Posted at 2:40 p.m., April 8, 2015

Survey says: Faculty oppose ranking proposal

Laramie County Community College’s Faculty Senate is in the beginning stages of revisiting the implementation of a new ranking/titling system, which would assign ranks to faculty members according to their length of college employment, academic degrees and professional achievements.

However, the majority of those who participated in a survey, conducted in April 2014, were not interested in creating a ranking/titling system. Of the 61 full-time faculty members who responded, 23 said yes; 31 said no; five were undecided, and two voted other. Even in previous years, surveys have shown faculty uninterested in ranks.

During the March 27 meeting Faculty Senate discussed conducting a second survey. The push from the administration has come following new personnel rules adopted last spring.

According to a draft on faculty promotion procedures written by Dr. José Fierro, vice president of academic affairs, the ranking/titling system would change faculty members’ ranks to instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, professor and trustee professor based on the three criteria. The draft stated, “The purpose of promotion in rank is to provide eligible faculty with academic rank as an acknowledgment and reward for exceptional teaching and service to LCCC.”

Faculty Senate member Brian Uzpen, astronomy/physics instructor, said he believed the administration wants faculty to continue with professional development, which is why it is adamant about a ranking system, despite faculty survey results.

Rank requires regulations

In addition to the three criteria, rank would also be based on certification, education, achievement, advanced degrees, consultations, professional presentations to peers, scholarly publications, workshops, symposia, shows, performances, major curricula innovations, demonstration of teaching excellence and other professional activities that demonstrate peer recognition.

Each rank also includes specific requirements such as an associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degree and documented evidence of ability in teaching, outreach, research and leadership.

Some examples of professional achievements would include being a member of at least one professional, national organization related to the faculty member’s area of concentration, demonstrated significant contribution to LCCC through the LCCC Foundation through documented volunteer work, and demonstrated ability to integrate new and appropriate teaching techniques and technology into the faculty member’s teaching assignment (such as curriculum revision and new course development).

Candidates would submit a promotion application portfolio (PAP) and include evaluations from the following seven categories: supervisor’s performance evaluation, faculty performance observation, student evaluations, service to the college, community college, professional growth and letters of recommendation.

The potential faculty member’s PAP would be sent to a promotion review committee (PRC) that would then send its recommendation to the vice president of academic affairs, and the promotion classification would be in effect.

Uzpen was involved in a committee last semester that wrote a second draft in response to Fierro’s, saying that instead of a committee reviewing the PAP, it should be sent directly to the human resources office.

Faculty on fence

“We felt there could be a possibility of bias at the committee,” Uzpen said. But the committee isn’t the only place of concern for bias; Faculty Senate member Mary Ludwig, who is a history instructor, said some people are worried the ranking system would bring about divisions among the faculty.

“Faculty Senate is on the fence about this whole issue,” Ludwig said. “I think there’s really conflicted opinions about it.”

Uzpen agreed that “one of the major concerns with faculty is they feel it might set up divisiveness or barriers between other faculty based on their academic rank.”

Faculty Senate and faculty members alike seem divided on the issue, but most can agree advantages and disadvantages exist with a ranking system.

Advancing on to another institution is one situation in which ranking could have advantages. “If someone applies to another college,” Ludwig said, “they can demonstrate the progression they made while they were at LCCC.” She said that to some degree in academia some people will always be very impressed if someone has a doctorate. “Most of us think PhD stands for ‘piled higher and deeper,” Ludwig said with a smile.

Uzpen said, “If you write a letter of recommendation and stamp on there ‘professor’ or ‘associate professor,’ that has more weight in the academic community as opposed to something like ‘instructor.’”

It's about students, not titles

But Faculty Senate member Leif Swanson, an English instructor, disagreed to an extent. “A professor’s primary function is to research and publish, and that typically describes a faculty member’s primary role at a four-year college or university,” Swanson said.

That opinion was somewhat shared by other Faculty Senate members, who agreed that community colleges are different.

“We’re student-oriented,” Ludwig said. “Our time is sucked up in the classroom…where we’re supposed to be.”

Uzpen acknowledged this fact as well. “We are a community college and we have different educational requirements for our faculty,” he said. “We meet different needs. We do different things than say a university or even other community colleges.”

While both sides continue to argue their points, it seems some want a ranking system and others don’t really care either way.

“Personally, for me, I really don’t think it’s necessary,” Ludwig said. “We’re at a community college. I don’t mind remaining an instructor.”

Uzpen said, “I am for academic rank if it means something…in terms of demonstrating professional development, excellence, things like that.” But Uzpen doesn’t want to see longevity in the job tied to the ranking system. “It should be more than that,” he urged.

Swanson said he preferred his current title of “instructor” because it better describes his role as a faculty member at LCCC.

But Ludwig drove home the point this is a non-issue for her. “You’re talking to someone who’s really ambivalent about ranking­—if you want to call me ‘professor’ that’s fine,” she said. “But it’s not going to change how I think of myself or what I do at LCCC.”