of English. “Adjuncts are considered part-time workers and are hired every semester. My salary is much lower as an adjunct.”

The tenure process is two-tiered with full-time faculty at the top and adjunct professors at the bottom. It is cheaper for Marist to hire adjunct professors, it only costs the college $3,000 per adjunct professor and they are saving more money in return by hiring them.

Adjunct professors are considered second rate and are not given any job security. Their contracts are renewed every semester versus every year or couple of years and can be terminated at any time if the curriculum experiences changes or if Marist does not have a class for them to teach per semester.

“Adjuncts are the professors hired to teach all the basic courses,” said Perisse. “We are not usually given the option to teach upper level courses and there are professors who can be left without a class to teach last minute.”

Adjunct professors are the shadows of the college community. They do just as much ground-work as full-time professors but without the security of tenure.

“I make under $40,000 a year even with a complete education and a masters degree,” said Perisse. “Professors make less money than high school teachers, especially if you are an adjunct.”

Most professors can agree that the wages at Marist are not exactly where they would prefer them to be, despite which tier of the tenure system one falls under.

“I make enough to live comfortably, but would I consider this a high paying profession? Definitely not,” said Richard Grinnell, associate professor of English.

The pay grade process also accompanies a bias. Professors’ pay depends on which department they fall under, some are paid more than others.

“The computer science, business and management departments are hired at a much higher wage than other departments because these professions have job security,” said Grinnell.

Professors are up against a lot with the tenure process and pay grade, but despite this, most of them can honestly say they love teaching and the position they are in.

“Marist offers decent work, good classes and a respectful atmosphere to teach in overall,” said Myers.


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