In her sixth annual convocation address in August, CSUN President Jolene Koester announced her decision to allocate $1 million specifically for the recruitment of 12 more full-time faculty members than the 35 originally planned.
Due to the state budget crisis, CSUN has not been able to hire the number of full-time, tenure track professors that many university officials would like.
Last year, the university was only able to recruit and hire 19 new professors.
“The university has a budget and some of it goes to Academic Affairs,” said John Chandler, CSUN spokesperson. “Every year within their budget they can hire ‘X’ number of teachers. The president has decided to add to that amount with the $1 million this year.”
Koester used the president’s initiative fund to allow CSUN to hire 12 more faculty members, according to Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “I think (Koester) did that because the whole system has suffered from budget cuts.”
Penny Jennings, associate vice president of Faculty Affairs, said the new faculty members would start in the Fall 2006 semester.
“The number of new tenure track positions for which the university is able to search is impacted by the budget and the need for new positions in particular departments or disciplines,” she said via e-mail.
She said that along with budget constraints, the number of positions recruited for is influenced by such needs as faculty retirement, student enrollment and the necessity for certain disciplines or credentials within programs.
“Nineteen is a lower than normal number,” said Diane Stephens, director of Academic Resources, regarding last year’s recruiting total. “That was an anomaly because of the budget cuts.”
Many CSUN departments are experiencing the results of budget cuts on their teaching staff and would like to reap the benefits of Koester’s initiative.
“We hope to get one of those new-hires,” said Matthew Cahn, Political Science Department chair and professor. “Part of the backdrop here is that the university had (a) lull in hiring in the 80s and 90s, so our departments were increasingly staffed by senior faculty, many of whom have now retired.”
“Over the last several years, we have been hiring, but there has been a lag in being able to catch up,” Cahn said. “So many of the departments are in need of bringing in more full-time faculty. This has been exacerbated by the state budget crisis.”
Part-time faculty have provided a temporary solution to the absence of full-time professors, but department chairs point out that this does not solve many of their problems.
“We have significantly more part-time professors than full time,” said Thomas Maddux, History Department chair and professor. “We have a declining number of full-time professors, and we have 21 part-time professors who are very good, but there are things that they can’t do in terms of the program.”
Maddux said that part-time faculty members often only teach and generally work at more than one institution.
“They teach two classes here, then they’re off to somewhere else,” he said.
Tom Spencer-Walters, department chair and professor of the Pan-African Studies Department, said there is some difficulty with what part-time faculty can take part in within departmental discussions.
“We value our part-time faculty, but the problem with depending disproportionately on them is that because they don’t have the opportunity of participating in some of the discussions like personnel and curriculum, you are not able to move your curriculum and your vision ahead,” Spencer-Walters said.
He said that part timers do not generally contribute to the “deliberations of the department that full-time faculty are expected to, such as advisement, personnel decisions, and university and department committee service.”
Cahn explained why this is problematic: “Though (part-time faculty members) help us fill our instructional needs, more and more work gets put on the fewer and fewer shoulders of full-time faculty. The bigger malice (to current full-time faculty) is in the work load, so we hope to be able to continue hiring new full-time faculty.”
Hellenbrand pointed out that the $1 million allocated for recruiting is not the ultimate answer to full-time faculty shortages. He said there are difficulties in recruiting faculty at CSUN for three main reasons.
“The work load at CSUs is higher than at other public institutions. By and large, our professors work more hours,” he said. “It’s significant if you can get the same amount of money for doing less work at another institution.”
According to Hellenbrand, the high cost of living in Southern California and a widening gap between CSU salaries and those of other public institutions are other factors that create complications.
“There’s been a salary freeze over the last three years,” he said.
Despite these obstacles, the need for new full-time teaching staff remains. Maddux expressed his appreciation for Koester’s move.
“We have a request pending for a hire in early modern, continental European history,” he said. “We’ve lost almost all of our European specialists and we lost three faculty members to the Early Retirement Program. So we definitely applaud President Koester and Provost Hellenbrand for putting resources into the hiring of new faculty.”
According to Diane Stephens, director of academic resources, decisions as to which departments will be getting new faculty members will be announced by the Hellenbrand in the next week or two.
Bethania Palma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.