Affiliate professors: GVSU’s Jack of all trades

Carly Simpson

The Executive Committee of the Senate voted Friday to recommend policy changes to the University Academic Senate regarding Grand Valley State University’s affiliate faculty.

At GVSU there are currently 161 affiliate faculty members. However, some have job descriptions that more closely resemble tenure track faculty.

“We’ve looked at some of the workloads these people have, and they are almost exactly like full-time faculty,” said Marie McKendall, chair of the Faculty Personnel Policy Committee. “We just don’t think that is appropriate.”

McKendall listed the Seidman College of Business as an example. The unit has eight affiliates who are required to teach 12 credit hours per semester and make one intellectual contribution per year. Sometimes service at the unit or university level is also required.

“Seidman is the only college that requires affiliates to do scholarship, and it is not necessary,” McKendall said. “There’s no reason to require teaching, service and research of an affiliate, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

In addition, about 46 percent of affiliates at GVSU teach at least five different classes. Some teach 400-level and graduate classes. However, current language in the administrative manual suggests that they “teach a limited range of courses.”

“All of that is within our power to stop,” said Provost Gayle Davis. “We are very close to making an ‘untenurable,’ identical job description, and I think it’s dangerous. I would rather us say let’s hire tenure track faculty for the upper division classes and research, and keep affiliates in their areas of expertise where many of them are truly wonderful teachers. Let’s not try to blend these two different categories.”

The ECS recommends that most affiliate faculty are not expected to participate in curriculum development, university service or scholarship activity beyond staying current in their field as a condition of employment.

The goal is to continue to allow affiliates to take on service or scholarship roles in place of teaching, but not to require them to do all three.

The ECS also recommends that unit heads be required to write a job description, their expectations and the process of reviews for affiliates. Unit heads would also have to provide affiliates written feedback about their performance.

In addition to defining an affiliate’s role at the university, the ECS discussed other discrepancies in the policy.

The Community and Public Service unit does not have voting rights for its affiliate faculty members. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences only allows voting rights to two of its 20 departments: movement science and anthropology.

“We don’t know why those discrepancies arose, and we’re having a hard time saying which one is correct or better,” McKendall said.

With 99 affiliates, CLAS has the largest number of affiliate faculty members. The unit is also the only one that requires a 15-hour credit load, McKendall said.

The ECS recommends that the deans review the voting rights policy to make sure affiliates are being fairly represented.

The policy changes will be sent to the University Academic Senate for further review at its meeting on Feb. 28. Affiliate faculty policies can be found in Chapter 4, Section 3 in the administrative manual.

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