GW pushes for more permanent professors

by Cory Weinberg

Media Credit: Nick Rice | Graphics Assistant

GW will pour more money into tenure-track faculty hires after at least a decade of some schools clamoring for more funds.

With the University’s education, medical and public health schools inching toward meeting GW’s benchmark for a tenure-track faculty core, the draft of the 10-year strategic plan calls for up to $100 million in spending on permanent professor positions.

The plan said the spending would reverse a University-wide trend of student body growth outpacing tenure-line faculty hires.

Fifteen years after its founding, the School of Public Health and Health Services says it has collected enough funds from the University to finally meet the Faculty Code mandate to fill three-quarters of professor spots in each school with tenure-track professors.

Josef Reum, SPHHS’s senior associate dean, said a lack of funds had forced the school to slow down its hiring plans, which hurt their prospects of attracting top professors.

Reum said the school now employs 74 percent of its about 80 professors in tenured or tenure-track positions, its highest rate ever. Four years ago, that figure was 42 percent of SPHHS faculty.

The public health school expects to meet the full-time, tenure-track faculty mandate by January, looking to fill a total of five spots.

“It’s been a 10-year process, and every year we’ve been able to contribute more to hiring new faculty,” Reum said, adding that he did not know how much has been invested in faculty hires.

Reum said SPHHS, hamstrung then by a nonexistent endowment and squeezed facilities, has now become the University’s best success story. The school controls the largest research portfolio of any college at GW and will move into a new building in 2014.

The percentage of tenure-track faculty at the University has declined from 66 to 61 percent over the past decade, which follows national trends, Jenn Nichols, a senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors, said.

She said hiring fewer tenure-track faculty hurts what universities get back in research and teaching.

“If you’re worried come April or May [of] every year that you may not have a job in a few months, you can still be committed to students and teaching, but you have to keep one eye open to what you have to do to support yourself," she said.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences are also redoubling their efforts to hire full-time, tenure-track faculty this year.

GSEHD Dean Michael Feuer said the school, which employs about 66 percent tenure-track faculty, could soon reach the threshold because of financial support from the University for new full-time positions.

Out of eight faculty searches that will be underway this year, he said three will be brand new full-time positions.

“In the next couple years, it’s going to be paced a little more quickly, and it means a lot to us,” he said, declining to give a target date for when the school could meet the Faculty Code.

Mary Futrell, who led GSEHD from 1995 to 2010, said the school has historically lacked support from top administrators and trustees for hiring, which hurt its ability to attract top faculty, despite growing enrollment and high rankings.

Lerman said he and Feuer had worked out hiring plans to prioritize tenure-track hires.

“Full-time hiring in his school fell behind," Lerman said, adding that he supports Feuer's efforts to rework budgets to prioritize hires.

The medical school is also making strides to improve its tenure-track rate, which was 67 percent last year.

Jeffrey Akman, the school’s interim dean, said in an email that he recruited four new tenure-track faculty this year, but that the school is at a disadvantage because there is a “shortage of applicants in some disciplines of Health Sciences who are qualified to teach in programs like Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant studies.”

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