GVSU keeps tenured faculty a priority

Sarah Hillenbrand

While many schools are cutting back on their faculty to trim expenditures, Grand Valley State University has more than half of its professors either tenured or on the tenure track.

“Nationally, there does seem to be more reliance on part-time faculty,” said Joe Godwin, associate vice president for academic affairs. “However, at Grand Valley we have resisted that trend and have been increasing the number of full-time faculty members.”

Godwin said that most faculty start out as assistant professors and are then promoted to associate professor after six years, which is also when most become tenured professors. If a professor does not become tenured after six years, their seventh year is their last at GVSU.

“Tenure is granted by a faculty member’s college based on their performance related to teaching, scholarship and service,” Godwin said. “Following another six to 10 years of service, a faculty member may be promoted to Professor based on outstanding teaching, scholarship and service.”

He added that in the 2000s the university hired more faculty members to keep up with increased enrollment, and during that decade GVSU grew faster than any other school in Michigan.

“Since 2010, growth has leveled out to about 1 percent per year and fewer faculty have been hired, as it has across the state,” Godwin said.

The percentage of each type of professor at GVSU has changed over the years, in part due to the professors moving through the ranks. Fred Antczak, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that under Provost Gayle Davis, the university has continued to have 75 percent of professors tenured or on the tenure track. Now it’s over 77 percent, Antczak said.

The big concern for students is how this affects their tuition rates. Antczak said GVSU has made an effort to keep tuition costs low and to continue to rank among the lowest of the state institutions.

“The remarkable placement rates of our graduates, their increasing graduation rates, and the quality of experience students get here are evidence of a big ‘bang for the educational buck,’” Antczak said. “Tenure track faculty are an essential part of that.”

Godwin said hiring quality faculty to provide students with a worthwhile education is a primary goal for the university. “Our primary objective is to hire the most talented faculty to meet student programmatic needs. Certainly the cost of those faculty is an issue we monitor closely so that we keep tuition as low as possible,” Godwin said. “We think that Grand Valley’s growth is an indicator that we have maintained good balance between tuition and costs.”

Other types of faculty at GVSU are affiliate, visiting and adjunct professors. Godwin said affiliate professors are those with one- to three-year appointments and do not have the terminal degree, like a Ph.D., in their discipline. Visiting professors are limited to three years and often have a terminal degree. Finally, adjunct professors are part-time faculty members who usually do not have a terminal degree but bring professional job experiences to the classroom.

“If students are the heart of a university, the faculty—people who will stay for many more years than any student—constitute its enduring character,” Antczak said. “The faculty I know, at every rank, are unusually dedicated people, devoted to the success of their students. That’s what makes Grand Valley a grand bargain.”
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