Move to full-time status a long, arduous process for faculty

To the casual observer, there are no clear distinctions between different members of Geneseo faculty. The reality, however, is that significant differences exist between adjunct, assistant, associate and full-time professors, and the path upward for faculty can be a long and arduous one.

An adjunct at Geneseo most likely has no Ph.D. or is working towards one. However, there are sometimes educators who have received their Ph.D. but have not been able to find an assistant professor position and thus have taken adjunct role. Assistant professors almost always have their Ph.D. and are working toward gaining tenure at the College. The official term for tenure used here at Geneseo is "continuing appointment," but whatever the name, it can mean professional life or death for a faculty member.

Philosophy professor and acting department chair Larry Blackman has a special joke he likes to tell about positions in academia: "Socrates could never have gotten a position here at SUNY Geneseo. Socrates never published." Indeed publishing, either of research or theses, makes up 35 percent of the promotion rubric at the College. Teaching makes up 50 percent, while service to the community makes up 15 percent.

Also, each professor keeps a "curriculum vitae," which means "course of life" and which he or she updates often. The "curriculum vitae" amounts to a gigantic résumé which covers courses taught, debates participated in, publications, honors, awards and anything else the professor deems note-worthy.

Based on a system of apprenticeship, an assistant professor is allowed to teach for six years while gathering their research and publishing their work. The purpose of this is that at the end of those six years, they will have produced a thesis of academic importance. However, if that educator is not found to have met the requirements of the faculty and administration, they are in effect fired, and will be quickly asked to leave the institution.

Some newer professorship contracts specify seven years of employment, so that a rejected assistant professor will at least be able to search for a new job while holding steady employment.

Failure to gain tenure at one institution often can spell a whole world of trouble for that teacher. "If you can't get tenure at one place, every other college you apply to will probably ask you what went wrong. I imagine it must be very unpleasant," Blackman said.

Geneseo itself has seen a higher number of adjunct professors than in years past, in keeping with the trend in higher education of colleges hiring fewer full-time faculty members over adjuncts, who are generally paid far less than full-time faculty. Professors have been known to seek jobs at other institutions due to College's unwillingness to promote them to full-time status. This trend, however, is opposed by some over more than just the issue of lower pay.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Stacey Edgar has been observing the number of adjuncts used in classes, and is disturbed the trend. "Any institution aspiring to be called an Honors College should not be using so many adjuncts, or using them in the manner which it is," she said, referring to the high percentage of Humanities sections and freshman writing seminars that are taught by adjuncts every semester.

Since 1986, only two semesters of Humanities have been taught solely by full professors. The Spring 2006 semester saw as many as 35 percent of Humanities sections being taught by adjuncts. In freshman writing seminar sections, this number is even higher. Edgar speculates that almost half of the INTD 105 sections are taught by adjuncts.