Reading "College Lecturers Long for the Respect, Rewards of Tenure" (Sept. 30), I find myself appalled at the apparent disdain our institutions have for the practice of teaching. The "pipeline problem" for teachers entering the profession referred to by Ronald G. Ehrenberg doesn't begin to describe the problem. What about the pipeline problem for educated students? What does it tell incoming students when the senior faculty, whose names are used in the school's literature (read "advertising"), are unavailable to all but a chosen few and are replaced by persons for whom that same faculty and its institution demonstrate no respect? And why would anyone who has any expertise and experience other than university-based research relinquish any claim to respect or collegiality "merely" to teach? It is a shame that teaching institutions do not demonstrate profound respect and gratitude for Drs. Jessica Revill and Rita Calvo and all of their lecturer colleagues.
If we are serious about creating an educated population and attracting qualified, capable people who have a commitment to teaching, we will have to move past the medieval hierarchies that inform the university. If we are going to allow universities to benefit from their increased integration with the commercial economy (i.e., through profits from some of the products of their research), don't we have a right to demand that they return some of the benefit by contributing to the creation of a productive, educated population? There are committed academics and institutions that take seriously their role as leaders of 21st century thought. Isn't it time that we demand no less of every institution that receives significant public funding?
Penelope C. Roeder
I have taught as a lecturer in the UC system for 22 years. I do not want the "respect, rewards of tenure." I want the respect that the University of California, considered by many the greatest publicly funded university in the world, should accord its teaching faculty. Lecturers are the teachers of the UC system. However, lecturers have less job security than K-12 teachers and make less money, at the entry level and in terms of years of service, than their colleagues at community colleges. The UC even refuses to commit itself to a pay scale for lecturers based on years of service and performance. Clearly the UC does not respect its teaching faculty and, by extension, its state-mandated educational mission.
My greatest professional disappointment as a tenure-track academic is the failure of my tenured and tenure-track colleagues to resist and rethink the hierarchical structures that exist in institutions of higher education in the U.S. It is alarming that administrators at most universities across the country think of lecturers as "cheap labor," but I am made much more distraught by my colleagues who often collude with administrators when it comes to lecturers and who are frequently responsible for creating and maintaining policies and attitudes that treat lecturers as second-class citizens.
That lecturers have to teach in conditions very different from tenured and tenure-track faculty is a reality at most institutions. When I taught as a lecturer at USC, I was not imagined as a scholar or an intellectual colleague of the tenured and tenure-track faculty; the only mandate made on me quite explicitly was to produce high teaching-evaluation scores. USC spent enormous resources on creating lavish spreads for visiting scholars but was unable to find resources to pay for me to attend professional conferences and meetings.
Such discriminatory practices are a sad commentary on all of us in higher education and on our failure to imagine more egalitarian structures that do not favor some at the expense of others. I call upon all faculty who are committed to social justice to make lecturers' issues and struggles our top priority and to do our part in reshaping the stratification that currently exists in higher education.
Assistant professor of Literature, Writing Studies
Cal State San Marcos
I left a full-time, tenure-track position as assistant professor of economics to become just a lecturer at Cal State San Marcos, and I never had it so good. Since then, I have almost doubled my income doing consulting and freelance writing. I don't mind at all the mindless teaching of lower-division economics courses, which requires little or no preparation. I do not have to attend the boring committee, faculty or department meetings, nor do I have to advise students. This way, I have extra time to publish interesting journalistic articles rather than the obscure scholarly articles necessary for tenure. Although I understand that many adjunct faculty members do not have access to benefits, I happen to enjoy some benefits at CSUSM. I do not in any way feel abused by the system; rather, I consider myself lucky to be able to combine my love of teaching with my desire to make more money.